The Aging Opportunity

I’m just back from the 7th World Aging and Generations Congress at Sankt Gallen University, Switzerland. Listening to the various presentations I was particularly struck by the statement that two-thirds of all the people who ever reached the age of 65 are alive today. In fact by the year 2050 the number of people over the age of 60 will grow from 500 million today to 2 billion.

Clearly, the longevity phenomenon has put us in a time of real change, of great challenges and opportunities. Even the terminology has changed, we talk about longevity not aging, older people not the elderly. And of course, 65 isn’t old anymore!

With the world’s economies in a tail spin, aging populations are key issues in social and health services, taxes and growth. Older people are an enormous consumer force. In the U.S. they account for some 50 percent of all discretionary income. Contrary to some reports, they tend to be open to fresh ideas and they represent new business opportunities that will continue into the coming decades.

Up to now businesses have largely ignored the 65 plus cohort but the products and services that respond best to these consumers and tap into these vast markets for women’s fashion, appliances, housing, groceries, entertainment, insurance, new cars and home-based electronics and business products will reap significant benefits. In essence, to relate to aging populations, it is necessary to understand them. Research suggests that older people have five key needs: health; financial security; the ability and opportunity to contribute and be productive; the ability to connect with their communities; and the opportunity to have fun and to recreate. Frankly on the rare occasion that marketers focus on this group they are usually guilty of looking at them as one big block aged 65 plus. As we live to the 90s and beyond the needs of this group are vastly different.

The aging opportunity is to offer products and services to enhance and protect older people’s health and wealth, to reap the value of older workers, to benefit from people’s connection to the community and their desire to give back and to tap into the vast consumer market of older purchasers.

However the longevity phenomenon may be stopped in its tracks by the rising obesity epidemic…