Sunday, October 13, 2019

The Longevity Economy: Untapped Opportunities

I daresay this is true because longevity has increased. 

And given that birth rates are decreasing – we see an expansion in the percentage of older people. 

This is good because as ecologist Frank Götmark (left) from Gothenburg University, Sweden says “Endless population growth would be ecologically impossible”. 

Besides, overpopulation leads to serious problems, including excessive consumption, deadly conflicts over scarce resources, and habitat loss leading to species endangerment. 

Two scenarios to look at. 

In 2018, for the first time in history, those aged 65 or older outnumbered children younger than five globally. And the number of people aged 80 years or older is projected to triple, from 143 million in 2019 to 426 million in 2050. 

The UN population report from 2017 shows that 14 percent of countries in the world have reducing populations. And they estimate that 32 percent of all countries will have falling populations by 2050. 

A growing elderly population means governments will face fiscal challenges in the coming decades as they seek to build and maintain public systems of health care, pensions and social protection for older persons. 

BUT there’s also another side of the coin we should look at. 

The population isn’t just ageing, though: people are living longer and increasing their ‘healthspan’ for prolonged health, too. 

That means that as the population of elders expands – so grows a group of consumers, workers and innovators. In other words, they’re not simply a group that needs services from the ‘silver economy’, which is aimed solely at older and ageing people – rather, the ageing population can continue to be full-service participants in the economy at large. 

“We’re now talking about a new life stage which is as long as the latter part of your adult life”, says Dr Joseph Coughlin (right), director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology AgeLab and author of "Longevity Economy: Unlocking the World’s Fastest-Growing, Most Misunderstood Market". 

Life stages can be quantified in fairly equal measurements of days, he says: 0 to 21, 21 to 40 and 40 to retirement age all measure about 8,000 days. 

“If you make it to 65 years old, you have more than 50% chance you’ll make it over age 85 – that’s (another) 8,000 days. So we’re now looking at a third of our adult life where there are no stories, tools, rewards or expectations”. 

As elders live longer and healthier lives, and continue to earnestly engage in the global economy, possibilities open to potentially turn longevity into an asset for society. 

KPMG’s 2017 report of online consumers in 51 countries revealed that baby boomers spend the most online at $203 on average per transaction, compared to ‘tech-savvy’ millennials, who actually spend the least at $173 on average. 

This surely tells us that the elders have spending power. And that they are accustomed to a certain lifestyle and they want to continue living it.

Whether increased longevity is a burden or a dividend depends on how much societies prepare for the challenges of ageing populations as well as identify and maximize its benefits. 

“The baby boomers have created a next generation”, says Coughlin. “So there is the expectation that while they’re no longer young, they do feel perennially youthful. They not just expect, but in many cases demand new products, new services, new experiences, to make every stage of life – if not every day – a little bit better”. 

Sure, youth may be poised to inherit the future – but now ageing populations are defining it. 

And know that the longevity economy has untapped opportunities.

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