As a person over 50, have you begun to feel invisible, unimportant, sidelined? Not me. I’ve been infused with detailed visions of the once and future power of our generation, having recently completed “Ageing in Community,” an excellent six part workshop offered by the Council on Changing Aging through Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UNC Asheville. And, what do you know – into my inbox, here comes more validation of the critical role we elders play in US society. Melissa Sims, US Correspondent to the Straits Times (Singapore), highlighted our economic clout in her December 12, 2015, article, The Hot New Demographic – Seniors.
In the United States, the talk is no longer about whether society can afford to care for its elderly. It’s about whether the economy can afford to do without their [our] huge spending power.
The catch-phrase you’ll want to get used to is “the Longevity Economy.” That term was coined and defined by thought-leaders at the AARP as “the sum of all economic activity serving the needs of Americans over 50.” Ms. Sims provides evidence that people age 50+ contributed 46% of US GDP in 2012 and the projection is that the longevity economy will make up about 52% US GDP by 2032. This isn’t just what we spend directly ourselves on consumer goods and services, including healthcare. Greater numbers of seniors say they are planning to remain in the workforce longer. More of us are starting second careers and working after retirement and contributing volunteer and caregiving hours that enhance the productivity of others (including corporate “others”). And we are not only more likely than those in their 20’s to start a business, but waves of new elders are providing inspiration for savvy moguls who already recognize us as a highly lucrative segment of the general population. In the past, it was unlikely to have seen the rapid emergence of businesses tailored to the needs of seniors: special phones with built-in health apps and emergency call services, brain training programs such as Lumosity and BrainHQ to help us stay mentally agile, or “Our Time”, the online dating platform for people 50+.
Instead of being a financial burden, seniors are called a net national asset as they continue to contribute to the economy in varied ways, taking America in new directions. – Melissa Sims
By 2030, 1 of 5 Americans are likely to be 65 and over. Our growing numbers, coupled with our desire to lead active lives and age in non-institutional settings, gave Sue Peschin, President and CEO of the non-profit Alliance for Ageing Research, impetus to encourage a greater portion of National Institute of Health funds for medical research be allotted to ageing research. She has stated, “By extending a person’s healthy years by two years, we could save over US$7 trillion over the next 50 years.”
Mr. Jeffrey Zimman, co-founder of Posit Science which launched BrainHQ in 2012, and Mr. Andy Cohen, chief executive of Caring.com, remind us of our collective clout this way:
Boomers have revolutionized each phase of life and they are going to age differently from their parents. They want to live independently and be active and they have a fair amount of wealth to be achieving those goals. – Jeffrey Zimman
Companies which shun the longevity economy do so at their own peril. [Elders] represent such a significant market. The only way to explain the avoidance by companies is either ignorance, or ageism,” – Andy Cohen
If you could plant a seed in the open mind of an entrepreneur, government leader, or not-for-profit agency head, right now, what goods, services, or policy changes would you ask for to make your life easier, lighter, more carefree as you and I negotiate the coming decades? You may be pleasantly surprised by the outcome if you make your desire public. If you’ve read Not Done Yet: A Tale of Transformation Through Transplant Surgery, you’ve seen the results of one of my favorite mottoes at work:
You never know the possibilities that are right at hand, unless you ask.