When first you hear a proclamation that we are in a Silver Economy, it could sound like we are merely in a rush to a commercial bonanza, with moneymaking potential for another forty years or so, tracking the path of the aging Boomer market. That may be so, if you think about the long shelf of products and services targeted to that audience as it gradually cycles through the incremental stages of their later life.
Heck, we’re there now when it comes to marketing those all too familiar products from pills for pain relief, to walk-in bath tubs and retirement residences with views out the window of ducks on a rippling pond. The list goes on. We come to expect certain obvious types of products or services to be advertised; that’s if you’re only sifting the surface for “silver in them there demographic hills!”
More about appropriate smarter marketing in the commercial bonanza another day.
Returning to the OECD-CCOA insights referred to in Part 1 – “The Silver Economy as a Pathway for Growth”; the bigger picture is really about how the society we have, (as we have known it up to now at least) will change even more. In communities around the world, the shift to a significant older demographic population is already the norm, and if not, soon will be. The narrative has changed – and is it really more about a realistic replacement of social priorities and market opportunities rather than growth?
In a silver economy, how we re-describe all our social policies, frameworks and financial models is hard work. Headlines that focus on challenges such as health care, pension plans, employment structures, often look more like retooling than reforming. Making pragmatic changes is one thing and keeping what has worked well is important, but the kink you may get from craning your neck to see something, hear something differently is uncomfortable. As the Pathway for Growth document says, this is also “a profound cultural shift.”
While governments, community groups and other institutions grapple with redirecting the narrative in this silver demographic shift, positioning it as opportunity, most businesses arguably are not there yet. And for that matter, like at the individual level out on the street, conversations in the business world are more riveted in the immediate concerns of how we are going to make money and pay our way through life in a 2016 economy – silvered or otherwise.
If aging demographics drive this so called silver economy – if businesses are going to bother enough to look for authentic opportunity – and if people of all ages on the street are going to have a say in the matter, participate and benefit from the action; then the first thing to do is to heighten awareness, educate and provoke conversation.
In order to do that you need some frames of reference and a good start is the Pathway for Growth document. There is more of a euro-centric economic thread to this as evidenced in the EU, Innovation Union web site page “The Silver Economy”. To bring this closer to home in Canada, there is a Silver Economy Summit taking place in Nova Scotia, March 8-9, 2016.
The rush is on, and as crass a marketing term as “silver economy” might sound: what other term serves us better? For the number of summits, conferences or consumer shows I’ve attended, I could startle you with at least a dozen terms or phrases I’ve hoovered up, and lose our way in the play of words. Before we get swept up in the rush for consumer marketing opportunities, we need to look at the broader social context for what it means to live in an age of increased longevity.