How many clues do you need to discover that the aging and longevity revolution took roots years ago and now it is really more of continuing evolution? On one level at least, there is the fear and moaning crowd that speaks to the problems ahead – political, social, financial to list a few; but on another level there is the potential – the exciting growth of new markets, business and career opportunities in what is now a longevity economy.
Following this area for some time now, this is not news to me, rather I’ve been waiting for everyday people to wake up and take a look at how these opportunities meet up with the flip side challenges. Not to make this out to be lucrative for everyone, there is a bit of a “get on the band wagon” effect, for example those who have had an experience with elder care, suddenly thinking they can create an app or start up an at home care service.
This week sees the book release – The Longevity Economy by Dr. Joseph Coughlin of MIT’s Age Lab. Much has been made of this market and though largely rising as a made in America story, it is truly global in nature. Some have called it the silver economy, but I prefer longevity economy as it reflects a broader market segmentation at all ages, not just silver-headed Boomers. And therein lies the problem that Coughlin’s sub-title for the book suggests to help solve – Unlocking the World’s Fastest-Growing, Most Misunderstood Market.
In addition, if you take a wide look at it, a longevity economy really reflects several product and service categories that address social and health conditions related to aging and longevity; social engagement and care management to name two. The entrepreneurial activity in this specific economy has been steadily growing, notably with an uptick over the last five years. Among the many of resources I use for keeping track of all this is The Longevity Network.
You have to hand it to the AARP and all its network tentacles and partnerships in the USA; they have worked out the storyline for the monetization of the longevity economy. Their collaboration with the Longevity Network is but one such organization. Further to that, check out the Oxford Economics 2016 Longevity Economy report for the AARP. The defining age demographic marker used here to frame this longevity economy is the “fifty-plus”.
While this is commonly applied, it is problematic in that you can be looking at a spread of up to sixty years and we all should know, that from a marketing point of view, fifty-plus is not a homogeneous group of consumers/citizens and we need to recognize the stages and conditions people transition through are all on a continuum. Not to mention that the user of a product or service may not be the same as the one making the buying decision.
The road to 2030 and a flattening of age
Further still, by 2030 when the earliest millennials start to turn fifty, how will their psychographic profile (values, opinions, attitudes and so on) be different than todays’ fifty-plus? By then a longevity economy will have evolved in more ways than we might imagine now.
One of a multitude of factors to consider is that the longer people keep working into their 60’s and 70’s, however differently than in traditional participation rates of a 20th century job market, the more these same people will contribute to a longevity economy. As the Oxford Economics report submits – these people “will make a pronounced difference, and the overall evidence is clear that their extended engagement with work leads to gains in national productivity and growth.”
Enough for your bedtime reading? Well only for a start. A further companion read, to provoke thoughts on that notion, I refer again to Lynda Gratton & Andrew Scott’s 2016 book, The 100 Year Life –Living and Working in an Age of Longevity. So bring on Joseph Coughlin’s new opus I’ve had on pre-order for the last month or so. The sooner we understand the direction of a longevity economy then perhaps we can take the edge off all the fear – far from the moaning crowd.