Do you ever sit and wonder, where has the time gone, boy am I getting old. Chances are, if you are sitting in a developed country, that you share this feeling with anywhere from a fifth to a third of your country’s population. The world’s population is getting older, and people are starting to notice.
According to the World Health Organization, the global population aged 60 and over will exceed one in five by the middle of the century, reaching 2.1 billion by 2050. This global trend has been addressed by the United Nations, the WHO, and by U.S. administrations.
What this trend translates to is less working hands, and with more people depending on pension funds and on physical assistance, these hands will be sorely missed. While the many challenges that the aging of the global population presents are clear, like any shift, this change also presents a wealth of new opportunities.
The Challenges That Lie Ahead
Soaring health care costs and concerns about public and private pension programs and retirement funds are a source of concern. When these programs were established, they always depended on a growing younger population fueling the economy, and covering the costs of older generations. This burden will increasingly be placed on fewer shoulders, and can not be allowed to reach a breaking point.
Publicly sponsored and government-run health care systems will have to solve the puzzle of how to expand the size of their coverage net without lowering care quality. Skill shortages in the health care sector in many advanced economies, as well as non-medical home care are also issues that are slowly coming to a boil.
So how does a modern visionary turn these challenges into opportunities?
The Aging Population is Green with Opportunities
While the issue of global population aging is pressing, it may not remain a relevant issue if current environmental concerns are not addressed. Ironically, in this case, global ageing population, while a challenge itself, can perhaps provide a solution to one of the world’s greatest burdens. Researchers from the IIASA, the Max-Planck Institute, and the University of Washington have run the numbers on the positive possibilities of the rapidly aging global population.
They did this by looking at Germany, the second oldest country globally, with a birth rate of 1.4 kids per woman and a median age of 46.2 years old. In twenty years, the number of people over 65 will jump from 21 % to 33 %. As the older population is more sedentary, their greenhouse emissions are greatly reduced, and if this current trend continues, Germany can reach the level of emissions that it had in 1950.
Age-tech and the Silver Economy
The reduction of greenhouse emissions is one positive outcome of population aging, but this is far from the only one. The vast opportunities that this untapped market presents can be infinite. By 2030, the consumer class is expected to increase from 3.9 billion to 5.6 billion, with nearly similar contributions from each age group. Seniors, however, will be the only group whose contribution will increase significantly faster from 459 million to 760 million, reflecting a 66 percent increase in the consumer class. For advertisers and entrepreneurs alike, these are numbers that should not be ignored.
While there is a necessity to market and modify many goods for the older consumer, perhaps the greatest well of potential is Age-tech. Age-technology’s global market share is set to double to $2 trillion from $1 trillion. Age-tech will not only be a thriving economical hub, but will be the epicentre of innovative solutions to make the lives of the aging population both better, and more sustainable. Solutions ranging from age-friendly computers and devices, wearable emergency gear, to virtual caregivers and companions will shape the future.
How Technology Can Create an Age-Friendly World
Seniors are often seen as “technophobes” and can even earn ire and ridicule for their difficulty in navigating the technological worlds. This is why it is critical for companies that create technology for seniors to be aware of their end user, and have gerentologists, caregivers and seniors themselves active in the research and development cycle.
As most seniors prefer to age at home, many of the challenges of both medical and non medical home care can be addressed by technology. Monitors that track the wellbeing of the senior, remote medical scanning devices, and virtual caregiving services all help to alleviate the difficulty of aging at home in safety and dignity.
Loneliness is also an important risk factor for the aging population, and lack of interaction can lead to dementia and to physical ailments. Technologies that enable seniors to connect with their families more easily such as Grandpad (a senior-friendly tablet), or technologies that provide virtual companionship for seniors are innovative solutions to this issue. Tech platforms can also help connect volunteers with aging members of the community, and also provide older adults with the opportunity to participate in cognitively stimulating activities such as crossword puzzles, virtual bingo, and online games of chess.
Due to the multitude of possibilities, technology stands to compliment, enhance and revitalize the cognitive, physical, and psychosocial spheres of the elderly to help them age in place much more comfortably and autonomously.
Sensi A.I’s in-home virtual care agent is one of the innovative gerontechnologies that offers unparalleled value to seniors and their caregivers. The solution empowers the delivery of personalized care while still enabling agencies to up both efficiency and quality in caring for their elder clients. Book a demo to learn more.
While it is easy to see the aging of the global population as an insurmountable challenge, this is also an opportunity for visionaries and entrepreneurs to change the world. One can harness this trend to heal our environment, and to create revolutionary technologies that will not only make bearing the brunt of the aging population feasible, but will actually lead to economic growth and flourishing.