The general perception is that aging causes a society to slow, as individuals wrestle healthcare, less employment, choose leisure over work, travel, and recreation over income creation. The general perception, however, is more wrong than right in a digital age. Here is why.
Yes, as people acquire income security, choose retirement, or work more pleasing to them over “the daily grind” of office work, they pull back from formerly taxing jobs, begin aligning their time and money with enjoyable interests, traveling, relaxing, and what economists call “leisure.”
Also true, the percentage of the population that is over 65 continues to grow, for two obvious reasons, a demographic bubble that had more people being born decades ago than today, and life expectancy continues to grow – at a surprising, rather encouraging rate.
The result is data that shows the world getting more “silver,” but a side effect too – a silver lining. The “silver population,” is healthier, more active, more secure financially, and more willing to stay active – doing enjoyable work, often on their own, and traveling, staying physically fit, engaging in sports, basic fitness, and digital activities more than any prior generation.
Accordingly, demographers say more than 30 percent of the global population will be over 65 by the turn of the next century, and many will be working through that age, agreeably. As medical care, and diagnosis to treatment continue improving, life expectancy and quality of life will both increase. See, e.g., Addressing an Aging Population through Digital Transformation in the Western Hemisphere; The silver economy is coming of age: A look at the growing spending power of seniors.
Implications are many and generally positive. Expected are changes that amount to positive adaptation, with profound societal shifts expected. Among these, experts predict what you might call an “Alexa” mentality spreading. They foresee “creating smart cities, expanding accessible public transportation, and facilitating continuing education for older adults.”
To this, add a stronger, tailored, responsive, less exhausting medical sector. “Digital initiatives like telemedicine and data-driven healthcare” will become a standard, along with caregiver innovations, like “robotic devices and apps that track symptoms” for more immediate support, issue resolution.
Expect insurance and pension plans, both private and government, to be redesigned – making the combination of stability, sustainability, solvency, and quality planning part of the process.
The workforce will also change, with expectations shifting toward a more volunteer force, some highly effective economic contributors older than prior norms, more spending by older Americans on leisure, fewer young employees, but more automation, greater flexibility, in location, schedules, and presence.
One of the biggest predicted changes is the rise of “the silver economy,” a seasoned, healthy, effective part of the labor sector that – in effect – redefines the workforce, allowing greater contributions longer for those able to contribute.
Experts say: “As the population ages, more people will begin to participate in the silver economy,” which will have both higher demand and supply components. “Older people are major contributors to the economy: they often have significant spending power, they travel, and they consume services … more than younger populations.”
All this is good news and runs opposite standard understandings of societal evolution, in which older populations are expected to be less active, not more so. We are not there yet, but the “silver lining” is a coming “silver economy” premised on a growing body of healthy, active, contributing older Americans.