We live in a silver society. Silver, not because our society is rich, but because society is growing older in almost every part of the world. This global megatrend has emerged as a result of our improved healthcare systems and lifestyles. Current generations live better lives than previous generations did in terms of access to healthcare, education, and food. As a result, people live to get older, work longer and make more out of their retirement.
Sounds great, doesn’t it? Who doesn’t want to live a long and healthy life? However, this megatrend also has a downside. Someone needs to pay for these elderly folks. The problem is that it’s an ever-smaller group that needs to pay for a growing group. It’s an unbalanced equation, and it is our future. So what do we do about it?
The Rising Age of the Global Population
Medicine is advancing at a rapid pace, and people’s access to it is increasing. It used to take years and decades for new vaccines to be developed, but developing the COVID-19 vaccines (plural!) took less than a year. In contrast, the chickenpox vaccine took two decades to develop and spread. In addition to this, new technologies are entering the field of healthcare: Nanotechnology, biotechnology, 3D printing, big data, robotics, and Mixed Reality technology are all hoping to improve the healthcare system even more. It won’t be long before our current healthcare systems will transition from treatment-focused to prevention-focused, potentially revolutionizing our relationship to our health and lengthening our lifespan by decades.
As a consequence, more people will live long healthy lives. It sounds fantastic, but many national governments see in this trend an approaching societal burden. More tax money will need to flow into this sector. At the same time, fewer people will be in jobs and pay taxes because in many developed countries fewer children are being born. In numbers, this means that between 2000 and 2050, the number of 50-year-olds will double, whereas the number of 60-year-olds will increase by 330 %!
Tax money that could have gone into education, infrastructure, unemployment programs, and the much-needed green transition will go to finance these elderly people and their health. One solution could be to change the retirements systems to provide less care for the elder generations, but would that really be a solution you’d be happy with?
In addition, in many countries, the healthcare system is already struggling to keep up with the number of patients it has. As a bigger fraction of the population gets older, more people will need hospital treatment. If we don’t dramatically change the state and infrastructure of national healthcare systems, we will have a huge problem.
Silver Society or Golden Society?
Instead of thinking of these elderly people as a burden, let’s see them as a resource! It is a silver society after all, and not a grey and gloomy one. A lot of opportunities also follow as a result of this megatrend. For one thing, these 70+ people will not feel as old as was the case in earlier times. “Old” will gain a new meaning and a new understanding.
What Silver Society Means For Us
- Elderly people will be able to work (and thus pay taxes) longer.
- They will be able to contribute to society in other ways, sharing their experience and expertise as a mentor or a volunteer, so as not to lose their sense of meaning after retirement.
- They could become the new #1 consumer target group. The world is speeding up and becoming ever more technical, and keeping these people up-to-date with new technological developments, for example, could become a huge market.
- They could change the understanding of what it means to become old. In most cultures, old people don’t get the appreciation they deserve.
- They are likely to support the tourism and entertainment industry.
What is clear, they will change many fields of society and pave the way for a restructuring of society. If we learn to see them as a resource instead of a burden, the changes could be positive and helpful for society at large.
Solutions for the Silver Society
So what can you do to make the most out of this megatrend? Not get older! Just kidding, but perhaps change your perception of what getting older and being old means. That would be a great start. In addition, here are a few more tips:
- If you’re developing a project, keep the elders in mind. They have the potential to become a strong consumer force.
- Take care of yourself and develop good habits, so you age well and stay healthy and strong! Here you can find tips on how to create epic habits!
- Treat your grandparents well. Appreciate them, their experiences and their wisdom. You can learn a lot from them.
And remember to #beapirate, even when your hair is silver and your eyepatch is worn. Once a pirate, always a pirate!