There is a massive, irreversible transformation under way in
the U.S. and across the globe. It is poorly understood and
often overlooked. Halfway through the second decade of our 21st
century, we are failing to grasp the implications of population
Life spans that have for the history of humankind been
unimaginable are today the norm. Low birth rates that for
centuries would have spelled the end of a civilization are now
common. By midcentury, there will be more of us over 60 than
under 14. A half century ago this demographic state of affairs
would have been inconceivable.
The implications are profound. At personal and familial
levels, each of us must ask a new set of questions about how to
achieve financial security when we may live to celebrate our
100th birthday. At the societal level we confront a retirement
crisis prompted by our stubborn refusal to recognize that
20th-century schemes dont fit 21st-century lives.
Retirement at 60 or 65 will make sense for very few among us
when we must
plan to live past 90.
The questions are equally complex for investors. First,
there is the business opportunity. There will soon be 1 billion
of us over 60, and we hold the lions share of the
worlds disposable income. With longer lives and
better health in older age a new consumer base emerges.
These consumers want and need products and services that are
different from when they were younger and different,
too, from what their parents wanted at their age.
As hundreds of millions of us live into our 80s and beyond,
our tastes literally are changing, along with our body shapes,
living conditions and leisure preferences. Which businesses are
preparing to capitalize on this seismic opportunity?
Sure, health companies understand the diseases of aging;
financial institutions are starting to get it too. But are
there food companies creating products specifically for
75-year-old taste buds? Which travel company is accommodating
the interests of and marketing to older travelers? Who is
creating houses, appliances,
furniture and other home goods for octogenarians? Which
film companies are making movies that appeal to older viewers?
Is there a technology company building the wearables market to
assist the deteriorating hearing, vision and skin? What
innovator is out there marrying fashion and need
dresses, shoes or bathing suits for the over-70 crowd?
The smart investor will look beyond the baby boomer
bulge headlines and recognize that aging is not a trend
but a revolutionary transformation. All over the world
socioeconomic forces urbanization, education,
health care innovation and more are intersecting to
create real, enduring change. The smart investor will
understand this is now a part of consumer demand writ
For investors the aging megatrend introduces a new set of
metrics by which to measure the potential success of a
Is a culture of age-friendliness being
cultivated within the organization? Will research, business
development, strategy and marketing teams be recognized and
rewarded for creative approaches to products and services that
will sell to over-60 consumers?
Has population aging also shaped hiring and retention
strategies? Paying retirement at 65 worked 50 years ago because
there were so few who lived much past that age and most people
could not or did not want to work as they got older. Now, it is
a recipe for failure.
Is the company investing in research or marketing that
will attend to an older demographic? Does it have a growth
strategy based on aging?
Which companies are reshaping their benefits packages
to attract and retain talent? And does this include benefits a
55-year-old might want as well as those for the 32-year-old who
will be around for 60 more years?
Does the organization have a strategic approach to
align its future with the social, political and institutional
changes that will occur externally as a result of the
In 2010, S&P, now a division of McGraw Hill Financial,
broke important ground in its Global Aging report,
asserting that no other force is likely to shape the
future of national economic health, public finances and
policymaking as the irreversible rate at which the worlds
population is aging. Six years later we now understand
that aging is equally a market force.
If a business wishes to be competitive and win in the 21st
century, it will build a strategy to capture the opportunities
brought by population aging. If an investor wants to succeed,
he or she will look to these leaders as among the most
prescient and worthy of investment.
Michael Hodin is CEO of the Global Coalition on Aging
and managing partner at High
Lantern Group .