In recent posts we’ve been examining the evolving nature of life in our later years, focusing not on aging per se but on the cultural shift that must take place in order to age successfully into a new paradigm, where work, technology, health and social expectations are reimagining the Third Act worldwide.
Here’s a mid-year review of the future of aging.
WORK. In long-lived Japan, where a fourth of the population is currently over 65 — and projected to rise to an unprecedented 36 percent by 2040 — many elders want to keep doing what they’ve traditionally done in this country known for its vigorous work ethic: continue to contribute, and be paid for it. Right now about 20 percent of Japanese 65 and older still work. And while this is laudable, in a survey by the Japanese Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, two-thirds of respondents over 60 expressed strong interest in continuing in the labor force beyond age 65. Until now, however, many who want to work end up retiring when they become pension-eligible, because companies do not encourage older workers to stay on, and the seniors themselves don’t know how to source new opportunities.
Some of the new paradigm formats that could address this employment disparity include:
- Developing knowledge and skill networks, where senior (in every sense) employees train and mentor younger ones. This entails a quantum shift in corporate mindset, from competition to cooperation/collaboration, and is mirroring what’s taking place in other sectors of society.
- Creating products and services for new market segments. Instead of attempting to customize existing resources for an aging market, companies in hyper-aging societies like Japan, Australia and the U.S. can create novel products and services to support healthy, active seniors who wish to continue working.
- Utilizing the seniors themselves to solve the problem. One burgeoning need is health care for the very old; there is a growing lack of caregivers, which will only increase along with the aging population worldwide. The so-called “young old”, in the 65-74 age bracket, might prove to be appealing caretakers for those a decade or more ahead. Caregiving does not necessarily involve physical strength and stamina so much as time, attention, the willingness to do household tasks such as laundry and cooking, and being available to take an elderly person to the doctor or to visit a friend.
HOUSING. Then there is the matter of how societal expectations affect where older adults live, which makes the changing senior living landscape a bright field for the reverse mortgage industry. As we’re exploring, the desire to age in place is expanding into ever more creative ways to age in community, which may or may not mean moving from one’s lifelong residence to a smaller (or larger) home, a new area, a co-housing community, or a senior living community.
HEALTH. Finally, threaded throughout morphing work, living arrangements, and social mores is the changing face of health and beauty, as seniors become more health- and tech savvy, and exercise their desire to stay as youthful and healthy as possible for as long as possible. A U.S. News & World Report book, How to Live to 100, cites “not retiring” and “flossing every day” as two of the top keys to a healthy longevity. Flossing, perhaps surprisingly, isn’t just about keeping teeth and gums strong: it can help keep arteries clear. The same bacteria that cause gum disease can enter the bloodstream and cause inflammation in the arteries, a major risk factor for heart disease.
- Wear their medical alert bracelet, watch, pendant or other personal alert device;
- Keep a list of emergency contact numbers on the refrigerator and in their smartphone, making it easy for anyone to know whom to contact for their health history;
- Photo ID their meds and imaging reports, such as an EKG. Technology can literally be a lifesaver: being able to review someone’s medical images/x-rays and medications quickly can save valuable time in an emergency, especially if the patient is unable to communicate;
- Have an advance directive and health care proxy in place.
No levee can hold back the silver tsunami that’s sweeping the globe. Harnessing this immense power will enable communities everywhere to surf successfully into uncharted waters.