The next 10 years are going to be exponentially revolutionary for the global community in different ways. Macros trends in internet access, driverless cars, cashless economies, shared services and better overall health care are just some of the trends that will change all our lives.

But what about the older generations?

Advertisers, investors, vendors and suppliers often chase younger generations or those still in the workforce who maybe a little older but still in the community. As a consequence it seems that global capital flows not only don’t pursue the elderly demographic but avoid it in favour of the younger consumer (that’s despite countries like Japan, Italy, Germany, and Australia and elsewhere facing increasingly ageing populations of over 65’s).

The World Health Organisation has a variety of studies on elderly populations and according to United Nations estimates, the number of older persons (60+) will double from the current 600 million to 1.2 billion by 2025, and again, to 2 billion by 2050.

In one of these studies, the focus of Ageing friendly Cities identified the following criteria to be an Ageing friendly City:

  • recognize the great diversity among older persons,
  • promote their inclusion and contribution in all areas of community life,
  • respect their decisions and lifestyle choices, and
  • anticipate and respond flexibly to aging-related needs and preferences.

Countries with the oldest populations in the world are listed below as per World Atlas:

Rank Country % of population over 65 years old
1 Japan 26.3 %
2 Italy 22.4 %
3 Greece 21.4 %
4 Germany 21.2 %
5 Portugal 20.8 %
6 Finland 20.5 %
7 Bulgaria 20.0 %
8 Sweden 19.9 %
9 Latvia 19.4 %
10 Malta 19.2 %

So with so many countries that have GDP’s per capita on the upper end of the world rankings, why is it where elderly votes are increasingly prevalent are the ageing so voiceless in advocating for quality of care treatment for themselves (or even their next generation) and why then does capital not flow both for investment and consumers in this over 65+ segment more freely not for social impact purposes which would be sound in its own right, but for purely return on investment (ROI) and financial economic incentive purposes?

That’s the state for the more developed countries. However, in developing systems to support the elderly from a sustainable long term community perspective, WHO shows that “long-term care needs to evolve in fundamental ways. In many low- and middle-income countries, formal longterm care services are essentially non-existent. The task of supporting care-dependent older people typically falls to female relatives, who are mostly untrained and unpaid for this work. In some high income countries, comprehensive public services are available, but sustainability is of great concern as populations age. In all settings, the nature and quality of care often fall short.”

So what is being done about it? Show me some examples…

Investment opportunities for business focused on the elderly include:

  • Aged care and retirement homes where these have typically been institutions operated in the shadows by governments, religious groups and NGOs. At times without scrutiny or proper processes where the resident effectively goes to die
  • Shared economy solutions for the elderly as a vulnerable immobile community is one thing. Home-care is a booming market opportunity. What it really is can better be perceived as concierge services for convenience and quality of life improvement for a consumer who just happens to be a little older
  • Technology devices that utilise IOT, remote sensing and other monitoring tools that can potentially catch patients or residents at risk far quicker and without human intervention in remote locations to allow support or emergency services to address issues before it becomes life or death. Furthermore, prevention utilising predictive data insights generated from Big Data or machine learning / AI driven tools create opportunities to adapt and adjust environments to limit falls or provide health care workers and carers first hand experience of what dementia maybe like?

Australia grown CarePage is another example of a Company who has taken the initiative to develop a true consumer experience for the elderly. Where business models exist for hotel services and ratings & reviews of quality of supply in that market around travel, www.carepage.com.au has proven these can be adapted (with key differences) for families and residents, or operators and health care workers alike, to assess the ranking and experience of aged care homes and retirement options thus starting to turn the tide of focus from the aged care operators not valuing the customer first (ie the resident) to recognising that they are ultimately still a service business and their consumer, the elderly resident (and their families) will influence and rate their quality of services and their customer experience.

There are many others. Most importantly, science and technology are enabling massive change. This is all very well. But let’s treat the elderly like the ‘global elders‘ that they are and elevate them onto the podium of social status, not forgot about them in the dark institutions and social services of constrained, de-humanised government subsidies.

A huge opportunity for a good cause…

More people need to focus on championing and celebrating the unlocked, apparently hidden value in the wisdom and memories and insights of the elderly community. They need to be championed for their wisdom today, and not just in memory when its too late. Recognising every grandparent as an asset, treating every vulnerable elderly community member as a valuable custodian of knowledge and asking ‘what can i learn from them’ is the easiest first step to start treating this important demographic like the global elders they are, and not a social liability and a truly forgotten global generation that they risk becoming as an unintended consequence of an evolving global technology revolution.

Thanks to HelloCare for the sourcing of data and reports.