As 77 million Americans and 450 million people worldwide have begun turning 65 this year, there’s a compelling new focus on the commercial opportunities. The good news is that even in the midst of an economic crisis, where jobs are a key issue, our aging population is seen not as a drag but a boon. CNBC’s recent Back to Work special by Mark Koba pointed out that “the explosion of the boomer generation into senior citizens” could create a “job-making machine” across a number of sectors. From law to health care to financial advising, the soon-to-be “senior citizens” will create a demand for services that will exceed available supply. According to one of the program’s sources, “There won’t be enough labor to meet all the demands of the aging population.”
Unless we turn this on its head and view our aging citizens as filling many of those jobs themselves. And why not – especially if we are to understand the new longevity boon as one accompanied by healthy and active lifestyles well past the 60s. With the aid of biomedical advances, technology, and generally healthier lifestyles, as reflected in a recent National Institute on Aging study, the business of aging http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/19/science/19fat.html?_r=1&ref=todayspaper in this century will certainly be profoundly different than before.
It’s also well worth looking at our aging population as a driver of growth and producer of economic activity – and not zero-sum competition for other job seekers. With all the chatter on the campaign trail about jobs creation, it seems that senior-citizens-to-be are here to save the day.
This classic and hopeful American approach – steeped in the value creation and growth model of democratic capitalism – has been in evidence for some time by progressive thinkers on aging. Ken Dychtwald of AgeWave has been on the cutting edge of understanding the opportunity for quite some time, as has Marc Freedman, reflected through his concept of encore careers, which “combine purpose, passion and a paycheck.” Both Dychtwald and Freedman inform the recent piece by John E. Nelson in Time. In “How to Retire Like George Soros—Even If You’re Not a Billionaire,” Nelson details three steps to a happy, healthy retirement. He argues that Americans should eschew leisure for “continued engagement,” “seek opportunities to continue using your job skills and talents,” and “contribute to something outside yourself.”
America’s baby boomers – as we speak – may be forging the way for aging populations to become one of the core growth drivers of this new century.