Preview Thoughts on The Longevity Economy.

As a norm, I usually don’t recommend a new book until after I read it through, however I make an exception here as I do eagerly anticipate one that I’ve had on pre-order for the last month or so. Next week will see the release of The Longevity Economy by Dr. Joseph Coughlin of MIT’s Age Lab. Much has been made of this market for a number of years, and though largely seen as a made in America story, it is truly global in nature.

Longevity Economy BookSome have called it the Silver Economy, but I prefer Longevity Economy as it really reflects broader market segmentation opportunity for all ages, not just silver-headed Boomers. And therein lies the problem that Coughlin’s sub-title for the book suggests to help solve – Unlocking the World’s Fastest-Growing, Most Misunderstood Market.

No doubt this is a book that businesses, as well as non-profits and other public services I might suggest, should benefit from as they try to right the ship in their marketing strategies. Yet I expect that this read may help consumers better understand how their lives are shaping in a longevity economy. There are many market disconnects, that as one of the promo lines for the book says, where Coughlin “pinpoints the gap between myth and reality”

Perhaps more timely now, this book will hopefully sit nicely as my companion piece to the wonderful book by Kim Walker and Dick StroudMarketing to the Ageing Consumer 2013.

In April 2012 I heard Dr. Coughlin speak at a Business of Aging Summit in Toronto at the MaRS Discovery District. He does engage an audience and his observations make you think. His open question in his MaRS talk, echoed the voice of Theodore Roszak in his book Longevity Revolution – “Now that we’re living much longer, what will we do with all our extra time?” As Roszak said – “it’s time we start finding a good social use for those extra years.”

With those questions in mind, and the fact that the demographic numbers of a current fifty-plus market have not yet really reached an “older age”; there is much to discover about how this not so homogeneous group of consumers/citizens will shape their promise of longevity. And therefore, plenty of reason why those who live, serve and sell in a longevity economy will need to grasp this most misunderstood market.

Aging 2.0 Global Start Up Search – Toronto Winner!

How fortuitous that in our last blog post I mentioned Winterlight Labs – as they turned out to be the award winner of the May 24th Aging 2.0 Global Start Up Search – Toronto edition. Winterlight has developed a technology-based solution that “monitors cognitive health through speech recognition”.


These four young entrepreneur scientists bring their collaborative insights and expertise with a technology focus to help people who suffer, not only from dementia, but also for those who have other mental or cognitive health issues such as depression, stroke or autism.

For the past five years, there has been steady global development/fusion of technology and science connected to aging and longevity and, in the Greater Toronto market, we have our own players to be proud of in this field, which in large part is an untold story in the public domain.

Back in April 2012, three of us on the Planet Longevity team attended a Business of Aging Summit at the MaRS Discovery District and there met the pioneers at U of T’s TAGLab (Technologies for Aging Gracefully). We also heard Joseph Coughlin of MIT”s AgeLab speak. All of this was a real eye opener to the opportunities emerging in the technology space and how it will unfold in a practical way for a future longevity society.

Since then in 2015, AGE-WELL launched as a technology and aging network and of course US based Aging 2.0, which also endorses the Stanford Center on Longevity: Design Challenge, established its Toronto chapter. The field of aging and assistive technology has a growing list of supporters, promoters and collaborators too long to mention here, but the list includes researchers, educators, developers, business and health care networks and government and not-for profit organizations.

What is compelling about this story is that we are only beginning to see the benefits of these technologies in application today. Can you imagine how more ubiquitous this will all be within the next few years? Not to mention how much more there is to ideate and develop over the next decade; not just with assistive technologies but technologies in biology and genetics that will help improve extended lifetimes. One of Google’s 2013 spin off businesses, Calico is a prime example of this type of venture.

So congratulations to Winterlight Labs. What I would like to see is more of a broad public education campaign where the Business of Aging could perhaps be better relatable if it were to be called the Business of Aging & Longevity. So in the short run, Planet Longevity will use its platform to further endorse this Canadian story which further demonstrates that we are an innovation economy in more meaningful ways for the future of a longevity society.


Mark Venning

Making a Business Pitch for Aging. Right here in Toronto!

Who says aging isn’t a business opportunity? Not the folks at Aging 2.0.

PrintOn Tuesday evening May 24th the Toronto Chapter of Aging 2.0 is holding its Global Start Up Search, a local pitch event that will award an entrepreneur in what they call the aging focused business category. Other chapters are holding pitch events in Berlin May 23rd and further in places like Barcelona, Beijing, London, Phoenix and Baltimore. These and others over the summer will lead to the finals in the Aging 2.0 Optimize conference in October 2016.

If you look at some of the emerging businesses in this category, you will see how obviously rooted the product development is in new technologies. For example take Winterlight Labs that has built technology which “in the dead of night…can quickly and accurately detect cognitive impairment from a sample of speech”. Poking around the links to start-up participants in other Aging 2.0 global event sites it becomes abundantly clear that going forward as we age, we are going to be all Apped-up!

Sponsors for this Toronto event include AGEWELL, PointClickCare and Revera – more of an Aging 1.0 company in a hurry. What the connector for all these technology oriented aging focused businesses is that they all pivot off the one core theme of aging and care – home, health, wellness and assisted living devices or services – all positives for opportunities in longevity.

Opportunity knocks.

But what of existing everyday businesses? We are hitting a smarter stride in an era of age aware marketing, though one might argue that some businesses have not reached the intelligence level to adapt their marketing strategies in recognition of undeniable shifts in aging demographics. Some marketing pitches of familiar, traditional product categories have not even reached Aging 1.0 in their efforts.

So many businesses that may not necessarily focus directly on the aging and care theme – are clumsy, stereotyping or patronizing in their attempts to reach a fifty-plus cohort, which itself is really a fifty-year spread. How do you target market better with that in mind? And what do you do if you sell food, clothing, vacations, banking services or deck chairs?

As I’ve recommended countless times, where to start to educate yourself in this endeavour if you are a business, is with the primer in reading, the 2013 – Kim Walker & Dick Stroud’s, Marketing to the Ageing Consumer.

And if you are a small business 1.0 or 2.0 in the Greater Toronto Area, looking to climb out from under the rocks and connect with others in aging focused businesses, join the Sheridan College, Centre for Elder Research Business of Aging Information Exchange Network (going global soon).

My closing Idea. To encourage improvement in age aware marketing excellence, maybe there should be an awards program for the best in Aging 1.0 Reboot companies (as opposed to Start Ups). I’d love to be the ringleader facilitator for that.


Mark Venning


Marketing to the 50-plus: A Disrupted Model

We’re in the midst of a longevity revolution and with any societal change it takes awhile for our institutions to catch up. So too with our efforts to market and advertise to an aging cohort. Not long ago, people over a certain age ceased to exist in the eyes of advertisers. In my agency days, many myopic media plans were written with 18 to 49 year old homemakers in mind. Slowly we started to notice that there was indeed life after 50.

When advertisers finally woke up to the opportunities that existed amongst aging Boomers, they reached into their toolkit of trusty stereotypes and well-worn clichés. Who can forget the silver haired couple walking on a beach, signaling the benefits of retirement planning? It’s as though marketers forgot early lessons in Marketing 101. Let me remind them of a few facts. 

We have no blueprint for today’s 50-plus consumer. For the most part, we’re living longer, healthier lives than previous generations. But we’re also living cyclical, rather than linear lives. Previous generations typically moved through life in one direction: education, work, raising a family and then retirement. This model is now disrupted. Rather than taking a linear path through life, we see plenty examples of people who are blending education, work, a new family and part-time retirement.

Examples abound of people who are exactly the same age but at completely different stages in their life experiences. Here’s an example from my own life.  I had a business meeting recently with someone of similar age, whom I’ve known for many years. Not seeing each other in awhile; he was very proud to show me pictures of his baby daughter now six months old. I have a thirty-year old son who is starting a new family. I suspect that introduces some fairly substantial differences in the way we view the world and in the products and services we buy.  In the old, unenlightened marketing paradigm, we would have been thrown together into the same bucket because we’re in the same age group.

The key lesson for marketers: focus on life stage not age. We can both be 60. but I may be starting a new family and contemplating a new career. You, on the other hand, could be retired and shopping around for a walk-in bathtub.  A world of difference and as a marketer you better be sensitive to these differences.

Gerald Bramm