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 & Longevity – Global Conferences 2017.

A new year brings as usual a fresh roster of international conferences in every professional field, and of course, this is no exception for the subject of aging and longevity. Here is a short list of interesting events for the first half of 2017 with my own summary introductions. What makes these events stand out is the higher-level conversations they stimulate on a wide-ranging scope of social issues.

What continued to strike me as I searched out a number of conference offerings this year, is how much more emphasis there is on drawing attention to business development opportunities in what is more often referred to as a Longevity Economy. At first glance, this may not immediately be reflected in the titles or content of conferences listed here, but if you look at the sponsorships such as in the case of the Aging in America Conference, you will see how this is presented.

Other conferences, profession based or academic in nature more frequently look to partnerships or sponsorships with businesses, which further indicates that there is opportunity across sectors to learn more about the process of aging and meet at the intersection where products and services address the social needs of a longevity society. Taking caution here though, in the preparation of this conference list, to avoid those that are overly commercial.

We will comment and report on any outcomes that stem from these events as they unfold.

American Society on Aging: Aging in America Conference

March 20-24, 2017 – Chicago, USA

Day One leads off with a National Forum on Family Caregiving. The full 48-page program is jam packed with an extensive range of subject matter for professionals working in the field of aging. March 23 presents a daylong “Boomer Business Summit” titled The New Economy: Seizing the Longevity Opportunity

Aging Graz 2017: 9th International Symposium on Cultural Gerontology

April 27-30, 2017 – Graz, Austria

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This is a joint conference of the European and North American Network in Aging Studies. Plenary speakers only so far announced but the broad sweep of the aging narrative looks to be engaging.

 

 

AAGE 2017 – Association for Anthropology, Gerontology & the Life Course

June 8-9, 2017 – Oxford England

10th Biennial Conference. What a surprise to see the call for abstracts under the theme “Culture, Commitment & Care across the Life Course”, with reference to Margaret Meade’s 1970 book Culture and Commitment. There is an inter-generational component to this event too.

Asian Conference on Aging & Gerontology: A-Gen 2017

June 8-11, 2017 – Kobe Japan

Produced by the International Academic Forum (iafor) the theme is East Meets West: Innovation and Discovery. Read the covering introduction for a very thoughtful look at the focus on the changing cultural aspects of family and aging. Submissions still welcome.

 

 

Mark Venning

Technology & Aging in Place: Emergent. Innovative. Viable.

Reminiscent of the wonderment around web technologies in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, when the internet punched its way into the mainstream, and more recently the App revolution and mobile devices, the buzz around (for what I will call) technology development for a longevity society is now, more than a trend, a serious business.

In previous Planet Longevity posts, we have commented on some major program initiatives in this category. Making a Business Pitch for AgingMay 18 for example, featured the Aging 2.0 Global Start-up contest that acknowledged and encouraged entrepreneurs to develop technology products that would serve health, wellness and assisted living needs, with particular application to direct use in home environments.

screen-shot-2016-05-03-at-10-03-06-am-300x168We are gaining momentum it would seem. Almost as if there was something, (as per a Phil Collins song) “in the air tonight”, three events over the next few months focus on this very story Technology & Aging in Place. First up is the announcement last week of the technology based, 4th-Annual Stanford Center on Longevity Design Challenge, this year themed – Innovating Aging in Place. This contest is open to students around the world with the award winners picked in April 2017.

centre-for-elder-research_stackedRight on my doorstep, on October 27th, I will be attending a Sheridan Centre for Elder Research half-day event – Insights About Technology & Aging in Place with Alex Mihailidis, PhD, Scientific Director at Toronto based AGE-WELL as key-note speaker. His talk is titled, Disrupting the Current Technology & Aging Landscape.  

Another session speaker is John Helliker, Director of Strategic Partnerships and the Screen Industries Research & Training Centre (SIRT) at Sheridan College. His topic is Virtual & Augmented Reality: Opportunities for individual and social change within an aging population. Our future experience of aging in place is only beginning to look interesting, imagine what we’ve got to look forward to!

NIATo cap off this round of events in Toronto is the November 24-25 conference, Re-thinking Ageing 2016 produced by the Ryerson University National Institute on Ageing. One of the workshops I will be attending is a dialogue focused on Age-Friendly Communities & Alternative Living Options, which is one of the core themes that our Planet Longevity panel promotes.  Of course, Aging in Place is one of those options.

On the second day of the conference, a workshop will discuss Accessible Home Design & Technologies to Enable Caregiving. The moderators are Jamie Shipley, Knowledge Transfer Consultant at the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and Donn Fenn, CEO of Caregiver Omnimedia. (On October 17, this company is also holding a well targeted Home Modification conference in Kortright, Ontario)

There is a great trigger question in the preamble note to this topic, which is worth sharing:

“What strategies can be used to overcome funding, policy and/or program barriers to achieve increased access to the enabling technologies and home modification supports for older adults and their caregivers?”

This is a hard to ignore dialogue and to be sure, some like our moderators here are ahead on the curve of change with it.

If you are looking at the home and health care funding policies of political parties in the next election in your province in Canada, you should be paying more attention. If you are a home designer, builder or realtor, you should be forming alliances with each other and share information on technology trends to advise your clients. If you are a future home seller or buyer, (heck even now), these are the kinds of questions that should be more front of mind over the next decade.

All of this may sound to some, like either a lot of hype ahead of its time, or a – Yikes, what’s this mean to me sitting in my future home, Bungalow Bill? (Again, can’t resist a song title.) But there is no getting around it; this Aging in Place dialogue is an opportunity for doing your clients a favour by enlightening them in their decision making process. This is an opportunity for individual careers and businesses in the emergent fields of design technology and viable going forward in a longevity society.

 

Mark Venning

 

Longevity Society: Welcome to a Mezzotopia?

If you follow the present global narrative on aging demographics, declining birthrates and our socioeconomic journey through a 21st century longevity society, you are allowed to feel somehow perplexed in the challenge of following the complex plotline. One minute we’re told we’re falling off a demographic cliff, or it’s an aging tsunami, where in a future by 2030 – all statistical roads lead to a dystopian landscape largely populated by seniors.

At a macro-level, this global discussion on the longevity revolution, as it is often called, has been taking place for the many years I’ve been researching it since 2001. Think tank organizations or coalitions at regional and international forums have more than adequately positioned the agenda for people on the street to make some meaning of it in our communities. Here we are – 2016, and this discussion is gathering steam, almost bursting for a Malcolm Gladwell tipping point.

Welcome to a mezzotopia. We are in a place in time where the discussion sounds discomforting, feeling some days like were half way – mezzo – with that media driven dystopian language in our ears. As patient or impatient as we may be with progress, we must push the envelope to help individualize the message in a new narrative, about how and why our life course model needs to change as a result of the predicted expectations for extended lifetimes.

How we choose to design and chunk out our life journey is only the beginning thread in the first chapter of the longevity narrative. In the October 2015, World Economic Forum white paper, titled How 21st-Century Longevity Can Create Markets and Drive Economic Growth; the call continues for the countries of the world, with all their variances in shifting demographics, to take advantage of the opportunities in what they describe as the “evolution of emerging markets”.

As Michael Hodin of the Global Coalition on Aging says in his recent Huff/Post 50 article:

“First, put “aging” at the top of the global agenda and direct serious public policy research asking the question: What are the principal public policy changes for aging societies that are likely to create pathways for economic growth? …. But it must be bigger: aging is equally about the young and the old.”

Yet, with so many competing issues on the global agenda – like the major increase in migration patterns occurring as an outcome of war and social unrest in certain parts of the world – aging may not be our single most immediately pressing concern. That said, we can’t ignore that all these “global agenda” items are all interconnected. What does aging and the promise of longevity look like to the migrant children living in the world today?

So yes, we are at a defining point in world history where we are in a position, with a healthy measure of foresight, to make fundamental shifts in macro policies – caring optimistically – for a sustainable future vision that will always be a work in progress. Here now, where economic and social inequalities, differences in cultural views on aging and debates about generational priorities; all reside in this narrative in a longevity society.

Welcome to a mezzotopia.

 

Mark Venning