Longevity will be one of the key trends of the future. With previously unimaginable advances in the fields of science and technology ongoing, our life expectancy is increasing. This has huge and far-reaching consequences. Governments need to consider the economic effects of the growing elderly population. Furthermore, the older generation has significant spending power and so their needs and lifestyle preferences will impact businesses in the long term.
The cost of longevity
In 1950, there were 130 million people aged 65 and over worldwide. The size of this age cohort reached 600 million in 2015 and according to the United Nations (UN) is poised to rise further to around 1.6 billion by 2050. The global economic consequences of this trend are serious. Countries must work out how to support a rising number of retirees with a smaller percentage of the population in the workforce. Ultimately, governments need to ensure a balance between the well-being of retirees and the sustainability of the state pensions. Even now, receiving some sort of pension is not guaranteed everywhere. Although 68% of those above retirement age receive a pension according to the UN Sustainable Development Goal indicators, there are considerable variations across regions.
Ageism currently prevents many older people from extending their working lives once they have passed the stipulated retirement age, despite often being willing and able to do so. However, with people living longer and the emergence of data suggesting that including older workers in the workforce could significantly boost a country’s gross domestic product, economies may benefit from finding ways to encourage this.
The effect of longevity on economies
Once retired, people inevitably have more time on their hands. How pensioners choose to spend this time is one key determinant of where they spend their hard-earned money. According to the International Longevity Centre, the UK’s specialist think tank on the impact of longevity on society, spending by those aged 65 and over increased by 75% between 2001 and 2018. With the elderly’s greater spending power, their frailty and their changing lifestyle preferences, the longevity trend is set to have a significant impact on certain areas of our economies.
The longer people live, the more likely they are to contract diseases and/or suffer from various age-related conditions and thus a rise in global spending on healthcare is projected. Although healthcare is improving and the development of new treatments and cures continues, older people are generally less mobile and their cognitive abilities fall. As a result, the majority of the elderly need some sort of assistance in their daily lives and in many cases this is provided by retirement homes.
Other areas set to see greater demand for their products and services are: nutrition - as people are increasingly paying attention to what they can do to support their own health in terms of nutrition and lifestyle; beauty – as people fight the physical signs of ageing; financial planning – as the need for individuals to plan and save for their own retirement is growing; and leisure – with more time and often greater spending power than the younger generations, going on holiday is a popular way for retirees to spend their leisure time.