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Ageing: When Analysed correctly is an Opportunity; not a Problem

By Anurag Gupta | January 09, 2015 | 0 Comments

Consumers not Patients

Our generation has benefited immensely from advances in medical sciences & technology. Yes, large parts of developing world are still grappling with basic issues like running water & electricity; but as a whole, human civilisation has never had it so good.  People in rich world can now routinely expect to live in their late 80s or 90s or as eminent futurist Ray Kurzweil observes: We will soon be able to change our ‘software’ (genome) by tinkering through RNA interference.

But this also brings the issue of ‘older societies’. Developed Countries are ageing fast. Except for parts of Indian sub-continent, Africa & Middle East; the world is getting older. The issue is especially important in Japan, Italy & Germany; where policy makers are staring at a biggest ‘ticking time bomb’; the demographic imbalance.

But few things stand out:

  • We just talk about the age of the person without taking into account the overall health status of the individual. That is grossly incorrect! Akin to talking about the age of the car without any regard to the make, odometer reading or the engine condition (vintage car collectors will know what we mean here). A slightly better, though still crude indicator could be the Body Mass Index or BMI (remember the days when the fashion industry started mandating minimum BMI for models).
  • The job markets, pension industry, welfare (or social security) are misaligned with the current realities. In many developed countries where social security kicks in by 65 years; the rules were formulated when the average life expectancy was close to 60 years! People now a days tend to be in their ‘prime of life’ for much longer. A good example is Jo Pavey, who in Aug, 2014 became a 10,000 m European champion at the age of 40. Age of 40 years that is!

So What should be done?

  • Start, by looking at elderly people as an opportunity, not as a burden on society. Think of the buying power they have compared to a person just starting out in 20s.
  • Governments should realign the policies with the changes in the job markets (think the freelancing market, rise of ‘temping’) and realities of the demography. Some countries are taking steps in this direction. For ex: UK has abolished the default retirement age of 65. Similarly, more needs to be done across the globe, to ‘retire the retirement age’.
  • Companies are taking note of this huge opportunity. For ex: Kodak (yes, the camera film giant) just launched a smartphone targeted at the elderly. Doro (a Swedish firm), has recorded consistent growth with its phones aimed at the elderly (think: large buttons, ease of use, rugged devices etc). Age UK (a charity) sells phones for the elderly that are easier to use.

Invariably, 30s are the new 20s and 80s may be new 50s shortly; creating new opportunities for everyone.

What do you think ?

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