September 14, 2018

Credit: AP Photo / Jessica Hill

The United States is about to face a “silver tsunami;” a retirement crisis; a health care dilemma. At least, that’s what it seems like, if you read articles about America’s aging population of baby boomers. And the increased number of older Americans is going to transform the country. The U.S. Census Bureau says that “older adults will outnumber children for the first time in U.S. history” in just a few decades. And they will transform the economy to fit their needs and wants. 

This presents both challenges and opportunities, according to Joseph Coughlin, author of “The Longevity Economy: Unlocking the World's Fastest-Growing, Most Misunderstood Market.” 

Three Takeaways

  • Corporations have struggled for a long time to reach older consumers. Heinz, the ketchup company, once tried to market “senior foods.” Yep, essentially baby food for the elderly, and almost as bland and tasteless. Needless to say, senior foods weren’t a hit, and Heinz discontinued them soon after.
  • Coughlin says that an aging America presents a gigantic business opportunity. “The gross product, the buying power [of these elderly] would be the third largest in the world. So if you’re 35, and you want to work, and you want to find a place that’s a burgeoning business for startups, or even big companies, this is the place you want to look.”
  • Coughlin points out that, in general, baby boomers have a lot of money sitting around. And part of the reason they aren’t spending it is that companies aren’t giving them products or experiences that interest or excite them. Coughlin says that they do like buying new things; they just set a high bar for what’s worth their trouble.

More Reading

  • Here’s an interview we did with economist Andrew Scott about how this increase in the number of older folks is going to affect not just the economy, but how we organize each stage of our lives. 
  • Here’s the US Census’ look at how exactly our demographics are going to change in the next few decades. 
  • A while back, we talked with David Sinclair about how we’re redefining the limits of the human lifespan. Take a listen.

aging, Business, Joseph Coughlin, elderly, economy

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