There is not the slightest doubt that the rapid ageing of the world’s population will provide a significant economic opportunity for those who are innovative and courageous, especially in Australia, where our great lifestyle and general prosperity help us to live longer than many others.
The statistics are compelling. There are now 3,700 Australians who are enjoying a century of life and, by 2050, there will be 50,000 Australians who will celebrate the achievement of that honour. At that time, a quarter of our population will be over 65, and there will be more of our citizens who are over 60 than those who are under 15.
Very significantly, there will be five times the number of 85-year-olds as there are now and, at some time later in the century, there will be more Australians out of the workforce than there are in it.
The predominant hair colour will be grey, and it will be fashionable to proudly display it as grey. If we choose to look at this challenge negatively, we could say with reasonable accuracy that there is a genuine possibility that an aged population will become a heavy burden on Australian taxpayers. Alternatively, we can decide now that Grey really means Gold.
So, let us have a look at just a few of the economic opportunities that can provide gold for those of pioneering spirit who want to start planning now to capitalise on what will be a dramatic restructuring of the world economy.
Housing is a good starting point. Most seniors want to die in their own homes, not in nursing homes, hostels or retirement villages. When they downsize out of their current homes, they do not want to live in a house or apartment that is just a small version of what they now live in. They will prefer a custom-built cottage which is filled with user-friendly technology that enables them to be independent despite their declining health and mobility.
No-one in the Australian Housing Industry appears to be planning to provide this for them, and our technology industries aren’t looking at what they can provide for an ageing population — many of whom will be financially independent and able to pay. It is significant that there is a growing trend among Seniors to look for rental housing when they downsize rather than continuing to own a home, as they want to be as mobile as possible in case a nursing home becomes inevitable.
Sadly, there is a great shortage of public housing in Australia, and very little of it is suitable to Seniors. What a splendid property investment opportunity this is for those who are willing to come up with the right products in a specialised market.
Another is recreation. People who retire in their sixties can look forward to another 40 years of life, and they will become bored with the routine of bus trips, bowls and golf. A new service industry can be created to design and implement recreational activities for Seniors, in groups or alone, that will exercise both mind and body in interesting ways and ward off the early onset of dementia. Bear in mind that we are talking in terms of a market of five million customers, and growing.
A third market opportunity is the internet, where specially-designed programs will be needed to help seniors keep in touch with families and friends, while enabling them to shop online for everything they need and consult their doctor without leaving home — as well as handling all financial matters in the same way.
The programs must be very user-friendly and secure while having a built-in service component to give quick personal advice on the inevitable problems that computer users will always encounter, particularly Seniors who have no desire to acquire the skills of Bill Gates.
This is an enormous chance for young people to capitalise on, knowing that they will get a very friendly and golden reception out there in the grey market place. The right innovation with all three of the above could open the door for Australians to sell technology and services to the whole world. There will be an international market of three billion Seniors by 2050, and there are more golden opportunities beyond the three that I have mentioned.
Education and Preventative Health will offer limitless opportunities. I reckon that there is real gold to be found among the grey. And it is wide open to new visionaries because most current producers of goods and services have the mistaken view that seniors will simply adapt to what the general market offers.
They could not be more wrong. This is why you should get into it right now.