The Coming Demographic Shift Means Endless Opportunities (and New Competitors)
You’ve heard the statistic: EVERY DAY ANOTHER 10,000 BOOMERS TURN 65.
That’s been the clarion call for everyone in senior living, senior care, senior anything, to get busy and seize this opportunity that older Boomers are bringing between now and December 31, 2029, when the last one reaches ages 65.
Guess what? That’s not the story. It’s not even the right way to frame the statistic, because it makes it sound like it’s a one-time event. Ha! Not even close.
The real story is much more compelling:
EVERY DAY FOR THE NEXT 30 YEARS 10,000 AMERICANS WILL TURN AGE 65. That’s right, after Boomers cross that threshold, then so too will Gen Xers, then Millennials. And so on and so on.
The future of America is OLDER. Period.
Let’s look at the demographic story that rarely gets told. Back in 1960, when Boomers were ages 15 and younger, the composition of America in terms of age was simple to see and understand. It was a triangle, bigger at the bottom where all the Baby Boom babies could be found, and smaller at the top, where few lived much past age 65.
Demographers like to use this chart, with the percentages of each age segment shown, with men on one side, women on the other. America in 1960 (source, US Census):
You can see the smaller birth cohort from the Great Depression and World War II deficits ages 15-34 in this snapshot). The Boomers are the bottom three segments. Demographers call this the “Population Age Pyramid,” an ancient metaphor to reflect something unchanged since civilizations formed: the composition of any population is lots and lots of children, or youth, then a large group of young adults, then a smaller number at middle age, and only a few at older ages.
After remaining static for thousands of years, the 1960’s proved to be the inflection point. Thanks to access to effective birth control medications, combined with advances in modern medicine and pharmaceuticals to enable one to live longer with chronic conditions, we have experienced two demographic shifts which have changed the “pyramid” metaphor forever. Fewer babies, more older adults. In fact, the pyramid is dead. Gone. Not likely to return. Ever.
Here is America as projected for 2030. Note the shape:
We will have about equal numbers of every age, up until around age 80. Not more youth and few older adults. Equal numbers. (In fact, the current six year birth dearth you may have read about, which picked up speed in 2020 thanks in part to COVID-19, means we’ll have even fewer youngsters heading off to kindergarten this fall and for the next five years — or to college in 2032 and beyond.)
An Older Future Creates New Opportunities
This demographic reality creates opportunities, especially for those focusing on the longevity economy and seniors. In fact, every organization, business, community, association, or industry that deals with consumers needs to understand that this older future of America. Growth will come from increasing business among that older segment, since it’s the only one in growth mode.
It’s almost like the 1950’s again, where all sorts of new products and services sprang up to take advantage of the Baby Boom: Gerber baby food, Barbie dolls, Cap’n Crunch cereal, Band-Aids that would stick like glue on scraped knees.
Now J&J needs to make Band-Aids that won’t stick like glue on 80-year-old skin, which is less elastic and durable. The next 20+ years should bring us a tremendous new range of products and services for older adults.
The same will happen in workplaces, where finding talent is already difficult. The Bureau of Labor reports that the only segment of the workforce expected to grow year after year is the 55+ segment. If you need workers, you’ll need a strategy for finding, attracting, hiring, and keeping 55+ workers. Now.
My advice to anyone wondering about what’s next for their organization is to think older. If you don’t, your competitor is. That’s because older is the future.