Older adults are increasingly shaping economies all over the world. Tapping into the “silver market”, engaging the over 65s as consumers, offers great opportunities. Property developers, car makers, technology companies, financial services firms and the pharmaceutical industry are all cashing in on the silver dollar and are tailoring their offerings accordingly. The building and construction sector are designing housing specifically equipped to support independent living. Huge progress has been made in recent years in relation to smart houses and home automation technologies. As well as this, new and innovative thinking on neighborhood designs are transforming urban planning requirements and the development of public spaces.
All this spending is making a big impact. The Silver Economy in southwest Europe report finds that the market for silver economy is around €450 billion in Europe. In France people aged 50+ hold almost half of the country’s purchasing power and the seniors’ market will provide 45% of total demand. Germany’s silver purchasing power is at €316 billion. In New Zealand, over 65s contributed $20.6 billion as consumers in 2016, rising to a projected $94 billion in 2061. The SUPA-NZ Silver Economy research report showed the value of the Bay of Plenty silver economy alone sat at $2.55b in 2016 and is set to rise to $6.92b by 2031 and $15.62b by 2061. That’s bigger than the region’s booming kiwifruit economy.
As well as participating in paid work, it’s estimated older people contributed a total of $8.5 billion to their communities through unpaid and voluntary work in New Zealand. Over 65s have spent hours visiting older people, delivering meals, taking care of elderly parents or neighbours or assisting with childcare. This voluntary contribution is projected to grow to $35 billion by 2051. Additionally, their role as taxpayers is growing. In 2011 seniors paid $0.4 billion in income tax revenue but this is projected to grow to $2 billion by 2051.
While increased population ageing may put pressures on our health and other social services, social gerontologist Carole Gordon says that we cannot afford to ignore that this demographic is making such a significant contribution to our economy. “Social investment in community wellbeing, housing, transport, lifelong learning and age-friendly environments balances the healthcare demand which we can’t afford,” Gordon says. By supporting older people to take active roles in our communities, we are counteracting what Gordon describes as a “largesse of dependency”.
It seems however, that while businesses are happy for older people to use their services, or buy their product, they are not as supportive when it comes to hiring older people. The vast majority, 83 percent, of businesses have no policies or strategies in place for workers aged over 50. There’s an increasing pool of skilled 50, 60 and some 70 year olds who want to work, however, older workers (those over 50) currently take twice as long to secure a job than other age groups. Being 65 today is not what it was 50 years ago. Current trends suggest we will be fitter, healthier and more active for longer, and more willing and able to participate in the workforce as the longevity revolution continues. So, something needs to change!