My parents live in a small town in Northern Michigan that seems to get colder with each passing winter. Like many of their friends, they’re beginning to spend more and more of the snow season in warmer climates—in their case, Naples, Florida. I admit that Florida has never held a huge appeal to me. For some reason, I associate it with mosquitoes and unbearable humidity. But last winter my parents invited me down to visit Naples for the first time.
Upon arrival, Mom and Dad decided to take me out for dinner. We walked into the restaurant, sat down, and I began to look around. My parents, at 63 and 65, were by far and away the youngest people within sight, excluding myself. In fact, everywhere we went in Naples, my parents were among the younger crowd. I marveled at this to a colleague of mine from Florida. She said, “Yes, Florida leads the country with the size of our older population. But make no mistake; the rest of the country is definitely moving in the same direction.”
My colleague was correct. Population trends are definitely moving US demographics toward what is now normal in some parts of Florida. According to the US Census bureau, the population aged sixty-five and older will double over the next thirty years, as the baby boomers turn sixty-five. Additionally, as the boomers reach sixty-five, then seventy-five, then eighty-five, the population in each bracket will swell, shifting the average age higher.
Certainly a large older population will pose challenges for us, especially with respect to our healthcare system and our social safety net in light of the recent recession, which has left many boomers with significantly reduced savings. However, there is also a huge market opportunity for those with goods and services, both at high and low price points, that are attractive to an older population and those who give them care. I believe that in the next decade, we will begin to see increased entrepreneurial activity directed to an aging target audience as well as the tailoring of existing products to the needs of older people. Additionally, I think that the social sector will be forced to transform itself in order to meet the needs of the most vulnerable older people.
It’s going to be an exciting time for innovation.