For years we have talked about a so-called ‘age-quake’, but it is time to view the ageing population as a valuable asset, not a drain. Today’s seniors reject being stereotyped or labelled and as a society we must reframe our perception of age and apply a much more positive outlook.
Adapting an Inclusive Vision
However, complex challenges lie ahead and we all need to adapt an inclusive mindset to tune in to the true needs of tomorrow’s seniors. Currently life expectancy is growing at the rate of 2 years per decade. To successfully navigate in the No-Age Society you need a system in place to identify the most meaningful opportunities for your brand.
Essential Building Blocks
As a futurist I use my trend mapping system to gain a deeper insight into people’s value universe and consumption behaviour. This system provides essential building blocks for mapping out the future. Looking at the evolution of needs over the past century, there is an evident redefinition of value sets.
A Cognitive Shift
We live increasingly longer and already know that money alone can’t buy happiness, so now we are looking elsewhere for meaning and wellbeing. The Future Foundation found that “Personal Fulfilment” was top priority for 50% of British adults in 2003, c ompared with only 25% in 1983. I believe we are witnessing a big cognitive shift, where new lifestyle preferences and business models are set to emerge.
Societal Value Universe
Self-empowerment and Meaningful Consumption have become a universal goal for many in the west. We now ask: “How can I get more out of life?” With this in mind, you will see that there are huge opportunities in helping people achieve higher levels of personal fulfilment, but this also challenges our current societal value universe. Thriving as a business in this context requires fresh thinking and a seismic attitude change. It is estimated that by 2050 1 in 5 people in the US – and 1 in 8 globally – will be 65 and over. These baby boomers have no intention of a quiet retirement – they intend to enjoy their considerable spending power. To prepare for this we need to understand the drivers at work in our society.
Whole Brain Thinking
Contrast and diversity rules today’s world and apply to all ages. Bombarded with contradictory messages and data about Fast versus Slow lifestyles, the real challenge perhaps is to understand how to strike a happy balance. Companies can balance these contrasts by applying whole brain thinking. Neuroscience divides the brain into two – Left: Analytical and Right: Visionary. For far too long society has banked on left-brain thinking only. To understand the future and effect positive change it is essential to apply a ‘Whole Brain’ vision. This is also how I map out trends. Trend Mapping is a shortcut to decode cultural contexts in society. You get the whole picture and can identify challenges and opportunities.
Most Influential Trends
The Trend Atlas is a key for navigating complexity. Businesses must think ‘from the outside in’ to understand and connect with their audience. Using the Trend Atlas, I have defined the most influential trends for the No-Age society.
Total Transparency breeds trust, but it demands openness and clear communication of values and ethics. Smart Technology empowers the aging population – keeping them connected and safe while facilitating work, play and health. Always On is about ‘Real-time’ exchange, networks and communities, enabling a dialogue-driven society where access for all becomes a reality. Nurturing Cultural Capital creates ‘real value’ and togetherness to leverage seniors’ passions for the community. The 4G Workforce will soon be a reality with four generations in the workplace. This requires a positive cultural and corporate mindset towards ageing. Social Entrepreneurship fulfils civic minded seniors need to create a better world through social participation and value-related self-expression.
Health concerns and talks about an unsustainable health burden inspire Intelligent Health and ‘holistic wellbeing’ schemes as more of us prioritise a balanced life in the ‘slow lane’. Last but not least Happiness Hunting is big business and brands now look beyond the bottom line to facilitate ‘meaningful encounters’ that inspire happiness and a sense of well being.
Interactive Patchwork Seniors
The No-Age Society is a reality and society drivers are closely linked to the value sets of tomorrow’s people – reflecting their lifestyle choices. On a rational level Transparency and Smart Technology are key facilitators of Pragmatic Seniors’ desire for personal Empowerment. Meaningful dialogue and Cultural Capital drive Patchwork Seniors’ need for Interaction. On an emotional level, Social Entrepreneurship encourages Participation by embracing the 4G Workforce as the new norm. Finally, Intelligent Health and Happiness satisfy the No-Age Seniors’ need for Meaning and personal fulfillment.
Positive Change Agents
The No-Age Seniors are no longer passive consumers – they are active participants and positive change agents. To lead, and win over this valuable sector, you must have perspective and be people-centric – truly empower the ageing population on all levels. We are in the middle of a paradigm shift where it has become crucial to reconsider our societal and cultural values. A measure of society is how it sees its older people – companies must engage with seniors in an empathic manner. In a No-Age Society people expect empowerment on all levels. Tomorrow’s successful brands think from the outside in – engaging with seniors in an inclusive and meaningful way.
Talk: Ageing Well Network Dublin, March 2011
Anne Lise is a futurist and keynote speaker working across the world