The latest Global AgeWatch Index gives us some insights into how the world population is ageing. The numbers demonstrate not just how much we need to focus on providing health and care for older people, but also how many older people will be tomorrow’s consumers.
Globally 12.3% of the world’s population is over 60 today. By 2030 that figure will rise to 16.5% and by 2050 it will be over a fifth – 21.5%.
Mostly figures like these are considered in terms of what an ageing population will bring to the government and society. Recently though there has been more focus on what generations of older people can contribute themselves. Retirement ages are rising. More people are starting a second, more entrepreneurial career in their 50s. Further education and voluntary work are becoming more population.
Longer working years suggests more disposable income on a long-term basis. Recent changes to pension rules in the UK mean some are choosing to spend at least some of their pension pots on high-value acquisitions.
This growing population of post-60 consumers are intent wherever possible in maintaining an enjoyable quality of life, rather than just getting by. Travel and cruises in particular are seeing a surge in popularity. Technology is no longer a mystery – Skyping the family or playing games on an iPad is a way of life for many.
And so it goes on. The savvy providers of products and services will tap into this growth generation both with new offerings and with a fresh approach to what’s already available. There’s more to life than millennials.
In the three years that I’ve been writing in the “eldercare” community the thought behind use of language has changed significantly.
Perhaps the biggest change is that people who talk about “suffering from” a condition are chastised. We don’t suffer any more apparently – we live with dementia, Parkinson’s disease, arthritis and other diagnoses. This is part of a bigger trend to be more positive in our use of language. That’s a good thing, as long as we don’t use language to pretend a problem doesn’t really exist.
Take the issue of older people feeling that sometimes they are a burden to their family as their challenges grow. I’ve been castigated for the use of the word “burden”. That’s one I would argue about. We can’t stop using a term that people feel for themselves. It’s not really helpful.
On the other hand I was at a meeting of professionals in the care industry where someone suggested that it’s time we re-thought the word “care”. Why? Because it fills people with fear. They don’t want to see themselves as someone who needs care at home or even might have to retire into a care home at some stage. Much better I agree is to talk about providing people with “support” to continue living their lives as much as they can where and how they prefer.
Another one that makes sense is differentiating between “carers” and “caregivers”. The word carer tends to be used to cover all possibilities but professionally carers are people who are paid to provide services at home or in a care home. Caregivers can be thought of as all those family members and friends who provide support and help without payment.
Describing this population can be fraught with difficulty too, especially in a marketing sense. Want to be found? You probably need to use words like “old”, “elderly” and “eldercare”. Want to turn off your audience? Use those same words.
A good read: Words to use and avoid around dementia. Written by people living with the disease.