I came across an interesting, if not chilling, term recently: peak children. The world has apparently reached peak children – a decreasing number of 0- to 14-year-olds being born.
Despite an apparent local boom in births, thanks to the procreation of the baby boomer children, the aged population of the earth is increasing, and that presents some interesting thoughts.
An aging and then decreasing population is seen as a bad thing. Should we rethink that? Japan, with 127 million people largely situated in urban centres by the sea, might benefit from a little more space per head. An insular country unaffected by migration, will an aging population have an effect on Japan’s standing in the world? The Chinese government has been concerned enough to rescind the one-child policy as it sees an issue coming in the next few decades as fewer children produce fewer children.
A consultant surgeon friend told me that the NHS works on the model that we lead long(ish) and relatively healthy lives, and then die quickly with a minimum of fuss (read that as expense through medical intervention). Will that continue to stand up, or will new and more expensive age-related illnesses creep up on us? A cheery thought!
Most European countries have seen a decreasing birth rate too, so how will we balance increased spending on care, and how will we ensure that we have the funds to care for ourselves in our dotage? Will the state be able to cope; should we expect it to, or will we cut the old loose, for their families to deal with.
There are so many societal, fiscal and moral questions that tumble out of this – but I wanted to consider the business issues that an aging population creates.
Marketing is obsessed by youth, both the pursuit of it and the depiction of young, handsome people enjoying the latest car/holiday/wide-screen TV. It’s well established that those aged 50 years and older have the lion’s share of disposable income, so why are they not addressed well enough? This current marketing approach will necessarily need to change. How do you identify and talk to new and demanding demographics without coming across as contrived?
Do we then need to discuss what marketing is appropriate? I enjoy taking the time to talk to my older relatives, and at no point in a conversation does my 70-year-old aunt pull out her smart phone, and absentmindedly flick through Facebook and Twitter while lazily attempting to maintain a conversation. The faddish, the irrelevant and the unduly complex pass them by a facile – what do we do to ensure marketing is interesting and engaging to an expanding older market?
People will work longer. We’ll have to. Will this force a shift in working practice? Will it continue to sideline young people? That will certainly have a knock on effects.
I don’t have the answers; I don’t think many people do. I can see that few businesses are not dealing with these issues well enough yet. Perhaps it is not to be so prescriptive as to establish specific practice for a niche market, but to make it the standard worldview – one that might just require reading glasses.
Adam Proops is the business development director at gyro London.