B(old)er Is Booming

Recently I turned 51 — which I feel lucky about because getting a year older is never guaranteed. Regina Dugan says this well in her talk about “Love and Work” which if I paraphrase, one of her messages is:

Every day you get a new chance to make a difference, so don’t waste it.

Rewinding my life to twenty years ago in my younger form, I feel lucky that I got to work with AARP as the research liason from the MIT Media Lab. Working with AARP exposed me to this idea of “becoming 50” as not something bad, but something kinda awesome. Here’s a deck in 2012 from AARP and it’ll wake you up!

Back then I was exposed to this chart which spoke of future economic opportunities as the so-called “Boomer” generation got older all at once (look at that giant bump and imagine it moving forward in time):

And it got me imagining that something might change in the future.

Of course, you never know what to expect from the future. But we had this “weird” (at the time) idea at the Media Lab about “mobile computing” among many other stranger futures. Who would have thought in the 90s that everybody would be carrying around a computer in their pocket or purse?

Relatedly, this study by the Pew Research Center says something really interesting:

Smartphone adoption among seniors has nearly quadrupled in the last five years

So when Joseph Coughlin in his new book The Longetivity Economy says:

One of the oldest and most powerful innovations in humankind is the story: It shapes how we view the world, it powers causality, it helps us make sense of what we do. We have this story, which itself is only about 100 years old, that birthdays predict everything, that at a certain age you retire, hold back from life, and don’t do certain things.

But rather than continuing to believe this old story, I say, let’s find out how technology is going to extend our ability to stay mobile and connected — to activate the talent and knowledge of our growing older population. Transportation technologies, for instance, are only as good as where you can go, what things there are to do — and that means not just going to the doctor’s office and grocery store, but visiting friends and grandchildren, working if you want to, or volunteering with passion and purpose.

Coughlin’s book dispels the many biases that surround our perceptions of aging as a path to irrelevance. It should instead be seen as a path to ascendance. Increasingly, inclusive design is where businesses are heading because ‘the golden years’ are where true gold lies in the new, “longevity economy.” —JM