What would you tell your 100-year-old self? Today, thanks to increased longevity, we have opportunities unknown to prior generations. Longevity and the solutions to extend and maximize time for all requires action around the globe. In countries aging the best, half of 10-year-olds today may live to be 104. Business, community, and policy-making leaders have a responsibility to make sure people have more time to grow old with their spouses and loved ones, play cards with their friends and watch their grandchildren grow up.
Here are four trend-driven priorities for public- and private-sector leaders:
Close the gap between lifespan and healthspan. In 2050, there will be 3.2 billion people over age 50 in the world—a 70 percent increase from today. Much of that growth will happen in the next seven years, potentially reaching 2.3 billion people aged 50-plus by 2030. At the same time, many people are living longer. Life expectancy around the world has grown from age 67 to 73, and will be 77 by the year 2050. However, though life expectancy has increased, the gap between lifespan and health span—the years a person lives without disease—is also increasing. It is critical that leaders across industries and sectors close this gap.
Increase global market opportunities. Money matters—especially in a longer life. According to AARP’s Global Longevity Economy, in 2020, the 50-plus population contributed $45 trillion to the global economy—three times the combined revenue of the world’s 100 highest-earning companies. Think about that for a minute. Now what if I told you that this contribution is projected to surge to $118 trillion by 2050? Leaders in business are literally throwing money away by not tapping into the 50-plus market in terms of sales and market growth opportunities.
Reimagine the workforce. As people live longer, many choose to continue working well past traditional retirement age for a variety of reasons: They need the money, they enjoy the work, and/or they enjoy the social connection that work provides. This presents a never-before-seen opportunity and responsibility for governments, employers, and people of all ages to reimagine what it means to earn and learn over a lifetime. Inclusive workplaces and workplace diversity can strengthen business resilience, increase productivity, unlock a broader set of market opportunities, provide more worker satisfaction, and spark innovation.
Eliminate disparities which stifle economic growth and hurts us all. Though life expectancy has grown,disparities in life expectancy across races and ethnicities have worsened during the pandemic. Not only do these inequities harm individuals and families, we all suffer as a result. Eliminating disparities in life expectancy—and ensuring everyone has the same opportunities to live longer and healthier lives—has the potential to offset economic and social costs. The U.S. is projected to miss out on a potential $1.6 trillion (5.1%) in GDP in 2030 if we do nothing to solve this. And, we risk harming yet another generation and continuing centuries of injustice and inequality.
Longevity is one of the greatest gifts of humankind. It is extending the powerful and precious commodity of time. Time is the most valuable and precious resource, and one you can never get back once you’ve spent it. Increased longevity not only gives us more of that time, it also willinfluence how we work, manage our finances, maintain our health, plan for retirement, and care for our families.
The public and private sectors must come together to bridge the gap between health span and lifespan, harness the economic and employment opportunities inherent in a workforce that embraces those over age 50 and solve inequities to create a more resilient and inclusive future. The concept of longevity is one thing, but seeing healthy longevity play out for generations to come is, indeed, something that has the potential to make the world a better place.
Dr. Jean C. Accius is Senior Vice President for AARP Global Thought Leadership. He is a nationally recognized thought-leader on aging, longevity, health and long-term care policy. Find out more about his work with AARP here.