As the marketing end of the longevity economy pushes on to make the most of business opportunities from the growing aging population, I still find myself reacting with a bit of unease. Those of you who have followed this blog since I started it three years ago may recognize that my original skepticism about the longevity marketplace has never toned down.
For example, I should be glad to hear about “innovations” such as combining a easier to use cell phone that automatically connects to Uber or Lyft for medical appointments.Great Call the people who bring you life alert buttons and in home monitoring systems is going to make it easier to arrange transportation for older adults. The fact that you can call yourself from your own app does not seem to be part of the equation. As we approach a huge challenge with many seniors out in the burbs in their original homes losing their driving moxie, it is addressing a need for those who can afford the whole system. Hopefully they will not drive yellow cab out of business.
I saw a notice recently about a Longevity Economy Summit to be held in DC next month. I was surprised to see the keynote speaker is the VP of AARP. The head of the conference says , “This two-day conference will bring you (companies seeking to engage with mature consumers) up to speed with innovation in the technology for older adults and highlight the thought leaders. As with all of our events, this is where deals get done and lessons are shared.” I would be curious to know about those lessons shared and what kind of deals are being done. All that marketing potential is somebody’s profit prize.
Also I cringed when I ran by a reference to living in a CCRC (Continuing Care Retirement Community) or Assisted Living as supporting aging in place! The luxury end of the market is adding ‘affinity’ buildings. That means within the residential setting you can be in the same building as the artsy folks or maybe the super health and wellness segment of the population. Maybe they serve more kale there. Now they are adding circadian lighting to help every one be in a better mood when they see their monthly tab. The question arises, who can afford all this upgrading?
All of the above may well appeal to the high asset ‘mature consumer’, but it ignores the fact that affordable housing is the number one issue for the more sizable part of senior population. Working that puzzle out is a lot trickier than inventing another monitoring device. I am trying to find stats about the overall financial health of most the senior population. The reality is that many are still reeling from lack of retirement finds, missing pensions and taking first hand care of generations ahead and behind them.
The government and non profit sector will always have limited resources to meet the needs of the real aging in place folks trying to maintain their properties or not get priced out of their rental situations. In my view, the longevity economy still means skimming off the most profit from those mature consumers (aka boomers and older seniors) for what the market will bear.