If you were given five additional years of life, what would you do? With extended working lives benefitting employers and the economy—and possibly providing new opportunities for you—how would you respond? And in this new environment of changing population trends, what new policies and practices would you want to see?
In sum, what is your strategy for these new realities?
As the 21st century advances, many factors are shaping the landscape. And in this ever-changing world, perhaps the most significant trend is the shifting profile of the world’s population. This, like nothing else, will transform our individual lives, along with our entire societies. The exciting part is that we all have the opportunity to design our future.
AARP is fostering efforts toward this reinvention. AARP, a social change organization with a membership of nearly 38 million people age 50 and over, is working to drive the conversation on aging. We work with all sectors of society, and global partners, to bring collective voice and action to issues related to aging and demographic change. Our focus is on enhancing the quality of life for all as we age in ways that benefit society and help people choose how they live and age.
This edition marks the 10th anniversary of The Journal, AARP’s annual publication that takes a global view. It features leading global voices from government, business, civil society, and academia that are embracing demographic change and challenging outdated models and attitudes. We highlight best practices, new technologies, and key innovations that are reinventing our institutions and communities. We also focus on a new design of the life course and the need to change perceptions of age and aging.
From the personal to the societal, countless questions concerning the future remain to be answered. One thing, however, is clear. Those that adapt will gain a competitive advantage. This pertains to businesses that utilize older workers, communities that adopt forward-thinking policies and individuals that maintain their health and skills.
In this edition of The Journal, our noted contributors cover broad themes and focus on different aspects of aging:
Individuals. With demographers predicting that more than half the children born today will live to 100, the traditional three-step life course of education, work and retirement is outdated. This requires changes in societal norms and also in how people internalize their own aging. Research has shown that people who have positive personal perceptions of aging live longer. Outdated stereotypes should be challenged and ageism needs to be confronted. People need to be empowered, accepted and included, allowing them to be productive into their later years.
Community. As population aging and urbanization accelerate as leading global trends, ensuring the presence of supportive, accessible communities that support aging in place is paramount. In this edition, we feature Los Angeles and Hong Kong, two cities that are focused on making tangible improvement in both their built and social environments and are committed to including older people in the planning and development process. Both cities are members of the World Health Organization’s Global Network of Age-friendly Cities and Communities. As of this writing, the AARP Network of Age-Friendly Communities, an affiliate of the WHO program, has recently surpassed 100 members.
Workplace. Employers looking to stay competitive are addressing expected skill shortages by transforming the workplace to extend working lives. Going forward, there will be a premium on talent; older workers, and even those already retired, offer experience and expertise necessary for sustainability and helpful for developing the next generation of workers. Further, the nature of work is changing. New technologies, policies and customs allow for flexible schedules that provide opportunities for increased productivity and greater morale for workers of all ages.
In this issue, by taking you to places ranging from France to New Zealand to Zanzibar, we look at how governments are designing policies that support older citizens and that acknowledge their value and potential. We feature examples of community design from Australia and Japan that are addressing the needs of older people and serving as opportunities for social engagement and catalysts for economic growth. And we look at broader efforts, such as the importance of including older people in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, while also reporting on the UN’s Habitat III Conference held in Ecuador.
The Journal also covers the emerging Business of Aging, featuring companies that are designing new products and services to reach new markets. It is worth noting that the economic power and clout of older citizens is often an overlooked story. In her column, AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins describes the Longevity Economy as seen in the United States:
“More than half of all consumer expenditures in the United States are made by people ages 50 and over, and the 106 million people in this demographic comprise a Longevity Economy that accounts for over $7.6 trillion in annual economic activity. By 2032, that number is expected to rise to over $13.5 trillion. This Longevity Economy is now larger than that of any country except the United States and China.”
If there is one constant in today’s world, it is change. Technology is remaking how we work, live and play. Customs, behaviors and family structures are all adapting, while traditional generational distinctions are blurring. While these transitions yield great uncertainty, they also offer great promise. It has been said that the future has a way of arriving, whether you are ready or not. One issue that we can prepare for—that we know is coming—is demographic change.
People are living longer—and that is a good thing. Population aging is occurring in virtually every country, and the pace is accelerating. By Disrupting Aging—changing the conversation about what it means to grow older—we can spark solutions and tap resources that evolve the workplace, expand the marketplace and remake our communities. We also need to empower people as they age to help shape our future, for them and the generations to follow.
I think you’ll find these exciting, evolving times captured in the pages of this latest edition of The Journal.