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Our Field Envisions Integrated, Purposeful Lives for Older People—but Worries How to Pay for It

Kevyn Burger December 9, 2019

Stria’s second State of the Longevity Market Survey finds new reasons to be upbeat but also identifies heightened worries over finances and funding.

The 2019 State of the Longevity Market Survey found increased focus within the field on the role of purpose for older people seeking meaningful lives, as well as a growing infrastructure to support aging in place and intergenerational communities.

Compared to the 2018 report, discussions around aging appeared more integrated, nuanced and holistic. One respondent heralded a growing recognition for “…the human capital talent that older adults can provide to society” while another called aging citizens “America’s fastest growing natural resource.” A third put it more bluntly: “Age isn’t waiting to die.”

Respondents identified a growing appreciation for age-friendly, intergenerational communities. In fact, “options for aging in place” was seen as the most important topic for the field, with almost half (49%) of respondents selecting it among their top-three.

“Age-friendly communities that will provide better options for health care, housing, and caregiver support (that) will create a more connected system of services,” said one respondent.

“Being able to access as-needed technologies (such as Hello Alfred, Uber/Lyft, etc.) can open up new opportunities for aging In place, a demand we are seeing more and more of,” noted another.

This year, almost seven in ten respondents called themselves “very or extremely optimistic” about the future of the market, with another 28% terming themselves “somewhat optimistic.”

But there’s another side to that coin. The positive vision is tempered with deepening concerns that the financial costs associated with aging demographics are coming due to a society poorly prepared to foot the bill.

“The crisis of aging people not being able to afford to move OR have services in their home is going to be staggering,” predicted one respondent.

Worry about the shrinking incomes and purchasing power of older adults runs deep, reflected in comments like, “There are too many seniors who can’t afford basic needs,” “We need to find answers to serve the needs of the middle and low income market,” and “The rich stay rich, poor stay poor and middle class is slipping.”

“Long-term care is a huge concern, especially as people continue to live longer. Because of affordability…there will be more need for family caregivers to support older adults to age in place,” one concluded.

Concerns about financing the needs of older adults aren’t new, of course. “The shift is around urgency,” noted Stria publisher and founder Susan Donley. “Respondents seem to understand how critical it is to innovate quickly.”

Keeping Up With Changing Needs

When asked which areas of the longevity market need the most attention, “Understanding the changing needs and desires of older adults” was ranked highest, named by 46% of survey participants.

“There is a large, rapidly changing audience that has the power to change the way our entire society thinks about aging. I believe the effects could be wide-ranging,” wrote one respondent.

Another saw the value of “Leveraging people 55-plus…to become advocates and set examples in the evolving healthy longevity industry/market. Being the change—to change the norms of aging.”

Meanwhile, about a third of respondents (34%) cited the need for growth of meaningful partnerships and collaborations.

Overcoming Ageism (Still) Deemed Important

Consistent with the 2018 survey findings,the importance of “Changing Perceptions About Aging/Fighting Ageism” was named as a priority by 45% of respondents.

“If we don’t address ageism, older people who need to work will have a much harder time being able to secure jobs. This leads to a lack of financial solvency,” one reader warned.

“We really have the opportunity to innovate and change what it means to get older (and is perceived to mean).”

Support for family caregivers and employment options for older adults are also on the agenda of what’s critical, tying for the third most important topic.

“The prospect of a multigenerational workplace bodes well for a thriving and innovative economy,” and “Older adults need to find meaning and purpose in helping others with well paid and challenging employment opportunities!”

Top Challenge Facing Longevity Organizations: Finding Funding

When it comes to the challenges facing the businesses and organizations where respondents are employed, financial issues arose again. The most prevalent challenge (by 47%) was “Growing income, funding and/or revenue.”

One respondent decried the shortage of funds for all but a few enterprises, citing the lack of investment outside of the health/tech space, while another fretted over “the lack of understanding that we have a crisis.”

In the nonprofit sector, finding funding sources is always a challenge. At this time we have several long-term funders who are spending down their resources. Also, we are losing funders who are changing their focus,” another said.

Solution-Focused on the Future

As with the 2018 State of the Longevity Market Survey, this year’s report was created to both share the hard-won knowledge from various professionals and spur innovative thinking.

The number of participants jumped by 30% over the 2018 tally, with 130 replying to the poll. With representation from a range of sectors, the respondents represent businesses and startups, and also work in nonprofit, government, philanthropy and community organizations; academics, researchers, consultants and vendors also chimed in.

“I founded Stria almost two years ago as a place where people from all parts of our field could come together to learn from one another,” said Donley. “We hope the field can capitalize on these insights to build cross-sector solutions for our aging society.”

Full-access Stria Subscribers can download the 2019 State of the Longevity Market report for free. Not yet a subscriber? Sign up now!

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Kevyn Burger

Kevyn Burger is a freelance feature writer and broadcast producer. She was named a 2018 Journalist in Aging Fellow by the Gerontological Society of America. Based in Minneapolis, Kevyn is the mother of three young adults and one rescue terrier.

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