Stria fielded our State of the Longevity Market Survey this fall to gather insight on the issues and needs most on readers’ minds. Respondents represented a range of sectors from nonprofits and community organizations to consultants and vendors to businesses and entrepreneurs.
Despite this diversity, respondents overwhelmingly agree that the most important issue we must tackle is raising public awareness of the impact of our aging society. Over 57 percent of respondents agreed that this issue needs the most attention from our field—nearly 2 times more than any other answer.
“We need to increase caring and awareness about how the needs of older adults affect us all now and in the future.”
“I have been watching the silver tsunami grow for over ten years. The elephant has been in the room but now the elephant is stomping on us. <We must> take that further by acknowledging our aging society and that it cannot be marginalized.”
Readers offered ideas on possible ways to address that. One respondent saw a need for “changing, and impacting corporate marketing strategies that do not consider the longevity market story.” While another said, “most important is a narrative change from avoiding aging to embracing it.”
Stria readers addressed this question at a networking event in Washington DC. Changing It Up: Raising Awareness of Our AgingSociety was held on December 12 in partnership with Silvernest and Next For Me. The evening included remarks from author Elizabeth White, housing executive Ryan Frederick and digital leader Clare Martorana, followed by a brainstorming session on how our field can help the public understand more about the impact and opportunities of aging.
One way to assure the field makes headway toward increased visibility will be through collaboration. Fortunately, the survey also uncovered partnerships as a high priority among longevity market professionals. With 33 percent of respondents, growth of partnerships and collaborations was the second-most selected area needed attention from our field.
Not only can collaboration help jump-start public awareness,but it can also stimulate new ideas and solutions. As one respondent noted “We need to bring public sector and the aging field to better understand each other, leverage each sector and work together.”
Stria readers are tuned in to policy issues. “Policy is the arena where we can have cross-cutting impact,” wrote one respondent.
A few key issues rose to the top for readers. Over 43 percent said increasing benefits and support for family caregivers should be a top goal for the field. Fighting dementia and Alzheimer’s disease also rose to the top with 35 percent of readers identifying it as an important policy goal.
Not surprisingly given the current political environment, Medicare and Medicaid were also critical issues for readers. Increasing benefits (38 percent) and funding the programs (29 percent) were among top issues readers believe needs attention.
These policy priorities align with reader opinions on which issues are most important for the field to address. Long-term care planning and financing was in the top five issues respondents said we should address right now—and it tied for second among critical issues in the next few years.
Throughout the survey, respondents indicated that improving the communities and environments in which we live matters a great deal—especially as we look to the future.
Age-friendly communities (33 percent) and aging in place (28 percent) were also among the top five areas that readers say need attention right now. When asked about the coming years, readers moved aging in place to the top the list of priorities. The idea of “reimagining senior housing” also increased in importance when looking forward.
“Focus on affordable housing solutions that support “thriving in place” and allowing choices. If the home is not stable, the rest of the services cannot be fully implemented.”
“Aging in Place is necessary for universal social costs. AiP keeps costs down universally, which will continue to be of the utmost importance on an individual and larger social level.”
“We need affordable housing options for multi-generational communities, where all ages can provide care and support for each other.”
“Every year we keep someone in their home is money savings and happiness. We need to leverage technology to do this.”
Several respondents wrote in comments on the need for supporting longevity market entrepreneurship and “encouraging startups.” This issue came up in questions about policy priorities, as well as issues the field should tackle directly.
“More work needs to be done connecting policy makers with innovators in a constructive way to address issues like ageism and senior housing.”
“Creating the awareness of the growing opportunities for all entrepreneurs of all ages in the longevity economy and including this as part of the academic curriculum.”
“We need to have an infrastructure to better utilize new tech and private innovation.”
But as one reader reminds us, reinvention isn’t everything: “Improvement of systems that are already in place as opposed to the constant push, buzz, and glamour of innovation.”
“Ageism and the myths of aging run persist and the idea of ‘making money’ on older adults is a ‘no, no;’ yet the health industry does it constantly.”
Survey comments like this one revealed a feeling that building a thriving business in the longevity market is somehow in conflict with addressing the needs of our aging society. Of course, a strong, compassionate and sustainable field is required if we are to a fundamentally improve what it means to grow old in our communities. Our field needs to find away to deliver meaningful programs and products, while also supporting sustainable businesses and organizations.
Fortunately, longevity professionals are optimistic about the future of our field. Seventy-two percent of survey respondents said they have a very or extremely optimistic outlook on the longevity market.