What happens when we live forever?

24 Aug

A few years back Helene Larochelle and I did this cool animation for HSBC Bank Canada based on their ground-breaking study on retirement.

The most riveting finding was that as people live longer, the requirement for income to support those extra years means most of us won’t actually be able to retire. We will have to continue working into our 80s.

The retirement model that we have all grown comfortable with, whereby we retire at 65 and wander along beaches dressed in white with our elegantly silvered partner, sweaters looped casually around our shoulders, was based on a life-expectancy of 72, which meant that even early retirees, say those who had enough money to call it quits at 55, still only had 17 years of income to contend with.

Today, if you live to the age of 70 in Canada you have a 46% chance of living to 80. If you hit 80, there’s a further 52% chance you’ll make it to 90! That’s where advances in health care and biotechnology really get traction. Cancer will get you at 65 or you’re good for 100.

Let’s face it, we are going to have to work forever to pay for living forever.

Is it worth it?

Don’t you secretly envy your grandparents who hauled in the shingle at 65 and retired to their backyards to work on their horseshoe game?

Or perhaps you are one of those people who love their job so much that you want to carry on until you drop dead at your desk, already dressed smartly for your own funeral.

One thing is certain. Advertising won’t be a young person’s business when the silver tsunami washes up on our shores. As life expectancy goes off the charts, our need will increase for people experienced in marketing to seniors. There will no doubt be brand new sub-categories of senior’s marketing. You’ll soon be middle-aged in your 60’s.

Society as a whole is about to be transformed by our species’ advancing age: housing, transportation, nutrition, family planning.

There is a lively and healthy discussion going on about this very topic courtesy of Ideo. Check it out.


4 Responses to “What happens when we live forever?”

  1. whiterose52 August 26, 2010 at 8:53 am #

    The key to the ‘senior’ market is to take the experience these people represent seriously and treat ‘them’ as ‘us’.
    Seniors are not a different species, inside every single elder is a child, a teenager and an adult. The truth is, Doug, you will be part of that silver Tsunami so the need to increase the number of professionals who know how to market to seniors will be met by, well, you…’cause you will be part of the that silver Tsunami…
    Welcome to the club…


  2. dougbrowncreative August 26, 2010 at 9:02 am #

    Oh believe me Moe, I am silvering as we speak. Great points. Something that really impressed me recently was how much more valuable our seniors became to us when the recession kicked in. No, not for their inexpensive rates, but for their life experience. They had been through economic cycles before and were a great calming influence on us culturally.

    Did you see the movie “Elegy” with Ben Kingsley and Penelope Cruz? There is a great scene where he and Dennis Hopper are chatting over coffee and Kingsley’s character remarks: I don’t understand. I was just 25 years old a short time ago. I am still a young man in this body. I am still me.

    That’s our reality isn’t it. Thanks for commenting.

  3. whiterose52 August 26, 2010 at 9:49 am #

    you, my dear, are still just a puppy…wait till a few more wheels fall off the bus.
    I thought I was getting old when I heard myself saying things to my kids my mom used to say to me. I was wrong. Now that I’m hearing my kids say exactly the same things I used to snap back at mom with the same huff, hand on hip and eye roll…now that’s scary….

    My fav movie for a view on getting older is “The Straight Story” – one of the good ones by David Lynch, great visuals and the late Richard Farnsworth (you’ll know who is as soon as you see him–been in the business since God was a second unit director). Great visuals and some unbearably beautiful moments when Lynch cuts out the noise, comes in close and lets the people come through–you’ll know what I mean when you see it.
    I’ll put Elegy on my zip list…


  4. dougbrowncreative August 26, 2010 at 9:57 am #

    Richard Farnsworth! The Grey Fox himself…

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