Home' Forge : Vol 1 No 1 Contents 10 // fast lane
More older people = more opportunities
Are Australian companies
doing enough to capitalise
on opportunities in an
ageing population? And
are enough entrepreneurs
developing the next great
product or service that
will solve problems for
older people and disrupt
Forge considered these
questions after reading the
federal government’s 2015
Its projections were widely
reported as a threat to the
economy and public debt, but an ageing population is one of
the great entrepreneurial opportunities.
Much was made of projections (and assumptions) for 2054–55,
which are appropriate given the report’s 40-year outlook. But
that is of less consequence to business; entrepreneurs are more
interested in the 10-year outlook and how they can beat flat-
footed incumbent companies.
The report predicts that there will be 4.2 million people aged
65 to 84 by 2024–25 – or 1.2 million more than today – and an
extra 100,000 aged 85 or over.
Companies need to think about what an extra 1.2 million older
people will need within 10 years. This opportunity will be upon
businesses quicker than they realise, and too many will miss out.
Here are four opportunities to consider:
1. Product design
One of the great opportunities is in keeping people at home
rather than having them go into an aged-care facility before they
are ready; this lowers healthcare costs and helps people to retain
their independence and dignity.
Perhaps the coming ‘internet of things’ boom, where smart
devices are connected to each other, will make it easier for older
people to stay in their homes longer. But there are doubts that
an ageing population will be the demographic at the forefront of
product design, at least at the start.
That does not mean that bland devices with giant keypads and
little functionality are needed. The ageing population will be far
more tech-savvy than previously, so much more can be done in
The entertainment industry continues to churn
out action movies and hip-hop music for
teenagers and 20-somethings. Then a surprise hit,
such as The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, reminds
Hollywood that there is a huge untapped market
in older people – even an entire movie genre.
For too long, the ageing market segment has been
an afterthought for makers of television, popular
music and movies. Not every older Australian
wants or can afford more popular entertainment,
but there is not nearly enough choice.
The federal government rightly talks about the need to improve the
workforce participation of older people, but provides few ideas for how
an ageing population can be cost-effectively retrained for new roles.
It is misguided to think that traditional education systems,
such as universities and vocational education providers, will
be as effective for older workers who have great aptitude
to learn more skills, but less inclination for costly, time-
There is an urgent need to train ‘seniorprenuers’ – those over 50
– how to start and run a business. They are more likely to want to
run a small part-time business, such as a consultancy, than to spend
thousands on fancy degrees. Traditional learning may not suit them.
Low-cost online learning programs tailored for an ageing population
are needed to re-skill people over the age of 65 who want to keep
working. But few education providers offer such courses, and
universities have generally been slow to take a multidisciplinary
approach to understand how to educate an older workforce.
4. Website design
How many companies have websites that are easy to use for
older people who have not grown up with technology? Paying
bills online is one thing; buying a broad range of products and
services online in coming years is another.
Although they’ve improved, websites and apps are generally too
cluttered and complex for people who are not tech-savvy. There
are too many words and not enough simple images, diagrammatic
steps or easy information to help users help themselves and avoid
phoning the call centre – this is a big cost for business.
There’s also a huge opportunity for federal, state and local
governments to cut costs by training older people to take
advantage of technology.
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