Invisible older persons arise

Reading Joseph Coughlin’s The Longevity Economy. Some very interesting ideas, very interesting. He sees older persons as consumers and in a good way. The growing numbers, especially since many are baby boomers, means more change for the society. Up to this point, marketing people and tech people have pretty much ignored older persons as a group. Sure the retirement industry and the pharmaceutical industry are marketing to them, but in many cases, that is to the dependency of older persons. Coughlin sees them more as vibrant people who are fully engaged in a society that tries to ignore them despite their $8 trillion in wealth.
Mostly, Coughlin places the blame on the rampant ageism in our society, an ageism developed over a century as we, in Carroll Estes’s term, medicalized old age. We made it a separate stage of life and one that did not include a complete membership in the main society anymore.
His approach meshes with the focus of the Department of Gerontology here at VCU. Ageism, we are realizing, is the most pervasive discriminatory and belittling theme of American society. Prejudice to no other group is tolerated as much as it is regarding older persons.
But Coughlin hits this prejudice in a place that just might be able to make some changes: American business. In his opinion, they need to get with the idea that much of their future business, in so many sectors, will come from older persons. And the solutions that older persons are coming up with may disrupt existing industries and companies. For example, we know people love their homes and want to stay in them. If we can bring the services of assisted living into the home at a reasonable price (and through Uber, Instacart and other new options we can), then what will be the affect on these huge residential institutions?
In the coming weeks, I’ll be sharing more insights from this work and similar ones. In the meantime, let’s try and think more creatively about some of these ‘old age problems’ we have made.