Meet an undisputed baby boomer spokesgod, Ken Dychtwald, PhD. This astute psychologist and gerontologist—and I’d add “futurist”—suggests marketers wake up to the fact that 80 percent of the growth in our U. S. population belongs to people over 50. With that number come limitless opportunities.
He coined the term, Age Wave. It was the title of his 1990 book and it’s the name of his firm in Emeryville, Calif., a communications company, he says, “with an eye on the aging of America.”
I’ve been an admirer of Dychtwald since I asked him for help with baby boomer statistics last year. He graciously responded. When Forbes profiled him in November 2011, we learned he’s like us, with some health issues. For example, he swims, does yoga, avoids caffeine and red meat, and yet still has high blood pressure, high cholesterol and arthritis. Not fair, is it?
Grave situations, online
He shared his singular ideas about the future, which as we all know, is actually here. For example:
- a device in toilets that tests our waste for “biomarkers”
- “vision quest” car windows that like those contact lenses, will adjust to our eyes 24 hours a daysensor-loaded
- “smart pants” workout trousers that can preventing falls and thus, injuries
- “Internet cemeteries” instead of actual earthbound graves
Questions for the “new old”
In a masterfully-researched and written white paper article for Caring magazine last October, he proposes that the 21st century will be ruled by the old—the “new old.”
“Are we prepared?” he asks. “Our nation is on the brink of unprecedented social and political challenges that pose new questions, requiring a host of new solutions.” His questions fire up our boomer brain cells:
- Can our country afford to have tens of millions of us living to 80? Or to 100?What will be the impact of four-or five-generation families?
- Are we prepared to spend more years and dollars caring for our aging parents than for our children?
- With breakthroughs in longevity, at what age should we be considered “old” and therefore eligible to retire and receive old-age benefits?
- Will existing entitlement programs survive long enough for young generations to reap even part of what they have been paying in?
- Can our current health care system handle the onslaught of chronic degenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s?
- How will we come to terms with “right-to-a good death” issues?
And he affirmatively answers that five changes are required to make our health care system aging-ready. We must:
- Commit greater attention and resources to the scientific research required to cure, delay or, if possible, eliminate the diseases of aging.
- Provide the academic training and continuing education to ensure that health care professionals are fully competent at meeting the needs of our aging population.
- Make disease prevention and self-care a national priority.
- Wherever possible, shift our focus to home-based care: the missing link.
- Establish a more humane, respectful, and cost-effective approach to death and dying.
A change is a’comin’. People get ready.
(Photo courtesy: © Jose Tejo | Dreamstime.com)