Global Population Aging: The 21st Century’s Formative Market Opportunity


An aging global population is bringing to the fore dramatic economic opportunities, as well as powerful arguments for healthy and active ageing. A new white paper from the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Aging examines how this powerful market driver is shaping the 21st century. The paper also officially launches the council’s Guiding Principles for Age-Friendly Businesses, to help align workplaces and workforces with current age demographic realities.

The paper, How 21st Century Longevity Can Create Markets and Drive Economic Growth describes how the so-called silver economy can be a driver of economic growth at national, regional and global levels, and offers tips for businesses hoping to create an age-friendly environment.

“The World Economic Forum has been a leader in thinking about and shaping the powerful arguments for healthy and active ageing, and the role business can play in driving solutions to address this trend,” said Arnaud Bernaert, Head of Global Health and Healthcare Industries at the Forum. “This paper offers new perspectives in its positioning of ageing’s impact on business and markets, and will also help guide our engagement with NGOs, governments, global institutions, academics and think tanks across society on how to enable population ageing to be a positive contributor to social and economic life.”

The white paper highlights a number of forward-thinking companies that are seizing the ageing opportunity. These include firms recognizing the market potential for products and services geared towards people over 60, and other companies that have observed that creating and maintaining a better work environment for older workers brings benefits to all employees. The case studies and business principles behind each are rooted in three dynamics:

  • The demographic is newly formed. According to United Nations estimates, there will be 1 billion people aged 60 years or over by 2020, reaching 2 billion by mid-century. At the same point in time, and for the first time ever, there will be more people over 60 than under 15, according to the Global Coalition on Ageing.
  • The group controls the purse strings. With better economic futures and a boom in employment opportunities, older people have become conspicuous consumers and active savers.
  • The group creates new demands. Entirely new markets for products and services are opening up across all sectors.

“The realities of living longer are built in for generations to come, so we must extend our thinking to the global corporate community, with a focus on how the continued engagement of this older demographic can yield economic growth,” said Derek Yach, Chairman of the Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Ageing. “We applaud the companies that have already taken action, and we hope to further these efforts through our Guiding Principles for Age-Friendly Businesses as aspirational goals for all employers, big and small, globally.”

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