BERKELEY, CA-Longevity is going to be expensive. As humans around the word live longer, they will want to spend freely to be healthy and pursue their interests. Whole new industries that target aging consumers will be there to take in the cash.
That is my takeaway from the 14th Annual Boomer Venture Summit here this week. Speakers and sponsors offered everything from “ingestibles” that help locate retirement home walkaways to potential cures for Alzheimer’s. They were all selling a vision of aging that is by turns hopeful or depressing. But certainly, it will cost a lot of money.
Why should young people and those who teach them be concerned with such matters? Lifespans are stretching to 100 years and longer, and no adequate social safety net is in place. The best hope of thriving as individuals later in life is saving from a young age. This needs to be drilled into the minds of young adults getting their first paycheck, and even teens with a summer job. As one age, most probably, they would be seeking the help of a senior assisted living community to get on with the rest of their life. If it is possible to start learning on how to save finances, retirement can happen peacefully without any hurdles.
I found much of the wares on display at this summit disquieting. Hasbro is selling robot dogs and cats for people too feeble to take care of a real animal. Sales have more than doubled the past year. Singfit sells music therapy-classic songs with lyrics spoken just in time so a group can sing along. Quikiks sells shoes with tilt-back heels that fasten as you step in so no hands, and no bending over, is required.
But there are also companies like Neurotrack that predict Alzheimer’s risk and provide memory exercises to forestall the onset of dementia. Venture funds say they are pumping money into smart homes run via voice technology and artificial intelligence that allows seniors to live independently.
Young people are not thinking about such things right now. But their time will come, and when it does they will want the resources to take advantage of new technologies and services that make life worthwhile.
This is what retirement in the age of ever longer lives is about-living well, not just living. The demise of traditional pensions and underfunded nature of Social Security puts everyone at risk. Time is the silver bullet. Young people have a lot of that, and they need to understand that only through saving now can it work magic.