Skip to main content

In “How Old Age was Invented,” director of the MIT AgeLab and Author of The Longevity Economy Joseph F. Coughlin explores the historical and commercial influences of how we arrived at ageism. America’s social changes, more often than not, directly correlate to commercial interests. And as people over 65-years old outpace and outnumber people under 5-years old, we are faced with a vastly underserved population segment that is being forced into passive consumerism.

“Global aging may be inevitable, but old age, as we know it, is not. It’s something we’ve made up. Now it’s up to us to remake it,” writes Coughlin.

Here are three ways that Coughlin proposes the marketplace can turn paradoxical problems of global aging into opportunities:

  1. Acknowledge stereotypes in product development – Pew Research reports that only 35% of people 75 or older consider themselves “old.” However, for more than a century, products marketed towards the aging generation have been “big, beige and boring” — pigeon-holing the market segment into products that are truly lacking in inspiration and versatile function.
  2. Adopt inclusive hiring practices – Tech places trend towards younger employees, who can lack true insight into the function and needs of an older market. Age-diversification adds a more well-rounded approach to product development and marketing.
  3. Adjust messaging and marketing – By redefining “old age,” both companies and consumers can become more enlightened and empowered to create for older market segments. Coughlin also suggests that an effective messaging platform is focused on an image of a “brighter future” — one where older generations feel more connection and more agency, and younger generations feel inclined to demand better retirement benefits and look forward to a “better version of themselves.”

The entire product economy is ready for a change. By making fundamental changes around workplace environments, product development and key philosophies, companies can become more profitable by truly serving the massive older market.