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There’s gold to be earned from grey

By Everald Compton - posted Thursday, 15 September 2011

There IS NOT the slightest doubt that the rapid ageing of the world’s population will provide a significant economic opportunity for those who are innovative and courageous, especially in Australia, where our great lifestyle and general prosperity help us to live longer than many others.

The statistics are compelling. There are now 3,700 Australians who are enjoying a century of life and, by 2050, there will be 50,000 Australians who will celebrate the achievement of that honour. At that time, a quarter of our population will be over 65, and there will be more of our citizens who are over 60 than those who are under 15.

Very significantly, there will be five times the number of 85-year-olds as there are now and, at some time later in the century, there will be more Australians out of the workforce than there are in it.


The predominant hair colour will be grey, and it will be fashionable to proudly display it as grey.

If we choose to look at this challenge negatively, we could say with reasonable accuracy that there is a genuine possibility that an aged population will become a heavy burden on Australian taxpayers.

Alternatively, we can decide now that Grey really means Gold. So, let us have a look at just a few of the economic opportunities that can provide gold for those of pioneering spirit who want to start planning now to capitalise on what will be a dramatic restructuring of the world economy.

Housing is a good starting point. Most seniors want to die in their own homes, not in nursing homes, hostels or retirement villages. When they downsize out of their current homes, they do not want to live in a house or apartment that is just a small version of what they now live in. They will prefer a custom-built cottage which is filled with user-friendly technology that enables them to be independent despite their declining health and mobility.

No-one in the Australian Housing Industry appears to be planning to provide this for them, and our technology industries aren’t looking at what they can provide for an ageing population — many of whom will be financially independent and able to pay. It is significant that there is a growing trend among Seniors to look for rental housing when they downsize rather than continuing to own a home, as they want to be as mobile as possible in case a nursing home becomes inevitable.

Sadly, there is a great shortage of public housing in Australia, and very little of it is suitable to Seniors. What a splendid property investment opportunity this is for those who are willing to come up with the right products in a specialised market.


Another is recreation. People who retire in their sixties can look forward to another 40 years of life, and they will become bored with the routine of bus trips, bowls and golf. A new service industry can be created to design and implement recreational activities for Seniors, in groups or alone, that will exercise both mind and body in interesting ways and ward off the early onset of dementia. Bear in mind that we are talking in terms of a market of five million customers, and growing.

A third market opportunity is the internet, where specially-designed programs will be needed to help seniors keep in touch with families and friends, while enabling them to shop online for everything they need and consult their doctor without leaving home — as well as handling all financial matters in the same way.

The programs must be very userfriendly and secure while having a built-in service component to give quick personal advice on the inevitable problems that computer users will always encounter, particularly Seniors who have no desire to acquire the skills of Bill Gates.

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Everald Compton's monthly newsletter Everald at Large can be subscribed to free of charge by sending an email .

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About the Author

Everald Compton is Chairman of The Longevity Forum, a not for profit entity which is implementing The Blueprint for an Ageing Australia. He was a Founding Director of National Seniors Australia and served as its Chairman for 25 years. Subsequently , he was Chairman for three years of the Federal Government's Advisory Panel on Positive Ageing.

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