For our monthly insights digest
By the end of 2022, the world population is expected to reach eight billion. By 2030, it could hit 8.5 billion. Although the number of people on the planet continues to increase, demographic structures are changing. In many parts of the world, more people are growing older.
Across the Asia Pacific, longer life expectancy and declining birth rates are causing populations to age. The number of over 60s will triple between 2010 and 2050, reaching close to 1.3 billion people. By 2050, one in four people in the region will be aged 60 or above.
This structural shift will force governments to rethink policies for health, education, public services, employment, transport, and urban planning. Workforces will decline in size. The composition of consumer economies will change. Investment flows, retail strategies, and supply chains will adapt to service changing population structures.
Here are five factors to consider as Asian markets reevaluate the aging process:
Finding pragmatic solutions that address societal aging is gaining urgency. The United Nations stated that markets with aging populations should adopt public programs including improving the sustainability of social security and pension systems, and establishing universal health care and long-term care systems.
China, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam are cited by the Asian Development Bank as markets where the aging transition will happen very rapidly. Singapore and Japan acknowledged that their people are aging at speed and are reframing social policies to support and encourage people to enjoy longer, healthier, and more fulfilling lives.
Transitioning to an ageless society in which people can live as they like regardless of age became government policy in Japan in 2018. By 2025, one in 5.5 Japanese will be 75 or older.
The strategy takes a holistic view of the entire aging process to reverse perceptions that a greying population is negative. Instead, it promotes inclusion and diversity, and aims to develop new work, lifestyle, and technology opportunities for people as they age.
Singapore has one of the world’s fastest aging populations. The government is taking steps to create a longevity economy. By 2030, one-quarter of the population will be aged 65 or above. Singapore believes the business of aging offers the chance to create a sunrise industry. New products and services will be tailored to the needs and desires of affluent and active seniors, who are forecast to spend up to USD 150 billion annually by 2030.
Creating an ageless society will require smart technology solutions that make healthcare more predictable and seamless. Digital therapeutics will expedite the screening and diagnosis of illnesses, enhance treatment programs, and reduce overall healthcare costs.
Enterprise Singapore, which is a government agency, is encouraging local firms to tap the adoption of digital services among seniors during the pandemic, such as telehealth. Indonesia is undertaking a national gene-sequencing program to support the development of advanced and age-relevant healthcare technologies. Seoul’s government developed a virtual reality experience enabling seniors to revisit places they frequented during childhood to stimulate memory recall and mental alertness.
Digital health will be packaged in new ways. Chinese telcos China Mobile and China Telecom are trialing mobile medical services, telehealth, and emergency tracking plans at heavily discounted rates. The plans are provided via 5G networks, enabling seniors to directly connect all their smart devices to local hospitals, clinics, and family members.
The next decade will see a rapid transition from 4G Wi-Fi to 5G and 6G networks in some Asian markets. Japan is already master-planning tech-enabled cities to improve the quality of life for senior residents.
Custom-built smart communities, such as Fujisawa and Suita, are designed for multi-generational living. They offer lifestyle, health, and home-care services tailored for residents of all ages. This encourages community living and reduces the isolation and loneliness often felt by older people. Panasonic is building smart communities that utilize renewable energy, and deploy intelligent technologies to enhance mobility, security, and peace of mind for senior residents.
In the city of Iizuna, 7-Eleven is trialing smart glasses for staff to guide homebound seniors around the store via live-streaming. An inbuilt camera enlarges products, which shoppers tap to create a shopping cart for home delivery. Iizuna was selected for the pilot because its hilly geography impedes access for senior residents with mobility or vision issues.
Ageless societies transcend concerns about health and well-being. As people live longer after they officially retire, they will want to enjoy more active, multi-faceted lifestyles.
Companies across Asia are introducing policies to incentivize retirees to work and feel they are contributing to their local economies. A coffee chain in South Korea is training baristas aged over 60 to work part-time and encourage their friends to stop by for a coffee and chat. In Malaysia, where people aged 55-64 account for eight percent of the workforce, Hire.Seniors is a recruitment company specializing in finding job placements for seniors and retirees.
The travel industry is also eyeing the potential of the silver economy. Taiwan has announced it will produce special promotions to entice seniors to travel, buy, and spend. It plans to adapt travel and transport infrastructure and e-payment formats to make them more accessible for senior tourists.