AgeLab Research Specialist Samantha Brady spoke to Masters in Engineering students in the MIT-Zaragoza International Logistics Program (ZLOG) in Zaragoza, Spain. Established by MIT’s Center for Transportation and Logistics and closely associated with CTL, ZLOG’s students visited CTL headquarters and the AgeLab in January as part of an ongoing exchange between the two programs.
Samantha Brady’s presentation, titled The Longevity Economy: Challenges and Opportunities, was on the implications of an aging international population for logistics, workforce, product design, technological development, and infrastructure. The longevity economy refers to the growing economic influence of the older population as their numbers, activity levels, and expectations increase.
Ms. Brady first discussed the growing population of adults over the age of 65 around the world. By the year 2020, the population of adults over age 65 will outnumber children under the age of 5. In addition to their growing numbers, the older population in the developed world can expect to live longer, healthier, and more active lives than their predecessors, and will accordingly expect products and services that meet their needs and desires.
She then went on to outline how new technologies could benefit older users if they are designed with their experiences in mind – and the failures that arise when the user’s perspective is not accounted for. The AgeLab’s Age Gain Now Empathy System, or AGNES, helps designers to understand the physical challenges faced by older adults better. Technological and systematic innovations in transportation, including the development of autonomous vehicles, will be necessary to meet the mobility needs of older users. If these are to be successful, they will need to be designed to accommodate the physical and functional challenges that many older adults face when they navigate these systems.
Longer, healthier lifespans also mean that older adults will remain in the workforce for longer. Skilled labor shortages will prompt demand for older workers to defer retirement and stay in their careers. Some crucial work sectors, such as the trucking industry, are struggling to replace retiring workers.
Changing demographics and evolving consumer needs and demands will have an impact on every segment of the supply chain. Given these developments, logistics professionals should seek to understand how the longevity economy may affect the work they do.