On November 13, the MIT AgeLab held a daylong symposium to celebrate the publication of AgeLab Founder and Director Dr. Joseph F. Coughlin’s new book, The Longevity Economy: Unlocking the World's Fastest-Growing, Most Misunderstood Market.
The symposium was composed of three themed panels of professionals whose work relates to the burgeoning longevity economy -- a new social and economic paradigm in which older adults control $8 trillion of wealth in the United States. Yet even as older people gain unprecedented power as a consumer group, businesses have yet to develop products and services to meet their desires, dreams and aspirations. Instead, older consumers are treated as a problem in need of a solution.
To open the symposium, Joe Coughlin described the need to bring business and policy discussions of old age beyond frailty, illness, and dependency, and toward the idea of celebrating and making the most of a 100-year lifespan.
The first panel, The Future Is Female, highlighted the essential role of women in the longevity economy. Females in the U.S. live longer than males, are more likely to be the chief buying officers in the household, and shoulder the bulk of the nation’s caregiving responsibilities. As such, they are uniquely positioned to understand the challenges and opportunities of an older society. Yet businesses have often failed to integrate their perspectives accordingly into the design and marketing of products and services to and for older adults. The panel featured Anita Darden Gardyne, Co-Founder and CEO of Oneva; Archelle Georgiou, MD, of the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota; Marcie Rogo, Co-Founder and Head of Marketing at Stitch; and Lisa D’Ambrosio of the MIT AgeLab.
The second panel, Transcendent Design in the Longevity Economy, addressed the need to rethink how we design spaces, products, and experiences for older adults, moving beyond mere usability and accessibility toward design that excites, delights, and engages older consumers. The panel included Grace Jun, Associate Professor at Parsons School of Design and Executive Director of the Open Style Lab; Cedric Hutchings, Vice President of Digital Health at Nokia; Sandra Kulli, President of Kulli Marketing; and Gui Trotti of the MIT AgeLab.
The final panel, Reimagining Work and Education in a 100-Year Life, focused on the need to reassess the role of older adults in the workplace and to rethink the function and delivery of education for both old and young. New technology will enable us to remain in the workforce longer but also demand that we continually adapt to changes in the workplace. In the longevity economy, people will require education over the course of their lives to remain competitive. The panel was comprised of Keith Gunura, CEO of noonee; Sanjay Sarma, Professor and Vice President for Open Learning at MIT; James Fitzgibbon, retired President of Worldwide Hotel Operations at Four Seasons; and Luke Yoquinto of the MIT AgeLab.
The symposium concluded with remarks from Joe Coughlin, who expressed the hope that The Longevity Economy will be an agenda-setter and catalyst for people to think about longevity as both business opportunity and societal benefit.