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A Golden Opportunity to Support the Silver Economy
The median age in the U.S. ticked up to almost 39 years, but what does that mean for the economy?
The United States population continues to grow older as new data finds the country’s median age has reached a new milestone of 38.8 years. This demographic shift highlights a continued concern regarding our nation’s ability to fund social security and address the growing public health needs of an aging population. Perhaps now is the time to consider the emerging "silver economy," which may reshape the future industry mix of our economy, with implications for the growing demand for health-related fields such as nursing.
The U.S. has watched its median age for the past 50 years because of a combination of several factors. The baby boomer generation, born between 1946 and 1964, represents a substantial portion of the population and is reaching retirement age. This demographic shift continues to place immense pressure on funding social security programs, as fewer working individuals contribute to supporting a larger number of retirees. The sustainability of these programs requires careful evaluation and potential reforms to ensure their long-term viability.
As populations around the world continue to age, the demand for healthcare services surges as people live longer than in previous decades. Older individuals typically require more frequent and specialized medical care, leading to increased strain on the public health system. Chronic diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, and Alzheimer's, become more prevalent among older adults, which requires an increase in care facilities and workers. Meeting the public health needs of an aging population will require significant investments, innovative approaches, and a focus on preventive care to ensure the well-being of our seniors.
An exciting phenomenon accompanying the aging population is the rise of the "silver economy." This term refers to the economic potential derived from catering to the needs and preferences of older adults. From healthcare and assistive technologies to leisure activities and travel, various industries have the opportunity to tap into this market segment.
The silver economy not only creates new job opportunities but may also be an engine for innovation and economic growth. As the demand for specialized products and services for older adults increases, businesses will need to adapt and provide solutions tailored to this demographic.
As the silver economy continues to emerge, it is likely to reshape our economy’s industry mix. Traditional sectors such as healthcare, pharmaceuticals, and long-term care facilities are expected to experience significant growth, as the demand for these services escalates. Additionally, sectors related to leisure, travel, and technology will likely evolve to cater to the preferences and needs of older adults (Thank you for all those new pickleball courts!). This shift in the industry mix presents opportunities for entrepreneurs and businesses to innovate and contribute to the evolving economy.
The most obvious occupational area poised for growth in response to the aging population is nursing. With a rising demand for healthcare services, nurses and nursing assistants play a crucial role in providing quality care and addressing the specific needs of older adults. The pandemic caused a massive shock to the nursing industry, but as the silver economy expands, the demand for skilled and compassionate nursing professionals becomes even more important.
There’s already a shortage of physicians in the United States, so growth in the demand for nursing may present a significant opportunity for individuals considering careers in healthcare to make a positive impact in a much quicker manner while benefiting from job stability and growth prospects. Even if someone isn’t interested in going for a master’s degree, some of the fastest-growing healthcare occupations require only an associate’s degree:
The demographic changes unfolding in our society present a unique opportunity to embrace the silver economy. By proactively addressing the challenges of an aging population, we have the potential to create a brighter future for us all. Policymakers should consider reforms to ensure the sustainability of social security programs, but that’s not exactly a new revelation.
The U.S. must expand the healthcare workforce, particularly in nursing and geriatric care, to meet the evolving needs of our current (and future) seniors. With the rise of the silver economy, businesses can tap into the economic potential of catering to older adults' preferences, driving innovation, creating jobs, and contributing to economic growth. By embracing this shift and supporting our aging population, we can cultivate a prosperous future for ourselves when it’s our time to be part of the silver economy.
Utah is considered the youngest state, with half of its population under age 31, and Maine is the oldest state with more than half of its population over age 45 [U.S. Census Bureau]
In 2020, about 1 in 6 people in the United States were age 65 and over. In 1920, this proportion was less than 1 in 20 [U.S. Census Bureau]
60% of U.S. adults say the government spends too much money, but the majority of respondents favor more funding for infrastructure, health care, and Social Security [Associated Press]
As of the third quarter of 2021, 50.3% of U.S. adults 55 and older said they were out of the labor force due to retirement [Pew Research Center]
About 100,000 registered nurses left the workforce during the past two years due to stress, burnout, and retirement [National Council of State Boards of Nursing]