Increasing lifespan, along with decreased fertility, is causing the population of older adults to expand at a greater rate than any other age group, and it is expected to reach more than 1.5 million by 2050. Given the expected expansion in the older population, which will occur in practically every country in the world, governments, health systems, and the private sector should plan ahead of time to meet the demands of the ageing population, according to the World Health Organization.

Is ageing a looming disaster or a booming opportunity?

  • In the next few decades, the global elderly population will rise from 7% to 20%. In terms of social, economic, and political change in our day, this growth will be one of the most significant. Systems and families will be affected, and new solutions will be needed, as a result.
  • Despite their prominence as a major economic segment, the attitudes and preconceptions about ageing endure and the market innovation needed to address older persons' needs has lagged.
  • Creating holistic solutions that enhance older persons' safety, autonomy, well-being, and dignity requires collaboration across policymakers, society, academia, and industry.

Many communities and cultures globally still hold on to antiquated notions regarding the ageing process. Older adults are frequently characterised as vulnerable, as "challenges" that must be overcome, and they are subjected to discrimination, particularly in the workforce, although their experience and knowledge should be considered valuable.

While we celebrate the birth and development of children, as well as their early adulthood, we fail to recognise and honour people who have wisdom and valuable stories to pass along to future generations. Marketing organisations tend to concentrate their efforts on millennials and Generation Z, but one of the most important economic categories, the baby boomers, is mostly ignored by them.

In a poll conducted in 2015 by US News, it was shown that while baby boomers in the United States are expected to have 70% of discretionary money over the next five years, fewer than 10% of advertising efforts are geared at them. As people begin to retire, and as they continue to do so over the next several decades, there seems to be an untapped market opportunity in the field of retirement services.

It is only through rethinking traditional assumptions about ageing and altering the conversation surrounding older individuals that we can positively transform society into one in which everyone can age with purpose.

Predictions and trends in engineering and technology

Technology has the potential to improve the quality of people's lives, to make caregiving easier, and to improve the delivery of services. The elderly are using digital technologies more than ever before, contrary to conventional assumption, with perceived benefits and usability being the primary factors driving adoption. Specific areas of technology that are now being investigated to address the needs of older individuals include the following:

  • Telemedicine.
  • Wearables.
  • "Smart" platforms that link electronic medical records (EMRs) and electronic health records with AI and analytics.
  • Assistive technology such as voice, touch, motion.
  • Tablets for communication and entertainment.
  • Internet of Things (IoT) devices and sensors that are connected.
  • Safety-related technologies such as monitoring and alert devices.
  • Auxiliary aids for the visually impaired such as hearing devices.
  • Services provided by the gig economy including meal delivery.
  • Autonomous vehicles.
  • Robots.

The window of opportunity for change

Assistive robots, autonomous vehicles, voice assistants, and intelligent homes are examples of how artificial intelligence (AI) has the potential to help address key ageing-related challenges such as the desire to age in place, care-giver burden (including a shortage of professional caregivers), diminished mobility, financial wellness, a sense of purpose, health, and end of life. These technologies, on the other hand, should be designed with intention, taking into account privacy and consent, balancing the needs of autonomy and safety, protecting data against misuse, minimising social isolation, as well as the risks of over-reliance and system failure, to name a few considerations.

Innovative projects in these domains brings together a diverse group of stakeholders, including academics, industry players, senior care organisations, design thinkers, and policy makers, in order to unlock AI opportunities that can be used to meet the needs of an ageing population in a responsible manner. Regardless of the parameters, each tech should consider the following three objectives:

  1. Encourage the application of AI in the face of major ageing-related difficulties.
  2. Establish a council comprised of older individuals and caregivers to facilitate the development of AI that is human-centred.
  3. Develop rules that will allow for the responsible use of AI by addressing issues such as biases in datasets, privacy and consent, social isolation and complacency, and transparency and openness.

Find out more in our report, Artificial intelligence and ageing, and comment below to share your thoughts.