Ponderings for 2019

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I guess the most obvious and most likely thing that 2019 will bring is pretty much the same things as 2018 bestowed. Somehow that doesn’t seem the right thing an observer about the ageing business should be saying – ‘just read what I said about 2018’.

I have no doubt there will be the usual round of longevity conferences and innovation events that will be as memorable as they were in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018. Lots of ground breaking technologies and insights and lots and lots of hand wringing that ‘something must be done’.

Enough of the cynicism. At long last there are signs that the simplistic notions that we have about the intersection of ageing/urbanisation/technology are being questioned.

It was terrific to see that Elizabeth White’s book (55, Underemployed, and Faking Normal) has gained so much exposure and is now being published by Simon & Schuster. For too long we have had a uni-polar view of baby boomers and Elizabeth provides the balance and a necessary shot of reality. Good to see that the WSJ is running a series that addresses the same issues.

There is no doubt that voice activation and wearable technology are  moving rapidly from the tech enthusiast to become mainstream parts of our tech-life. Sure, much of it is very clunky but it is only the beginning of its evolution.

Certainly in the UK, as it always has been in the US, the fragmentation of the healthcare industry into private and public is well underway. In 2018 we had another £XXX chucked at the NHS which will make next to no difference. When the system is bust, no end of tinkering will make any permanent difference. There will lots of money to be made in the private healthcare sector.

The same fragmentation of private/public continues in the care industry – as it has been for the past 5 years. Somehow the industry wobbles on from year to year with the only certainty being the reduction in standards and availably of care available to those reliant on the state. The second generation of care companies, those that are not staggering under the mountain of debt from earlier financial engineering by the hedge fund industry, will do amazingly well.

Having just spent a month travelling to and around Australia it is pretty clear that the 60+ are driving much of the luxury travel industry. I guess we all know this but when you look around and see your own age group being the dominant demographic, it drives home the message. Travel that caters to the wealthier boomer and their parents will continue to do well. A secondary observation from my travels is economic power of the Chinese consumer. As Europe convulses over its internal squabbles the political establishment seem oblivious to the shifting of the world’s economic centre of gravity towards Asia Pacific. The ageing business is still musing about what lessons to learn from Japan’s demographics. They should be obsessing about what is happening in China.

2018, like 2017, has seen a rising howl of anguish from the Millennial Generation, who, after a decade of being told they are victims, have it hard-wired into their world outlook – yes I know I am generalising. One nasty result of this victimhood is the acceptance of ageism that permeates much of the public discourse. How strange that a generation that preens itself on its impeccable open mindedness feels that it is OK to be horrible to older people. I am sure on a one-to-one relationship with their parents they are perfectly nice, but that doesn’t stop them blaming oldies for everything from Brexit, Trump, lack of housing, poor wages etc etc. Unfortunately, I don’t see this changing in 2019.

So the bottom line about 2019 is that it will be much like 2018. Those that see through the shiny gloss of the ageing business will be making money. Those that believe the dominant narrative of the business will reach 2020 feeling much as they do entering 2019.

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