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Is 80 the new 50?

By Jennie L. Phipps ·
Wednesday, May 7, 2014
Posted: 4 pm ET

Throughout their lives, baby boomers have changed the world. Now they are changing the way the world is aging and how we look at the notion of retirement and retirement planning.

"Being old in the 21st century isn't going to be anything like being old in the 20th century, and we shouldn't be stuck with the 20th-century stereotypes," said John Beard, director of the department of aging and life course for the World Health Organization, speaking at a Milken Institute conference on aging as a global investing opportunity.

The panel of experts emphasized that what's really going to change the world isn't so much longevity, although that is a factor. The driving force is the combination of people living longer and people having fewer children, which will raise the average age of populations all over the world dramatically.

Thanks in large part to the women's movement -- and in the U.S., the civil rights movement -- birthrates have diminished significantly. "You have a profound shift in the proportion of old to young. These kinds of numbers are unsustainable with the 20th-century model," said Michael Hodin, executive director of the Global Coalition on Aging for consultancy High Lantern Group, which helps companies focus on emerging business opportunities.

As an example, Hodin pointed toward predictions that 49 percent of the population of Italy and 55 percent of the population of Japan will be older than 50 by 2033. He said, flatly, that there simply won't be enough money to support an aging population that depends on pensions for income and requires expensive, subsidized health care. Older people will have to work, and companies will need them to work, he said.

Percentage of population age 50-plus (selected countries)

Country 2003 2013 2033*
China 20 27 41
Germany 36 42 49
Italy 38 41 49
Japan 41 45 55
Russia 30 35 41
United Kingdom 33 36 40
United States 29 34 37

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau, Milken Institute

* Projected

"Global corporations looking for talent won't be able to rely only on 20-, 30- and 40-year-olds. There won't be enough of them. Corporations will have to hire people who are in their 50, 60s, 70s and even 80s," Hodin predicted.

By 2020, just six years from now, there will be 1 billion people worldwide older than 60, Hodin said. Unlike older people in previous generations, this aging segment of the population is looking ahead to a long life. Many of them are healthy, and they have more discretionary income than any other generation. Businesses that are slow to recognize this reality will lose out, Hodin said.

"Anyone who thinks the 20th-century model is going to work for society going forward is nuts," he said. "Change from both a corporate and societal point of view is essential."

Do you think companies are overlooking business opportunities that might appeal to people over 50? If so, what are they?

Here's how working longer impacts your retirement.

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Alice Davenport
May 10, 2014 at 11:57 am

John Bryant, you have no idea what you are talking about. The Republicans are not afraid of Obama care because they have the resources to live longer. Everyone should be afraid of Obama care because those considered elderly will be refused care under Obama's rules. When a person is no longer able to support his ridiculous expenditures and programs, that person become a liability. Those who earned pensions are certainly entitled to them; those who won't work should not be entitled to live off the rewards earned by those who do work hard. The vast majority of people supporting socialism are ignorant and/or lazy. Those proposing it are only looking out for themselves. How long do you think Obama will live, if he dies a natural death?

hillbilly nation
May 10, 2014 at 11:52 am

In the aerospace business, they lay people off between 45 and 55...then what???

May 10, 2014 at 8:19 am

I am 71 and have no plans for retirement. I have a great employer, generous PTO as well as other benefits. Work supports my travel habit, keeps me socially engaged and financially secure. Life is much sweeter than it was at 50.

May 09, 2014 at 11:00 pm

I retired in 1990 not really wanting to but differences with the boss.
I volunteered for 12 years and now I am doing what I want to do when I want to. We are fortunate that my husband worked for Ford Motor Co and gor a good pension and... really good insurance this company should be really congratulated for treating their retiree as thy do

Jan Sloan
May 09, 2014 at 10:46 pm

I loved my work as an RN and continued to work until I was 78 years old. I know I
could not pull an eight hour shift at my age unless it was a desk position but I
know that there are other RNs out there who would share a shift with an older
nurse. And I think we could make a difference.

May 09, 2014 at 10:26 pm

John Bryant, you couldn't be more wrong about Obamacare. (Your spelling is bad.) The point of it is socialism -- government control of everything. I agree people who lost their insurance because they lost their jobs (a result of Obama mismanagement) deserve to obtain health insurance. For those who wait until they are sick to get it, and those who are too lazy to work, I say to hell with them. American became strong because of a strong work ethic. Now we have a generation who depends on those who work to feed, house, clothe and provide medical care. Let the bums go to work. My yard man slaves in the hot sun doing manual labor -- but he has enough pride to do something.

Robert Eischen
May 09, 2014 at 10:18 pm

I retired 15 years ago at age 65. I enjoy retirement, while others I know prefer to keep on working. Unfortunately for some, they must keep on working because they either incurred too much debt or didn't save enough for retirement. Therefore I feel that retirement savings plans are important and should be providede for and understood early in life when we start working. Medical advances have extended our lifetimes and financial planning must follow accordingly.

May 09, 2014 at 10:12 pm

Work is good. It makes us feel useful, as well as providing a paycheck. I am barely over 65 and would work again if I had to, at a very part-time job - say 12 hours a week, But most jobs don't offer such short hours and most part-time jobs pay very poorly as well. I'll believe it when I see it that senior workers are actually valued. Until then, I am glad I worked and saved and am not in debt, so that now I can be retired and still pay my bills.

Stephen Vinzinski
May 09, 2014 at 9:43 pm

One-third of this country is nearing retirement.An large portion does not have any resources other than social security and an small pension if they are lucky.There is very little hope other than the retirees working part time if able.With the cost of medicine and medical insurance hope is in the negative.The situation will continue to become worse.

John J Bryant
May 09, 2014 at 8:24 pm

The Republicans are afraid of O'Bama care, because healthier people live longer. The wealthy and the rich, have better access to health care than the people who are employed by them, and their families. They don't want to live a longer because, they will not have to pay them the pensions, that they earned while working How long will the Koch brothers, Warren Buffett, Mitt Romney live, more years than the rest of us.