The Silver Revolution is a global phenomenon which is unprecedented in the history of humanity: the aging of the world’s population caused by the amazing increase in longevity and by the constant reduction in birth rates.
Never before on the planet have we had such a high average age, and such a high proportion of the total population being mature.
People in every country are living longer and longer and having fewer and fewer children, and the obvious consequence of all this is population aging.
100 years ago, life expectancy was just forty years, and today we are close to doubling that. What is more, a figure that continues to increase. There are already scientists who say we are close to discovering new technology that will make us live over 150 years, while one of them (Britain’s Aubrey de Gray) says we can reach a thousand years old in the near future.
In Japan, the country which is most emblematic of the phenomenon, the senior population (at least 50 years old) already represents the majority of the total, and much of Europe and the United States are approaching the same scenario.
It’s a world where, for the first time in human history, we will have more seniors than young people. It’s not futurism, it’s data.
And it is not just more years of life, but more LIFE in the years, which means we will live not only longer, but also with more physical vitality and greater mastery of our cognitive capacities.
This phenomenon will have profound impacts in all areas: the labor market, consumer relations, marketing, the economy, culture, society and public policies – a real silver revolution.
At the same time, despite its importance and imminence, the theme seems absolutely invisible to society in general. It’s like an iceberg, giant below the surface, but almost invisible externally. The Silvers are not represented in TV commercials, Human Resources actions or public policy debate.
And when they are, they are almost invariably caricatured, frail old folks in need of special care.
It’s a stereotype that no longer fits the reality of the world. People are lengthening their life cycles, marrying later, working longer, having dreams and projects throughout their lives, playing sports, having sex, and seeking love even at more advanced ages. What is truly old is every form of discrimination.
The silvers have got it all and scientists have even coined the term “Superagers” to refer to those who reach a mature age while maintaining well-preserved physical or cognitive characteristics.
The future will not be gray, the future will be silver.
Of course, a demographic revolution of this magnitude will provide a lot of challenges, many of which we may not yet be ready to face.
What are the consequences of such high life expectancy on pension systems around the world? What of the countries that adopt the simple counterpart scheme, in which the young (still in the labor market) support the pensioners, if the proportion of retirees is increasing in relation to the young?
What will the impact on the health industry and state social security systems be, since there is a clear relationship between increasing age and health spending?
What of the job market? Is it ready to absorb an increasingly mature workforce, unlike that in current times? What will intergenerational relationships be like in companies, with age gaps which will become wider and wider?
Alarmed at the detrimental effects of the aging population and the impact on state health and welfare systems, it is no surprise that catastrophic theories surrounding the phenomenon, nicknamed The Silver Tsunami by some, have appeared in the United States.
But while there are challenges, it is obvious that the silver revolution brings with it innumerable opportunities.
How much new equipment and how many products or services can be created for this gigantic segment of the market?
Will there be new vitamin supplements, appliances, or applications to collect users’ health metrics in real time, or even preventive physical therapy and bodybuilding services targeting this market.
There is much talk of affordable and sustainable smart cities, but will the cities of the future be prepared for the demographics of the future?
What investments may be made in urban architecture or in the furniture of residences?
In the field of Education the opportunities are remarkable, since it is necessary to reeducate and reintegrate this section of society into the dynamic of the modern world. And this is certainly also a desire of the Silvers, who want to acquire new knowledge, remain active and to feel useful to society. In all the world’s colleges, there is still a clear majority of young people, but it is already possible to see students who may be older than the teachers. And that may well increase.
And in the world of marketing, which has always prioritized the myth of youth in its symbologies, how many opportunities will there be for companies which know how to communicate with this public? Not with old-age advertisements and caricatures, but perhaps with ‘ageless’ approaches, since not even the Silvers want to be represented as ‘old’.
It is always worth remembering that, in spite of all the importance and attention that must be given to new generations of consumers, the vast majority of young people do not have any notable income of their own.
It’s true that they launch trends and follow fashions, but they almost always consume these trends and fashions with the money of their parents’, who are usually Silvers. When it comes to consumer power, silver is worth gold.
And if the Silvers have a larger share of the income, they also have a considerable stock of the rarest and most valuable asset in the contemporary world: free time. Despite promises that technology would provide us with more free time, the fact is that we are drowning in multitasking and stimuli of all kinds. There is no time for anything. However, the silver segment will have a large stock of free time, which can be used to seek knowledge, do volunteer work, carry out specific activities and, especially, engage in leisure activities. It is no coincidence that this segment is a huge boon to the global tourism industry.
And finally, the most obvious finding: perhaps the greatest existential burden we carry around is the certainty of death, the finitude of life. Knowing that in the future we will be able to extend our experience on this marvelous blue planet is always something to celebrate.