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Celebrating ageing well: inside the UK business community’s mission to be leaders in Age Tech

How we age is being reshaped. We want to work for longer, but more flexibly. We want products to facilitate ageing better but not “old person products.” We want at-home care rather than care homes. We want the benefits of digital enabled social tools but not at the expense of face-to-face contact. We want to proactively manage our health and finances pre- and post-retirement. But the world of consumer products and services is yet to catch up, still preferring to target younger, often poorer customers. Or is it?

UK business leaders gathered at CMS Headquarters in the city yesterday for the launch of the Longevity Leaders World Congress running in London, 21-22 April 2020. They were there to discuss a collective vision to improve the development of products and services that facilitate “ageing well”. Instead of resorting to stereotypical images of an incapacitated, lonely elderly person without agency, ability or purpose, their focus is on ageing as a positive, proactive process. Some of the UK’s most prominent companies like Legal & General, Engie and Aviva are looking at the products and services designed to facilitate that.

“Supporting our growing ageing population and looking after the financial wellbeing of younger generations to come is one of the most important issues of the future. With the next generation of retirees poorly prepared for later life costs, shortfalls in social care spending and failings in government policy, the once hoped for expectation that parents would pass on a legacy to their children is weakening. Money flows are shifting into reverse as children help fund the needs of their ageing parents and face disruptions in working patterns to help provide care; stalling their own hopes and aspirations.”
- Elisabeth Brenner, CMS

A great example is Mercer’s Next Age Next Stage programme which sets out a vision for how and why businesses should retain, retrain and recruit older workers. As our population lives longer it is imperative for business and individuals that people find new structures to work past traditional retirement age. For the individual, a way to stay financially healthy and maintain a sense of community and purpose. For treasurers, ensuring that pension payments don’t outweigh contributions as the population at retiring age outnumbers young workers. For managers, retaining critical experience and skills within a business. For executive teams, making sure that a diverse staff includes age diversity and the business benefits from the well documented advantages that having a diverse staff can bring.

“Longevity poses one of the biggest challenges of our time in relation to the impact on work, workers and workplace. Combined with 4IR style automation and its associated impact in the same sphere, this is an incredibly exciting time to be working with employers to work out how to embrace longevity to ensure their businesses thrive as a result of getting it right.”
- Yvonne Sonsino, Mercer

Another is Vodafone’s work harnessing technology to tackle loneliness. In our hyper-connected world technology can be both a great tool to facilitate more meaningful interactions, and a great isolator. Vodafone looked at the economic cost of isolation among people over 50 (£1.8bn annual cost to the UK economy) and how better understanding of technology and its fuller use can reduce loneliness and promote an active lifestyle. They are now working on a series of programmes to improve day-to-day use of technology for people over 50.

It's not just the big guys who are seeing the opportunity and responsibility that they have to better serve the UK’s ageing population. The launch party was also overrun with start-up entrepreneurs developing tools that help individuals to proactively manage their own health and financial wellness, protect their assets from fraud, establish both online and physical communities, treat symptoms of menopause, maintain their sexual wellbeing and integrate technology seamlessly into their lives. Sensing the financial opportunity were the investors, including VCs, angel investors and corporate venture teams. Which leads to the next question: could the UK seize an opportunity to become the world’s Age Tech hub?

Parallels have been drawn between the fledgling Age Tech sector and the now booming Fintech sector of five years ago. Since 2014 the UK’s Fintech investment market saw growth from $0.2bn USD to $3bn USD, compared with $36bn USD invested globally. Some might argue that the UK missed out on really making a global impact in Fintech. With Age Tech projected to become a multi-trillion dollar economy as well, stakeholders are banking on early innovation, ambitious investment and government support to put the UK at its forefront.

“Today Age-Tech globally is about $1 Trillion a year in revenue of which at least 50% is generated by powerful digital firms such as Amazon and Apple. It will double to £2 Trillion by 2025. UK Age-Tech start-ups already generate around £400M in revenue, but as the wave unfolds, we believe this could grow to £5B in 2025. UK firms will also be in prime position to later grow into large markets such as the US, where Age-Tech revenue in 2025 could pass $35B. 4Gen Ventures aims to be the first European fund focused on the massive Age-Tech revolution.”
- Dominic Endicott, 4GEN Ventures

Find out how to be a part of the UK’s Age Tech movement by joining the Longevity Leaders World Congress in London, 21-22 April 2020. Full details are available at www.longevityleaders.com 

Paul Gilbertson
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