New Hampshire now has the second-oldest population in the country. According to the U.S. Census, 20 percent of the state’s population will be 65 or older by 2020.
A recent episode of NHPR’s “The Exchange” featured Joseph Coughlin, author of “The Longevity Economy: Unlocking The World’s Fast-Growing, Most Misunderstood Market.”
He is also the founder and director of the AgeLab at MIT.
New Hampshire Retirement Population – The Shift
As of 2047, there will be more people over age 60 worldwide than there will be people under age 15. That is a huge percentage of the world that will be near or beyond retirement age.
According to Coughlin, “These people have to have a sense of purpose and engagement. And we must engage these folks not just for societal good, but to keep them engaged in society.”
The challenge, he argues, is that older people have a great deal to contribute to society, but they often are not given the chance.
The Problem with the New Hampshire Retirement Perception
Coughlin says part of the problem lies in the idea of retirement itself. People look at age 65 as the time to step back and make room for new employees to step in.
“Unfortunately, many of us believe that 65 is the time to take a sidestep or to walk the beach,” he says. “What we forget is that we’ve got about 20 plus years for most of us over 65 of walking on the beach. That’s a lot of walking.”
He clarifies that he’s not saying people need to work beyond 65. He is challenging people to reconsider their ideas of what retirement really means.
“I am suggesting that in the new longevity economy, we must now create a new narrative where we must be doing something,” he says. “We need to pull people back onto the grid in ways that they choose.”
Leveraging the New Hampshire Retirement “Silver Tsunami”
Some experts have dubbed the quickly aging New Hampshire population as a “silver tsunami.” A major concern for this state is that the older population is going to wreak havoc on the healthcare sector and the economy because there won’t be enough people in the younger generations to balance it out.
Coughlin’s response to this is to change the narrative.
“If we start thinking about a new population that – by the way – has the highest concentration of wealth in the world, they can create new products and services that excite and delight, which will be a new income,” he says.
Instead of seeing retirement as a full stop, Coughlin suggests treating it like more of a transition. Maybe people consider working longer for a sense of purpose and a continued income source. They can also contribute through volunteer work well into their older age.
Coughlin invites people to flip the script on technology, too.
“Robotics that will not just take jobs away,” he said. “They will actually keep you working longer. EXO skeletal or robotic suits that one may wear will make it possible for us to work longer on the job.”
He also said technology like ridesharing and meal delivery services aren’t just for millennials.
Public transportation is limited in New Hampshire, so for older people, this technology can be a major benefit.
“Here are the millennials, inventing something that will help everybody,” he says.
You can listen to the full interview here.