Caroline Dinenage, the Minister of State for Care, used a speech in London to call on businesses to seize the opportunities of a growing older consumer market and to develop more products and services that meet the diverse needs and aspirations of older people.
Speaking at an event hosted by the Centre for Ageing Better, the Minister said more inclusive, innovative and attractive products should play an important role in helping people to remain healthy, active and independent for longer, whilst also offering opportunities for growth to businesses. These could be anything from home appliances like eye-level ovens and walk-in showers, to the use of new technologies such as AI and robotics – for example, Amazon Alexa is being used in some cases as a memory aid.
And yet, for example, much of the support equipment currently marketed to older age groups, such as grab rails, ramps and bathing aids, is unattractive and clinical-looking, which research shows can put people off making vital changes to their homes that would keep them safe and living more independently.
Older people also represent a rising part of the workforce, with employment rates for the over 65s doubling in the past 25 years. The Minister urged businesses to understand the changing needs of their employees and adapt jobs and workplaces to better support the experience of older workers.
A vibrant and inclusive market for products and jobs is an important part of the government’s Ageing Society Grand Challenge, part of the Industrial Strategy, which aims to harness the power of innovation to help meet the needs of an ageing society. The Prime Minister pledged earlier this year to ensure people can enjoy five extra healthy, independent years of life by 2035, whilst narrowing the gap between the experience of the richest and poorest.
Minister for Care, Caroline Dinenage, said:
“Ageing is a subject which needs to be discussed in every boardroom across the country – from the large global corporates to the small local enterprises – because we need products that are more inclusive and also recognise the diverse needs of our older population. Ultimately, older people deserve better – better services, better products and better experiences in the workplace.
“Our ageing population represents a growing market and if UK businesses successfully grasp this opportunity they could not only reap huge dividends but also help people to age healthily, stay in their homes and communities for longer, and be more active and independent as they grow older.”
Spending driven by the over-50s, often termed the ‘silver pound’, is one of the most important trends to hit retailers in the past decade. Previous analysis by Retail Week of the Government’s Family Spending report showed that, in 2016, over 50s households accounted for around 51.7% of consumer spending, equivalent to £473 billion per year. Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government figures suggest that, by 2025, there will be 8.2 million households headed by someone aged 65+, an increase of 23% on 2015.
Anna Dixon, Chief Executive, Centre for Ageing Better, said:
“By responding to the demand for products that are appealing and support people to be healthy and keep doing the things they value as they get older, regardless of where they live or what their background, we can enable more people to enjoy extra years living happy, healthy and independent lives. Businesses, government, charities and others can and must do more to create products and services that older people want to buy and which enable them to do the things they want to do for longer.”
The Minister gave the keynote speech at ‘How can business meet the Grand Challenge on Ageing?’, an event hosted by the Centre for Ageing Better. The event, which takes place at The King’s Fund in central London, explored potential business opportunities and required changes to enable people in mid-life to age well and remain productive members of society in later life. Other speakers included Dr Anna Dixon, Chief Executive, Centre for Ageing Better; Sarah Weir OBE, Chief Executive, Design Council; Lance Batchelor, Group Chief Executive Officer, Saga; and Huw Edwards, Public Affairs Director, UK Active.