MAY 9, 2017
By: Richard Eisenberg5

It’s no secret that Americans are living longer and working longer or that both trends are likely to continue. People over 65 made up 13% of the U.S. population in 2000; they’re expected to be 20% by 2030. AARP estimates that Americans over 50 now spend $7.1 trillion annually and, as their numbers grow, that figure will more than double, to $15 trillion by 2020. So why aren’t American businesses preparing better for the future of aging, to serve their employees and their customers? And what should they be doing?

Those were the overarching questions at the Milken Institute Center for the Future of Aging’s Summit on Business and the Future of Aging I just attended in Los Angeles. Similar questions were raised (or should have been — more on that shortly) at the larger Global Conference of the center’s parent, the Milken Institute, held simultaneously.

A Transformational Business Opportunity

In a booklet for his summit participants, the center’s chairman Paul Irving wrote that the potential offered by human longevity is a “transformational business opportunity.” And yet, he added “too few business leaders appreciate that population aging will fundamentally alter the landscape in which they operate.”

 That was abundantly clear at one Global Conference panel I attended, “Creating Meaningful Lives for the 21st Century Workforce: A Conversation With Top Executives.” At no point during the hour-long session did the execs — who included CEOs from Campbell Soup, Wells Fargo, eBay and EY — talk about creating meaningful lives for boomer or Gen X workers. They’re part of the 21st century workforce last I checked.

The Business and the Future of Aging summit panelists, however, were extremely concerned about this and about getting companies (and older Americans) to better address “the longevity dividend.” Here, participants tried to answer a few key questions from Irving and from co-host Peter W. Mullin, founding chairman of Mullin Barens Sanford Financial. Irving’s challenge: “How do we get the business community engaged and excited about the potential of our aging population?”