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Guest Post: The Green Ink of Grey by Chris Sorbe

The Financial Times recently published an article titled “The Red Ink of a Greyer Future”. It’s about the aging of western society, particularly the U.S. and the U.K.  Being in a newspaper, you’d expect the authors to take a negative slant to the issue. Of course there were statistics showing that our governments will be financially destroyed by the crushing debt of government funded pension obligations and medical care programs.

For America, the core of the issue is the impending retirement of the Baby Boom Generation. And 2009 is a watershed year since that generation will begin to tap into the Social Security and Medicare system.

Just how big of a boom will this generation create?  Consider these statistics. The population of the World War II Generation, the parents of the Boomers, was about 42 million people. Baby Boomers are estimated to be 78 million strong, nearly double the previous generation! And Celent has reported that the population of pre-retirees and retirees is projected to increase by 30 million by the year 2020, and to account for about 50% of the US population, compared to 44% in 2002 (Graph).


Here are a few other issues to ponder. Baby Boomers (as a group) have improved health over there parents at this age.  They have a longer life expectancy than there parents. And they have saved and invested greater amounts than their parents.  And as a group, Boomers have higher expectations of what life in retirement will entail than their parents did. I believe that a rocking chair retirement is not in the plans of this generation.

I’ve watched as several family members, born just prior to the beginning of the Boom, have entered retirement. All are in good health and want to remain that way. And they want to stay active. I believe that the Baby Boom Generation will totally redefine what it means to be retired.

So while all of the doom and gloom may very well turn out to be true, there is great opportunity for entrepreneurs. I’ve been kicking around a few ideas in my entrepreneurial journal about potential business ideas that could cater to the needs of this demographic which is guaranteed to double in the next 20 years.

Isn’t that really amazing to consider? The number of retirees in the U.S. is going to double in the next twenty years. So goods and services that retirees consume are going to double in twenty years.

But if you’re like me and believe that Boomers are going to rewrite the book on what it means to be retired then there are tremendous opportunities to create new businesses, particularly in the consumer services sector. This opportunity is not just for pharmaceutical companies. There will be ample new business created.

So I have a question for the entrepreneurial community: how can you capitalize on this emerging shift in consumer demographics? Make no mistake; it is coming. As business owners and entrepreneurs, are you ready for the coming generational and demographic shift?

Entrepreneurs that develop and offer the goods and services that aging Boomers demand won’t be seeing red ink, they’ll be seeing green.


One Response

  1. Great points, Chris. We’re going to see an increase in offering for this demographic. I think Peter Druck would agree with you: Changes in market structures and their respective demographics are some of the most predictable sources of innovation for entrepreneurs.


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