By 2050, nearly 22% of the world’s population will be 60 or older, up from 12% in 2015. As people live longer, the healthcare industry will have to respond by rethinking senior care and how to engage broader communities. We identified six areas where stakeholders can come together to reimagine how services are delivered and healthy aging becomes a strategic priority.
As people live longer worldwide, research is uncovering ways to improve and integrate physical and mental health. Preserving both is key to sustainable aging.
For nearly 20 years, Blue Zones are areas around the globe where people have fewer chronic diseases, are living longer and healthier due to diet, exercise, and more. What works: focus on prevention; 95% plant-based diet; eating until 80% full; regular daily physical activity — walking, climbing, gardening, and farming; living close to family and friends — and sense of community.
From prevention to diet and exercise to advances in treatments like stem cell therapies, enabling people to age well requires building alliances across communities.
Seniors will soon be the fastest-growing segment of workers and consumers. The current “silver economy” is built around a decline in health and frailty. But seniors’ needs are changing, and with that so are their spending and consumption habits.
As silver spending surges across the world, seniors’ needs and expectations will drive new products and services. Nearly 300 million seniors will form the wealthiest age cohort.
Needs and wants: • Healthcare and well-being • Age-friendly housing and transport • Accessible technology products • Travel and leisure
Seniors want to be productive members of society, on their own terms. Workers aged 55–64 will form a quarter of the global workforce by 2030.
Needs and wants: • Inclusive organizational culture • Flexible working options • Continued learning and development • Accessible office infrastructure
Caregiver and receiver
As both caregivers and recipients, seniors are put in a unique position. Besides two billion children, 300 million seniors will need care in 2030.
Needs and wants: • Whole-person healthcare • Peace of mind about future expenses • Accessible technology products • Human support and connections
Most people want to remain at home as they grow older, surrounded by family and friends. Integrating digital health into the home and with community-based care could make it easier for seniors to age in place, something they — and researchers — have said is important to healthy living. Among Americans 50 and above, 76% said they would prefer to stay in their current home as long as possible and 77% want to stay in their community.
Technologies like Siri and Alexa can help seniors live independently, providing knowledge, assistance, peace of mind, and a sense of companionship.Case study
Innovative public housing
Innovative public housing blocks in Singapore easily integrate healthcare, shopping, and social activities into seniors' lives.Case study
Ambient and wearable sensors
Ambient and wearable sensors can continuously and passively monitor environmental, motion, location, and health indicators, and share data and alerts with trusted contacts.Case study
walkable streets and sidewalks
Multigenerational volunteers help create walkable streets and sidewalks in Washington, D.C., by reporting safety issues through a mobile app.Case study
Integrating digital health into the home and with community-based care could make it easier for seniors to age in place.
Sources: AARP, CLS, AgeFriendly
Age-friendly communities are helping seniors stay physically active and socially engaged. Researchers warn that loneliness and social isolation can have the same negative impact on health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. These are examples of initiatives aimed at keeping seniors physically active and socially engaged.
Akita City, Japan
The Club of Friendship Between Generations in Akita provides community spaces for city residents in their 20s to 80s to meet up, form friendships across generations, and participate in social activities.Project site
Senior Planet has community centers and co-working spaces in six US locations (New York City; North Country, New York; Montgomery County, Maryland; Colorado; San Antonio, Texas; Palo Alto, California) to help seniors learn tech skills, get fit, make friends, and start businesses.Project site
New South Wales, Australia
The Lane Cove Community Men’s Shed started a movement of spaces for older, mostly retired, often isolated men to gather and socialize with others while working on woodworking projects.Project site
city housing for intergenerational living
An inclusive city housing program allows seniors and college students to live together. The college students get discounted rent and help seniors with chores while also interacting with them socially.Project site
The Friendship Bench trains grandmothers — trusted community health workers — to provide basic psychological education and therapies to local residents.Project site
Building scalable programs that connect seniors to their communities can keep them active and engaged and prevent harm associated with social isolation.
Sources: AARP, Extranet, FastCompany, BBC
Health and long-term care costs continue to climb in the US — 1 in 6 seniors and their families in may spend at least $100,000 on long-term care before they die. Other nations take a more wholistic approach to funding but there are trade offs.
Universal health coverage via general tax revenue collected by local governments of different provinces and territories, along with some federal cash assistance.
Varied coverage for residential LTC and nursing care in the home. Support for informal caregivers also varies.
Universal health coverage via statutory non-profit sickness funds and private health insurers. Financed through wage contributions shared by workers and employers.
Mandatory LTC insurance. Benefits cover home and institutional care. Family caregivers get separate benefit worth up to half of care costs.
Mixed financing system: statutory insurance for large bills, mandatory individual medical savings accounts, government subsidies, and private health insurance.
Basic LTC insurance for severe disability. Policyholders are covered for life, and can buy supplements for higher coverage.
Some key principles underpinning funding models for senior care include: ability to raise money in both the present and the future, risk pooling across a large population, fairness and minimization of burden on individuals, transparency and ease of understanding for the public.
Sources: The Nuffield Trust, The Commonwealth Fund
As care needs and models evolve, institutions must address workforce gaps and risks to remain viable. Senior care must tackle three intractable challenges.
Hire and retain workers
66% of the total US healthcare workforce shortage in 2025 is expected to stem from a lack of home care aides.
2.5x higher vacancy rate for senior care in England compared to wider UK economy.
57% of senior care residents in Australia are estimated to live in understaffed facilities.
boost workers skills and qualifications
Top skills gaps self-reported by senior care workers: stress management, evaluating patients’ social and psychological needs, advanced healthcare systems, handling other people’s emotions efectively, handling one’s own emotions effectively.
improve health and safety in the workplace
31% long-term care and home care workers globally reported that they still did not always have access to necessary PPE (as of March 2021).
3 in 4 social care workers in the UK report serious harm to mental health from work during the pandemic,
As labor markets tighten, employers must reshape the work experience. Greater rewards including living wages, better benefits, stability and flexibility. Improved career pathways are created through training, mentorship programs, supporting team-based care. Occupational support, assistive technology, health and safety risk reduction will also be essential.
Sources: Marsh McLennan Advantage, Vital Signs: Workforce Challenges for Senior Care (2021)