On this week’s Inside Outside Innovation, we sit down with Susan Golden, Author of the new book Stage (Not Age). Susan and I talk about the $22 trillion market opportunity in the emerging longevity economy from education to workforce to healthcare and housing. Let’s get started.
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Interview Transcript with Susan Golden, Author of the new book Stage (Not Age)
Brian Ardinger: Welcome to another episode of Inside Outside Innovation. I’m your host, Brian Ardinger. And as always, we have another amazing guest. Today, we have Susan Golden, author of Stage (Not Age): How to Understand and Serve People Over 60, The Fastest Growing, Most Dynamic Market in the World. Welcome to the show, Susan.
Susan Golden: Thank you so much for having me.
Brian Ardinger: To give a little background. You’ve got a lot of experience in this particular space. You teach at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. You’re a Mentor at Techstars Future of Longevity Accelerator. And a thought partner with Pivotal Ventures on their Caregiving Innovation Initiatives. I think the first question I’d like to ask is what drew you to this topic and exploring this $22 trillion market opportunity called the longevity economy.
Susan Golden: Great question. I have a background in public health and then went into venture capital in life sciences and health services. And I actually took a career break, which is part of what the book is about. That many people are going be taking career breaks if they’re living 100 year lives.
And went back to school. And Stanford had just started a new program called the Distinguished Careers Institute, for people anywhere from their fifties to their eighties, come back and rethink what they want to do with the next chapters of their life. Because they’re living much longer. And nobody should be thinking about retirement in their sixties because they have another 30 or 40 years to go.
And I learned about longevity at Stanford. There’s a wonderful center on longevity that is thinking about how do you plan for the 100 year life. And it’s very dynamic and it’s not just about the typical impression that most people have, that all older adults are elderly, declining, frail need a whole variety of services.
Some will, and most of us will need something at some point in the end of our lives. But most people are going to be living very vibrant lives well into their eighties. And this has created a whole new economy that most people just don’t know about. And particularly investors and innovators don’t know about it.
Traditionally, if I asked my venture capital friends, why aren’t you investing in this? They would say, oh, this is about senior housing and fall prevention and medication management. And that’s a piece of it, but there is now, as you said, a $22 trillion worldwide market right here in the United States.
Right now, it’s estimated to be about $8.6 trillion. As over 10,000 people are turning 65 every day and they’re going to be living long lives. And over a third to a half of children being born today can expect to live to their 100s. And this longevity economy now includes all their spending, the stimulating new jobs that are being created for their products and services.
Companies are beginning to rethink their longevity strategy. Not just for products and services, and how could they have a multi-generational. But also, how to have a workforce that’s multi-generational. And how to take advantage of that.
And most people don’t realize that people over 50 have most of the wealth. They’re responsible for 56% of consumer spending and 83% of wealth in the United States. So this is a gigantic market opportunity, gigantic innovation opportunity, and a great need to support healthy aging as our population is going to grow in this category.
Brian Ardinger: So, with the fact that it is growing and there’s this massive opportunity, what are the biggest misconceptions out there? Why do you think more people aren’t exploring this at this point?
Susan Golden: I don’t think they fully understand the vibrancy that most older adults are in. And that they’re in multiple stages. And they tend to lump all older adults in one category. All people 65 and older, or whatever demarcation one takes 70, 75 when there’s great diversity in aging.
And I think we should be thinking about ageless people. But more and what I argue for in the book about stage, some companies have done this well. They recognize what stage of life somebody is in. So, they may be in a re-purposing stage or transitioning out of one career to another. They may want continuous learning and educational opportunities as I, and all my colleagues who’ve done the DCI program at Stanford were in. To refocus what we want to do next and what are our life priorities.
But there’s other traditional consumer facing industries that people haven’t thought how to reinvent them for people with longer lives and how to support their health span. And this includes housing alternatives and home modifications, fashion and accessories, education as we mentioned, entertainment, travel, you can think of that just virtually every consumer opportunity that is going to have a burgeoning longevity customer that needs to be understood.
And so, understanding what stage somebody is in, will give you a much broader perspective about their needs. There may be a caregiving stage even.
Brian Ardinger: In the book you talk about, you have five kinds of key stages. Can you walk through what those stages are? And what’s important about them.
Susan Golden: So, I came up with the concept of 18 life stages that could be divided into five quarters of life. And I know that’s funky math. But people traditionally think about life in three stages, which is your education, your working stage, and then your retirement stage. And now I think we have to think much more broadly.
So, I think about the first stage of life as sort of your growth stage. And when you’re launching and you’re first and beginning to experiment. And in your second quarter, you have different stages where you’re doing continuous learning. You’re developing some financial security. You might be caregiving, parenting, optimizing health.
And then the third and fourth stages I think are what might be considered new. Which is, I call them the Renaissance Stage where you’re reinventing what you’re doing. You’re repurposing, you’re relaunching. You may be transitioning, may have a portfolio of things that you’re doing as I do. You might be an entrepreneur or an “olderpreneur” as people often say.
And then the later stages are maybe where some people think about more about their legacy planning for end of life. But people are living to 100. So, I put in a fifth quarter because we just don’t know what that whole new paradigm is going to look like. And how people are going to be using those extra years.
Brian Ardinger: Well, a lot of it has been driven by other parts of the economy as well, whether it’s technology or healthcare and that that’s literally changing the way we live. What are some of the trends or things that you’ve seen that are allowing folks to be more productive as they age?
Susan Golden: Well, technology is certainly making a great change in the way we age and for the better. Technology services, anywhere from being able to access transportation more easily. It may not be wanting to drive yourself, but there’s lots of transportation services and easy ways to get access to it. Uber, Lyft even have special programs to help you get to medical appointments and interface with medical system.
We have delivery of virtually everything you can possibly think of. You can do online banking, but interestingly, not all older adults are digitally literate and that’s another innovation opportunity. Other countries have national programs to make sure all older adults have active digital literacy training every single year, not just one, but multiple times. That’s where we’re seeing it.
Tech in the home. We’re going to see a lot of healthcare, not just during the pandemic, but continue to be telehealth services. People are thinking about remote health in the home going forward. And then working from home is creating all sorts of opportunities for older adults. Giving them enormous flexibility.
We see tech really supporting caregivers. This is a whole new need because there are 48 million unpaid caregivers in the United States. And that’s some of the work I do as a thought partner to Pivotal Ventures. They’re actually supporting an entire accelerator through Techstars, just devoted for innovations to support unpaid caregivers in the United States.
So, we’re seeing an uptick and definitely more interest in this area. But most people, I would say most innovators and investors have not fully appreciated the enormous opportunities.
Brian Ardinger: Well, and that’s what I like about this book. It not only lays out in granular details, some of the opportunities that you’re talking about, but it really is for entrepreneurs. It outlines a number of different market opportunities. And it gives the lay of the land and a call to action for entrepreneurs to start tackling some of these types of problems and that, that are out there. Having said that, what are some of the opportunities that you’re seeing startups get into and maybe what opportunities are being missed.
Susan Golden: When people are coming into this industry, it’s so big and so many different verticals you can focus on. It’s better to focus on one and then expand. So sometimes I feel like companies are trying to solve every problem. And that can happen over time if you create a fabulous platform. But definitely focusing on a particular need, don’t create a product that you think somebody will want to find out what the needs are.
And I really advocate for multi-generational teams. I think as companies have a multi-generation workforce which is going to be inevitable as people are going to have 60-year career spans with caregiving breaks, optimally at different times of their lives. But learning what somebody needs, the mantra and the industry is designed with not for. So don’t guess what an older adult will want, bring them into the conversation early on.
And then companies that are, and entrepreneurs that have designed a product that’s just for older adults and it calls out it’s for you older person. And we could say that the stereotype there is big beige and boring is not the way to go. Is to create a product that might have still features that support an older adult’s needs, but could potentially be a multi-generational product.
And an example of that is OXO Kitchen Utensils. I don’t know if you’ve ever purchased them, but they’re very much designed to be easy on the hands. Great dexterity, compatibility. And they’re good for young and old. And they’re not sold at it’s a multi-generational product. It’s not sold just for older adults. It’s not sold just for younger people.
But too often marketers targeted the 18- to 34-year-old category. And if you broaden your perspective and think about older adults in a very vibrant, and different stages of their life, you will have a much larger market to address.
Brian Ardinger: And I think you’re seeing that in the marketing sense as well. Like you said, seems like most marketers always target that younger demographic. And some of the things that you’re talking about, it’s not even the age, it’s a specific problem set. Which could, like you said, span different ages as the person grows and adapts. Talk a little bit about some of the products or services that you’ve seen or some of the trends that are most exciting to you.
Susan Golden: The ones that are really catching my attention is new housing alternatives. Traditionally people thought everybody wanted to go to a senior retirement community, assisted living facility. And over 90% of adults want to age in what they call age in place. But their current home may not be ideal for them. It may have many steps. It may be too big. They may feel isolated. So, there are some new interesting housing companies, basically housing alternatives. And one is an example that came out of the Techstars Accelerator two years ago called Upside Home.
And they rent apartments in buildings that are, multi-generational. Not just for old people. They fully furnish it so that it’s compatible for an older adult. And this might be somebody who wants to spend three to six months in Florida or may want to get rid of their larger home. And it’s no longer appropriate and have all the concierge type of products and services that come with apartment living, but they also have all the features that an older adult might need, including having access to caregiving as needed, transportation, food delivery. So, it’s a really exciting new model that includes a variety of products.
So, they started sort of like in one area and expanded to create a platform that provides now health services to those who live in their apartment complexes as well, which is really exciting. Home modification itself is a whole burgeoning industry. If people want to stay in their home. And so that it enables them to live longer and better and in a healthy way. That’s one whole industry.
And we’re also seeing this in clothing and fashion. Whereas people let’s say are active bike riders, but their current configuration of pockets and their clothing might not be ideal for their range of motion or if they have a rotator cuff issue. But you know, you could redesign it so that it meets the needs of an older adult. And that’s just some of the things we’re beginning to see as people look at a whole range of things.
But education would be another whole burgeoning industry. I see a lot of great companies starting up as a way to help people find productive ways of staying engaged from a learning, but also contributing their talents.
So older adults, teaching older adults. Older adults teaching younger. These are some really vibrant ways of creating community while somebody is aging in place to support them and make them feel very purposeful and connected. Which we know that social isolation, is one of the greatest risks of aging in your own home. And you have to stay connected in a purposeful way.
And then helping older adults find work. Most older adults do want to work longer. They may not want to work in the same position for as many hours. They might want flexibility, but so to younger adults we’re finding. And so, as a need very much so to help older adults get matched, where they can contribute and benefit society with all their talent and expertise and wisdom.
Brian Ardinger: That’s a great point. And we briefly talked about the fact that the workforce itself is changing, whether it’s remote work or that. How do you see the corporate environment changing because of workforce and an age group that will be in the workforce for much longer?
Susan Golden: I think companies that will do well, having a multi-generational workforce, will do so because they will have continuous learning opportunities for their entire workforce. Upskilling will be critical because things are changing so rapidly.
There’s a lot of companies right now that are offering wonderful “returnship” programs for people who do take care of giving breaks in particular, both men and women who may have been out anywhere from two years and more.
And give them an opportunity to come back to the company they worked with. Retool, upskill, and then they’re offered an opportunity to decide if they want to take a permanent position. And these are 16-week paid returnships. And this is happening in a lot of progressive forward-thinking companies.
Companies are also providing upskilling just in terms of being financially literate. You cannot have successful aging if you’ve not planned for a longer life. And the financial services companies have done a particularly great job in this area. Not only for their clientele, Merrill Lynch is one company that I’ve written about that hired a financial gerontologists to help redesign their wealth management products. But also, to support their own employee. And have them planning for a much longer life.
So, companies that do it, not just for the customer, but do it for their employees are the ones that are really going to distinguish themselves and utilize their multi-generational workforce to continue to modify products and services going forward that can benefit all sectors of the economy.
Brian Ardinger: Absolutely. So, if I’m an entrepreneur out here listening to this broadcast, what are some of the resources or places to get more up to speed on this topic and others?
Susan Golden: I would say, look at the book. And the book and in the appendix has a long list of accelerators, incubators, articles to read, and to familiarize yourself with all the design challenges, the industry newsletters, podcasts. It’s a nascent industry, but it’s still, most people don’t know about it. So, I put in a long appendix with different resources. And check out the different accelerators like Tech Stars. ARP has an innovation lab, so you can see some of the companies that have been developed through these accelerators and launched. And get a flavor of where some of the needs are.
But we don’t know all the needs yet. This is new, old age is new. We don’t know what everybody is going to need because there’s going to be such diversity in aging. But we do know there’s just a paucity of products and services to support healthy aging. And so that all people can live long lives with dignity and purpose.
Brian Ardinger: We talked a little bit about the U S market and that. But are there other markets, obviously you hear about Japan and their aging population. Are there any insights that we can gain from looking at other countries and what they’re doing when it comes to the population?
Susan Golden: Yeah, I mean, some of the societies that have aged faster have a delayed retirement ages from mandatory retirement to much later. And I think that’s a good practice. There’s a lot of up-skilling that’s going on in other countries. And the one that I mentioned earlier, digital literacy. Denmark does that. Israel does that. It’s part of the fabric of respecting and integrating older adults into society.
So, we can learn a lot from other countries. Singapore has a whole incubator around how to develop products and services to support longevity. And we have some very excellent programs happening on a state level. But we do not yet have national policies that fully support healthy aging, including paid family care leave acts because we need that people will need to take breaks for caregiving.
There are 48 million unpaid caregivers in the United States. And many of them are women. And many of them have to take time off from their careers and then retool. Integrating that into a national strategy will be key to support healthy aging.
For More Information
Brian Ardinger: Well, Susan, I appreciate you coming on Inside Outside Innovation to share this new opportunity. It’s going to be exciting times for sure. A lot of challenges, a lot of opportunities out there for folks to take a stab at. If people want to find out more about yourself or about the book Stage, Not Age, what’s the best way to do that?
Susan Golden: The website for the book is StageNotage.com and I welcome speaking and learning about any new opportunities that people may have.
Brian Ardinger: Well, Susan, thank you again for coming on the podcast here. Super excited to see where this goes and looking forward to continuing the conversation.
Susan Golden: Yeah, my pleasure. Thank you for having me.
Brian Ardinger: That’s it for another episode of Inside Outside Innovation. If you want to learn more about our team, our content, our services, check out InsideOutside.io or follow us on Twitter @theIOpodcast or @Ardinger. Until next time, go out and innovate.
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