Health Club Management Handbook 2018

Page 64

industry insights

A conversation with… Colin Milner from ICAA asks MIT AgeLab director Dr Joseph Coughlin about the reality of our ageing population – and how to bridge the growing expectations gap


onger life is humanity’s greatest accomplishment, yet there’s an absence of infrastructure for the older population. Industry still focuses on youth, but we can no longer assume that capturing this market means we’ve bagged them for life. The “new” older generation is well educated and tech-savvy, with high expectations to match. Nevertheless, companies all too often develop new products and services with an old vision, focusing on purely medical matters. It’s time for a paradigm shift. It’s time to

Colin Milner How did MIT AgeLab come to be?

Dr Joseph Coughlin The greatest achievement of humankind has been longer life. So MIT’s AgeLab was started in 2000 to cash-in on the longevity dividend. We seek to develop new ideas, technologies and, indeed, business models that not only create things, but also create 64

Health Club Handbook 2018

create new products and services that boost the economy, to find innovative ways to engage older people and increase the productivity of our global workforce. Old age needn’t be a hindrance to be solved. In this feature, Colin Milner, chief executive of the International Council on Active Aging, interviews visionary thought leader Dr Joseph F. Coughlin, founder and director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) AgeLab, about active ageing – today and beyond.

experiences to improve the quality of life of older adults and those who work with them. We started by looking at older drivers and then realised there’s an absence of infrastructure for an older population, or an ageing world. As a society, we hadn’t thought through housing or transport, work or play. AgeLab became the first multidisciplinary, multidomain centre to seek a new future for old age.

Why have business and

CM society neglected the older consumer?

Life expectancy in 1900 was 47 and JC today it’s well into our 70s. The fastest-growing part of the population is 85-plus. We’ve never been confronted by this many older adults with this much education and expectation for their future.

New technology also enables us to live longer and better. We are far better medicalised, with new experiences, activities and engagement. So I think we’ve ignored old age because, quite frankly, it’s brand new. Also, business in particular has always had a bias towards youth. You could say that the Boomers and their parents are reaping what they sowed decades ago – that is, if we market to the 18-30 year old, we’ve got you for life. So why should businesses worry about the older consumer? Well, we’ve found that Boomers are willing to drop car brands at the drop of a hat when those brands haven’t answered their demands. So, no, you can’t assume that if you capture the youth market, you have them for life. Now is the time to understand how to capture the customer across the lifespan.