As the topic map above illustrates, despite the positive opportunity the Silver Economy represents, the data gathered in this analysis suggests that a lot of the current data and research mostly focuses on the current constraints, costs and concerns around ageing in general. To understand this further, we’ve broken each theme down into specific narratives based on the data collected (using the most frequently occurring keyword themes as a means of prioritising them).
Society will see continued demand for care for ageing populations. With an ageing population there will be considerable demand around how and where care is provided. What constitutes ‘care’ can be quite varied for an ageing society, social support and welfare provision will continue to be important for the ‘early aged’ (the silvers in the 65-75 age range) but becoming more chronic and concerned with the provision of long-term-care and geriatric medicine for the ‘older aged’ (+75 years).
There will continue to be considerable speculation around how care is provided to ageing communities. In addition to the type of care, there is considerable discussion around different processes of care delivery. For example, across Europe there are very different models for how and where care for ageing people is delivered. In many countries, there are models of ‘familism’ in which individuals provide direct care for their ageing parents and relatives by often having them live in their own homes together (as is the case in countries like Spain and Italy). Other countries like the UK and Holland, tend to base care on state-based models, with ageing individuals more likely to have to fund (with or without state-support) their own care requirements, which are provided by state, or state-subsidised care workers. Across the developed world there are many different variations mostly between these two sources of funding for care - a continuum of care between the individual and the state.
Deductions for the silver economy. Ageing is a complex process. As a person ages their care needs will change and diversify as people go from ‘younger’ old age, to advanced ages. At present, many nation states, including Holland, use well established social care and pension models to address these costs. How resilient are these models for the future? How could they be improved to reflect the increasing health and longevity of people post retirement age (65+)? Could the silver economy represent a new employment sector for adults in traditional retirement age? Could such communities be better incentivised and empowered to organise care systems more efficiently and in more beneficial ways than state-controlled systems that treat all members of the 65+ community with a dated, one-size fits all policy?
Health care needs will continue to diversify for an ageing economy. As our knowledge of medicine and technical solutions to health care problems become increasingly sophisticated, the health care needs of ageing populations are continuing to diversify. This trend does increase the health and well-being of the average person, as lifestyles become generally healthier and care continues to improve (as reflected in increasing life expectancies). This also creates questions around how people can age more healthily; for example, could such a trend enable people to grow old in manners that see all of the many different components of their health addressed? As well as the clinical and functional needs of health, can the increasingly important issues of social care and mental health (especially loneliness and isolation in ageing communities) be more specifically addressed? Additionally, how will issues such as dementia (projected to continue to dominate health care provision) and other chronic diseases be addressed over time to help promote healthier ageing?
There will be considerable demand to address the health care costs of ageing in the future. As people continue to live longer lives, the demands to access health care will continue to grow as more treatments are available and people requirement them for longer periods of time. Technology will represent a potential response to address some of these costs, for example, loneliness (a common concern for many ageing communities) can be addressed more rapidly today and in the future using community based initiatives and increasingly accessible ICT technology. Additionally, smarter, age-friendly homes can improve how people are supervised for care, potentially making support and care provision in later life easier and more cost effective. However, as scientific and technological knowledge advance, the need and desire for ‘solutions’ to the ‘problems’ of ageing will also increase. Such demand is more likely to increase the overall cost of ageing, with insurance, individuals and that state often being the main sources of finance to provide them.
Deductions for the silver economy. In the Netherlands, and many other European countries, health trends will continue to have significant impact on ageing. In one sense people are likely to be healthier for longer and lead more active, independent lives. This could lead to significant empowerment of ‘silvers’, who could remain economically significant greater and greater ages and, again, could represent a significant driver for the silver economy. In rethinking how silvers contribute their both their economic influence, but also greater available time made possible through retirement schemes based around the 65+ age range, could the young older age represent an important sector for care and organisation of elder care (+75 age ranges)? Such considerations could be important especially for countries like Holland because, as health care demands and access become increasingly diverse and complex, the financial burden imposed on the state to provide current levels of care could be highly significant for the future.
3. Service Provision
Do current services meet the needs of an ageing society? Within the data there is a general reflection that the requirement to support an increasingly ageing society represents a future challenge on current infrastructure and services. People are living longer, but social and health care models are not, generally, changing to reflect this. At the global level, this is seen as a considerable discussion surrounding who should provide care - is it the state, is it the individual or their families? At the national level (in countries like the Netherlands and the UK) debates often centre on how these services are provided, generally with the state being on one end of a spectrum and private health insurance becoming increasingly significant at the other with family care and volunteer services somewhere between these two options. In such debates, there are often long-held cultural assumptions that the state or the individual ‘should’ provide care. Due to the polarity of such beliefs and a lack of clarity of who should be providing care, there can often be significant gaps that older individuals can fall through when questions of ‘who should be providing care’ are not addressed. In some countries, the state picks up the burden, in others the vulnerable, and the aged who require the most support can sometimes be left with nothing. Is this the best way?
How could models of service provision change? Currently, a high level of care in many countries is provided by either cheap, unskilled labour (often fulfilled by migrant workers) or volunteers and family members. Family support as a model of social care could change in the future should traditions around shared generational housing (and the general cost of housing) change, additionally, as family size decreases (a generally accepted trend of development) and general costs of living and housing rise, will future generations be less disposed to the direct provision of family care? As well as family, a considerable proportion of unskilled care provision is often undertaken by migrant workers. How does this impact on future service provision, if political isolationism (seen in policies such as Brexit, or current US policies on immigration) means that migrant workers are less supported in a developed country? A significant proportion of the labour required to deliver care services to the silver economy could be reduced. Additionally, in some countries (especially those with poor national economies) there is currently a considerable shortage of skilled and unskilled paid healthcare providers as they seek better employment opportunities abroad.
Deductions for the silver economy. A more nuanced awareness of ageing and the benefits initiatives like the silver economy could provide represent a significant opportunity for service provision, for both ageing individuals and the state. At present, it is often the informal, volunteer and charity sectors that addresses many of the gaps in welfare provision for the ageing society, perhaps reflecting the significant differences in care models from the state and the individual. Could the silver economy represent a way of organising the informal provision of care for greater benefit to the individuals and local economy? For example, could the contribution of the newly retired (who often contribute to the volunteer sector for elder care) represent an important demographic for the organisation, management and delivery of many aspects of care to the older aged - especially for social support?