Right now, Stanford University is addressing a pressing and fascinating question:
What happens to society when everyone starts living to 100? How will we stay physically fit, financially stable and mentally sharp, especially in that back half?
Exploring these questions is the goal of the Stanford Longevity Project. To answer them, they’ve partnered with major brands like Wells Fargo, Instructure, and Principal to help research key elements like financial security, lifelong learning, and healthcare.
Despite America’s average life expectancy declining the past couple years due to more overdoses, suicides and alcohol-related illnesses, people are going to be able to live longer. Strong advancements have been made in cancer. This month, the U.S. saw its sharpest one year decline in cancer death rate. That will save millions of lives alone.
But this isn’t just a health and wellness conversation. What this presents are multiple opportunities in multiple verticals for marketers.
One of the biggest trends at CES this month was a new generation of healthcare wearables. There were earbuds designed to detect blood pressure for those with hypertension, temporary tattoos that tell you when to get out of the sun, smart glasses that assist people with dyslexia and watches that detect sleep apnea. These technologies are all discreet, easy to use, and built in to everyday things we already use.
We are heading toward a near future in which every human body will have a functioning check engine light. You can imagine how much better healthcare will be when a sensor will tell you something needs attention, rather than panicked scrolling through WebMD.
We will have the ability to know when something is wrong and immediately trigger tests, medication and treatment. Imagine if that sensor, using the IoT, could immediately send and fill a prescription for you.
This is all coming down the pipeline, and it’s going to help us live longer. It’s also going to change the way marketers do their jobs and open up countless new opportunities to reach new audiences.
Here’s what some of those opportunities will look like.
Opportunities in Healthcare
Cincinnati has one of the best healthcare startup scenes in the country. Cincinnati Children’s Hospital is ranked #3 nationally. CincyTech has raised nearly a billion in healthcare follow-on investment over the past ten years.
The common thread these organizations share is they are tackling high-use issues in different ways. That includes everything from small, wearable, injectable devices (Enable Injections) that can be used for a multitude of conditions, to analyzing people’s sweat to ensure proper medication dosing (Eccrine Systems).
One of the most interesting might be Sense Diagnostics because their simple device addresses a huge need: stroke detection. Right now there isn’t a good way to tell which kind of stroke (transient ischemic, ischemic, or hemorrhagic) someone is having in the field. An ambulance with this non-invasive device will be able to quickly diagnose which stroke is occuring, allowing them to begin the best possible treatment immediately.
Opportunities in Education
As people begin living longer, we’ll see that the traditional approach to education and work must change. A longer living workforce will be more likely to need to reskill for second and third careers.
Private equity firm Thoma Bravo is buying Instructure (makers of the popular Canvas Learning Management System) for $2 billion, precisely because of the projected growth and opportunity in education as people extend their careers.
Of course, four-year higher education will still exist. But new avenues and approaches to learning will emerge as supplemental or alternative ways of reskilling for jobs that will target people in their 60s, 70s, and 80s.
Curricula will obviously also have to adapt, becoming more flexible, personalized, and life-long. Being able to brush up every three months on relevant skills via a subscription model may be a better future model for education than entering a full-time program. Most of the marketing opportunities will be around aiding employers, because they have the budgets and the competition for retention.
Opportunities in Finance
Living longer changes a person’s entire financial strategy.
“Most standard retirement principles assume that retirement will last a maximum of 30 years. The commonly-used “4% rule” of retirement is an example of this. However, if you live to 100 or beyond, your retirement could last 35 years, 40 years, or longer,” said Nathan Hamilton, director and industry analyst at The Ascent from The Motley Fool.
“A deferred annuity could be worth a look. Essentially, you put some money into an annuity when you first retire (or earlier), but that won’t start paying out until a certain age—say, 80 or 85. The idea is that even if your retirement nest egg is getting low as you get older, this move guarantees you a predictable income stream for life.”
How we invest may also change as we look to create steady income streams that kick in throughout retirement rather than just upfront. This also may inevitably cause people to work later and longer especially as our workforce trends farther away from physical labor to more mental and creative labor.
The biggest takeaway here isn’t that living longer will impact one thing. It will impact everything.
As humans, we need to think about that for ourselves and our future generations. And as marketers and entrepreneurs, we can start thinking about ways we can make that reality better, more productive, and more secure for people.