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Silver Society 2.0

  • Venice
  • 7 October 2023

        Progress in the field of medicine and improvements in the quality of life are making for longer life-expectancies; according to UN estimates, by the end of 2050, over-65ers will have surpassed under-25ers in number.

        This concerns Europe in particular and especially Italy, but also involves other countries such as China, which at the start of 2023 saw its birthrate drop for the first time since the 1960s and where the median age by 2050 will be 51 (higher than Italy’s is now). 

        This epic demographic transformation is impacting all kinds of businesses and profoundly changing both demand (quantity and typology) and supply (participation in the work force, availability of skills and productivity).

        Europe accounts for 6% of the world’s population, 15% of GDP and over 50% of social welfare spending. A progression that calls for deep reflection on policies capable of rendering the “Silver Society 2.0” evolution sustainable, and on rules to allow for the best use of new technologies, without the restrictions imposed by formalistic, bureaucratic approaches that would limit their contribution to navigating this transformation. 

        Strategic reflection should aim at ways of ensuring the stability of pension systems and at steering the choices of future over-65ers, for example, through the development of a social welfare system supplemented by in-company retirement plans.

        On the one hand, ageing represents a fragility factor and a challenge for infrastructure, healthcare and pension systems; on the other, it is generating what is being called a “silver economy” consisting of large numbers of persons whose average financial conditions and purchasing power are superior to those of younger age groups. 

        Italy has more than 14 million over-65ers – 24% of the total population – with often very dynamic consumer profiles, particularly in terms of the goods and services that contribute to psycho-physical wellbeing.

        The profile of today’s over-65ers differs considerably from that of their counterparts of 30 years ago; entry into old age has tended to shift forward over the years and the number of active elderly in good health has risen.

        This contributes to the wellbeing of families and societies in general in terms of knowledge input, volunteer activity, the role of the tertiary sector, cultural enrichment and the new intergenerational relationships that often arise from a convergence of values vis à vis the future within nuclear families or workplaces.

        Thus, the silver society does present problems, but also opportunities that are not to be missed, on the condition that the various approaches for addressing them efficiently are put into practice.

        Starting with the need to update labor legislation with a view, for instance, to modifying the composition of remuneration, encouraging participation in the work world and allowing extension of the working life on a voluntary basis.

        Such choices are fundamental to increasing the productivity of the actively employed generations, support for whom could also come from the offer of skills training, life-long learning courses and mentoring by more senior employees.

        Productivity and economic growth are pivotal since without the production of goods and services we will never be able to satisfy silver society demand. Also because, as said earlier, ageing is a global phenomenon that is shaping global demand, steering it towards goods and services associated with wellbeing – categories, to name a few, include food, culture, tourism, leisure and life sciences – in which Made in Italy is specialized and has the potential to garner growing a share of the international market.

        Healthcare is surely one of the value chains most directly impacted by ageing. Extremely important are new approaches to lengthening healthy lifespans by making the best use of innovation and by retooling procedures; for example, expanding access to treatments and optimizing proximity models with assisted living facilities and integrated services and infrastructure systems that foster the prevention-treatment-assistance continuum.

        Doctors, and all healthcare professionals, play a fundamental role in promoting appropriate care and healthy ageing. A process that, in addition to improving quality of life, contributes to the sustainability of public spending and frees up resources within the social welfare system, as pointed out in the European Commission’s Ageing Report projections.

        Urban areas too must be made safer and more livable, removing architectural barriers and creating spaces for aggregation that are more responsive to the new society’s needs.

        Legislation regarding labor, competitiveness, organizational innovation, smart cities, new goods and services, consumer styles and professional profiles call for fresh vision and, most importantly, for rules in step with the transformation of the society and the evolution of technology.

        The changes can only be confronted if defensive formalistic attitudes toward innovation are overcome, generating a constructive dialogue on subsidiarity that involves institutions, the civil society and intermediary agents, industry and non-profits in compiling a shared knowledge system and identifying more effective, flexible and less binding rules (more procedural rapidity and more controls) to successfully confront a world in profound transformation.

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