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Our Views On Ageing Need A Facelift

05/05/2016 7:41 AM AEST | Updated 05/05/2016 7:41 AM AEST
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Chris Jackson

The Queen recently turned 90. By doing so, she has already lived six years longer than the average Australian female. One might expect this would be the case given her privileged life, but science suggests that she has more in common with us than we think. In 2020 there will be more 65-year-olds in this country than 1-year-olds.

Australians in the future will live longer, fuller lives. By 2055, Australian women will live to an average age of 97 and men to 95. There will be a total of 7 million Aussies aged over 65. Some claim that technology has ensured that we will never die as we move to a time where we will simply 3D bioprint anything that needs replacing.

This notion of longevity gained traction when the The Human Genome Project was completed in 2003. Suddenly we had the ability to read nature's complete genetic blueprint and know our destiny. Today there are many companies investigating how we age and how to do it best. Google is doing just this with Project Calico, whose bold ambition is to "cure death." They predict that in a couple of decades we may see fundamental changes to physical ageing as we know it.

No one has more interest in this than the Baby Boomers, aged 51 to 69. They are the greatest of the big spenders. An impact of delayed retirement means their earning capacity is higher than ever, with 42 percent claiming to have disposable income to spend on themselves.

They love life, and importantly don't have a great sense of it ever actually ending. This is the group who embraced brand advertising, they are the original Mad Men, they lived through the free love and experimental '70s. Yet they are either ignored in marketing and innovation or worse, fed sad, miserable stereotypical images of their lives in advertising. The cruise industry is the only one getting it right for this audience.

The myths persist. "Old people don't like tech, old people are a burden on our resources, women over 50 are invisible." This is simply not the truth. 72 percent of Boomers have a positive attitude towards technology. Outside of the current labor market there are approximately 2 million older Australians who are interested in working. As author Caro Webster from Caro & Co says: "My life has never been more rewarding. At 50, I actually feel like I'm making a real contribution to my community and society in general."

It all hit home when I watched the trailer of the documentary about Iris Apfel, the iconic 94-year-old New York fashion icon, and the pre-roll ad was for Metamucil fiber supplement. Frankly, I was shocked. The ageing population might need fibre, but they also need condoms. Sexually transmitted diseases have doubled among the 50 - 70 year old group. It seems 60 is the new sexual prime -- we are here for a long time and a good time.

It is seriously time to re-frame how we view this group. Rather than just focusing on their age, let's embrace their youthful attitude. Australia is evolving into an innovation nation, so let's bring all of the population with us, and embrace the Boomers' true vitality, which sits so well with the codes of new Brand Australia.

Boomers have more in common attitudinally with Gen Y than any other generation. They are the ultimate experience seekers. The whole idea of categorizing groups of people into "generations" is old fashioned and will hold little relevance in the future.

As 81-year-old Joan Didion, famous author and latest model for high-end fashion brand Céline says: "I have already lost touch with a couple of the people I used to be." The idea that we are all constantly in transition and evolving simply means we can be old but not out. We can be generation neutral.

Albert Einstein backs her up. "The distinction between the past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion." It is time for Australia to embrace a new reality, where chronological age has less meaning and attitudes and values have more.

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