October 1, 2018 | By


Credit: YouTube/WithTheEconomist

Are Grandma & Grandpa The New Cash Cow Or An Economic Drain?


One thing most people can agree on — dying early isn’t awesome. But, is living into your 90s or 100s all it’s cracked up to be? And at what cost to society?

These are a couple of the complicated challenges discussed by a panel of economic longevity experts including Paul Irving, chairman of the Milken Institute Centre for the Future of Aging, Rakesh Kochhar, associate director at the Pew Research Center, and Laura Carstensen, director at the Stanford Center on Longevity. The panel was moderated by Helen Joyce, international editor of The Economist.

A couple things are certain: life span has doubled around the world. People are living well into their 80s and 90s. And, the over-60 population is the quickest growing demographic in wealthy countries. Their numbers will increase by a third by 2030.


For some, it’s an increasing dilemma and while others see promising economic opportunities with growing consumer markets and an untapped workforce.

Perspectives about aging vary from country to country, according to the Pew Center. For example, many Asian countries, where populations are aging rapidly, view it has a major problem. On the other hand, only 26 percent of people in the United States, despite having a quickly aging population, think it’s a negative issue, according to the Pew Center.

We have different 65 years olds than we had 100 years ago.

Much of it boils down to what standard of living a person has in old age. Most people want to live longer, but that is based on whether they are healthy, can contribute to society, work and have the financial means to live comfortably.

Experts agreed that there needs to be a new way of looking at aging. The senior citizen stigmas are outdated. Chronological age isn’t a worthwhile measurement of what a person’s effectiveness. A person can be older, but still have good health and work.


“We tend to evaluate by the rear view more than instead through the windshield,” Irving said.

Today a 65-year-old is just as educated as a 25-year-old. One hundred years ago, more people worked on a family farm and had less education. When they became 65 years old, the toll of physical labor and lack of education limited their work opportunities, said Carstensen.

“We have different 65 years olds than we had 100 years ago,” she said.

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