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Before chemistry was ‘chemistry’ there was alchemy. Alchemists sought to change gray lead into gold, well, gold. Sounds reasonable. The atomic number of lead is 82. Gold’s atomic number is 79. So close – but close was not good enough then and it is not good enough now. A phrase, and variations of it, that I am sure you’ve heard describe the senior care industry both in the United States and globally is ‘gray is the new gold’.
A recent article posted on HULIQ (Jobs Created in Senior Care Industry as Baby Boomers Turn 65) describes the possible growth of new jobs to be created in the ‘senior care industry’ as baby boomers turn 65. In short, the article connects the dots between unemployment and a growing aging population.
Many writers have written, and I’m sure will for a long time to come, write about how senior care and related older adult housing can be a growth opportunity for investment as well as job creation worldwide. But before we see gold at the end of the aging rainbow we should realize the growth of an aging population requires innovation first before we achieve true improvements in quality of life or return on investment.
The senior care industry requires an overhaul. With noble intent it was built on yesterday’s language (senior care?), definition of aging, care models, organizational structures and technologies. Repainting yesterday’s facilities and computerizing yesterday’s shuffleboard is not enough. To achieve improved outcomes in quality of life as well as higher investment returns requires more than simply buying more real estate, hiring more staff and purchasing IT systems to improve administration –it demands new thinking to reinvent the types of services provided, technologies to be used, financial products available to individuals and families, workforce education, and organizational structures to deliver quality care and achieve quality outcomes.
Here are a few areas to start today – and given the growing demand for aging services – we should have started yesterday:
Yes, aging is opportunity. It is an opportunity to improve the quality of life of older adults today and all of us tomorrow. It is also an opportunity for job creation, business growth and government policy innovation. But, we can not expect the trend line of global aging alone to deliver transformative change. The disruptive demographics of aging is a challenge for business and government to think differently, invest in the new, and create ‘the better’ – urgent action today will greatly increase the likelihood of transforming old gray into the new gold.