People are getting healthier and as they age, they receive better treatment and prevention against disease. This has far-reaching consequences for society. Companies should focus on this trend and look for new opportunities, says partner at KPMG Advisory Richard Wagenmakers.
You and I would probably be happy to live to a healthy 85 years. But within fifteen years, life expectancy is projected to reach well beyond a hundred years. For everyone.
How is this possible? With developments in nanotechnology. The human body will more easily be able to combat the elements that make you ill, weak or nauseous. And while not all diseases may be cured, many will be able to be altered to a chronic inconvenience instead. You may not die from a disease but live for years instead.
The consequences of this development will be felt throughout society. Will you still retire at 67, if you are expected to live until 120? You will probably want to (or need to) work longer. And are employers prepared to accommodate a larger elderly workforce? And what about the houses currently being built? Are they suitable for older people?
Let me focus on two specific areas.
In recent years, public transport has seen a slew of digital innovations. Travellers use their transit pass to check in and they can manage most travel-related things online, or with a smartphone app. At the same time, you can still buy a paper ticket at major train stations for a higher fee.
How will public transport systems support people who are more than a hundred years old? Will these people be expected to fumble with a chip card or a mobile phone? Or will providers go back in time and heavily staff the counters once more?
The aging trend also has some interesting implications for hospitals. Today, hospitals care for the ill. In the future, this group of people can better be provided with care by technology. So will hospitals concentrate on people who are not yet ill?
Imagine that you can take out a hospital subscription. For five euros per month the hospital will remotely monitor your health. You will provide data through sensors that are already available on your smartphone. The hospital can then offer medical solutions to problems that you are not even aware of yet. You and I would probably sign up for this kind of contract right away.
What does this mean for hospitals? Will staff consist mainly of doctors and nurses, as it does today? Or will they need more data analysts, IT specialists and lifestyle coaches? Scientists believe that the generation of people to live more than 100 healthy years is about to be born. Shouldn’t hospitals start preparing for those scenarios and business models now?
The healthier elderly is just one of the megatrends that will have a major impact on society in the coming years. I will discuss some other trends in my next blog.
Author: Richard Wagenmakers, partner KPMG Advisory