Over the past decade, some of the most rapid changes and the introduction of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity have been ushered in. The next decade will see even more exponential change and one of the ways to manage this change, whilst harnessing new capabilities, is through innovative business model design bringing back a group of those aged 55+.
Associated to this massive transformation of the next decade will be the growth of silvertech. Silvertech can be defined as active seniors in the gig economy, who are typically in the age group of 55 years and older – also known as re-retirement. Recent studies have shown that approximately 20% of retired individuals were not fully retired and are still economically active or wanting to perform some sort of work. The aging population is growing at a rapid rate, with numbers growing from 382 million in 1980, to 962 million in 2017 and projected to be 2.1 billion by 2050. The retirement age has been up over the past two decades – this is a good thing as there is a need for retired or semi-retired individuals to remain economically active for economic reasons and for both social inclusion and self-fulfilment.
The advent of the internet gig economy has opened up a massive alternative economy for a source of highly skilled trusted labour, and an opportunity to provide a whole range of services, both in person and remotely. With the phenomena of COVID-19, this has amplified the need for remote work to be performed anywhere in the world, at anytime, and across a multitude of disciplines. Another factor to consider is that COVID-19 has directly impacted employment across all age groups, with the largest impact being in the 55-year-old plus age bracket. The attraction of a future gig economy for the silvertech population is that it allows them to live a fulfilling life and earn an income part-time whilst enjoying the social and psychological benefits of engaging in the economy and with other individuals whilst remaining active in society.
This age group is attractive to any business and public organisation as well as busy families or individuals who are looking for different types of services. This group is characterised by the following traits:
• Strong work ethic
• Competitive by nature
• Mentally focussed
• Team-oriented; and
It is not to say that these attributes are not present in other parts of the population and economy, but the combination above is particularly pronounced for this age group.
The silvertech generation is an important source of economic growth, so we will have a look at some of the metrics surrounding this to understand the size of the market, and the potential opportunity as an economic growth engine. There are approximately 720 million people aged 65 and older, of which 400 million are economically active (UN SDG Report Q1 2021). This is projected to more than double by 2050. Looking at the European Union, we see a significant portion of the population above the age of 65. For example, in Italy (23%), France (20%), Sweden (20%), Lithuania (20%) to name a few, and these numbers continue to trend upwards (The World Bank, 2021). We also find that in the EU this population group relies on grants that only cover 67% of their consumption expenses – there is a need to earn additional income to bridge this gap.
The total addressable market for this economically active segment is estimated to be €400 million.
Turning our attention to the Sustainable Development Goals of 2030, we find that the benefit of the silvertech population being economically active helps to address three of the 17 goals. These are:
•SDG goal 3 – Ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages;
•SDG goal 8 – Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all;
•SDG goal 10 – Reduce inequality within and among countries.
The size of this population presents an exciting opportunity, not only for better living, self-fulfilment, community and crowd and inclusion in society, but tangible and measurable contributions to the three goals above. The United Nations already has a 2030 agenda for sustainable development of older persons, and this contains a universal plan of action to achieve sustainable development in a balanced manner, whilst seeking to acknowledge the human rights of all people. It calls for leaving no one behind and ensuring that the SDG goals are met for all segments of society, at all ages, with a particular focus on the most vulnerable – including older persons. In saying that, older persons make substantial contributions to the economy through participation in the formal or informal workforce even way beyond retirement, taxes, consumption, and transfers of assets and resources to their families and communities. There is also an exciting opportunity for older persons to contribute to the entrepreneurial ecosystem, whilst embracing new technologies. This intersection of economic activity beyond semi-retirement or retirement, and a multitude of converging technologies, forms the foundation for silvertech and sets the stage for contributions towards SDG goals – remaining economically active and also actively being involved in community.
Civic life can contribute to strengthening social capital, in terms of facilitating cooperation and improving interactions within and between groups based on shared values, trust and solidarity (UNDP AARAP, 2021). There is a greater acknowledgement of the importance of aging and recognition of the rights of older persons, as this population group grows. Despite this recognition and effort, this age group have not benefited systemically from development gains and they are typically overlooked by both development policy, and the economic ecosystem. This is where the silvertech era helps to bridge this gap.
Silvertech is a new and rapidly emerging part of the economy, and although venture funding and elder care has increased over the years, it is not anywhere near the size of the opportunity as evidenced above. Attention has mostly been placed around healthcare and community participation, not opening up an adjacent economy for new opportunities in the Silver economy. Humanity is currently facing the equivalent of 25 Gutenberg moments, where we see the Convergence and augmentation of a multitude of exponential technologies, that bring about entirely new capabilities, value propositions, business models and the participation of silvertech in this.
There is an entirely new frontier ripe for technology and business model disruption. Using these new exponential technologies can augment the capabilities of the silver economy. For example, silvertech individuals may perform certain activities remotely and be all demented, buy soft toy robots, have the work they perform recorded on the blockchain, and experience longevity based upon newly emerging biotechnologies. Entirely new parts of the economy will emerge in the next decade such as the crowd economy for silvertech and this will involve crowdsourcing, crowdfunding, leveraged assets and staff on demand. Silvertech’s form a part of the staff on demand capability, and this allows any business or start-up to leverage trusted capable services to scale at speed.
Looking at digital awareness in the silvertech domain also presents an enormous opportunity for training and up-skilling, so that they can participate in the economy and remain relevant in society. The opportunities in this domain exist for businesses, start-ups and educational institutions. Those opportunities allow partnerships between different role players in the economic ecosystem, that continuously upskill these folks and augment their capabilities.
Digital inclusion for senior citizens is an integral part of enabling this part of the economy and motivate and assist seniors to become competent, safe, and confident. The need in this area is to assist senior citizens who are not familiar with terms and concepts related to digital media and designing Technologies that cater for agerelated limitations such as eyesight and hearing, or problems with fine motor skills. The way that user guides are written should be easy to use, and contain information that could be consumed and understood quickly. The silvertech generation may also have concerns or fears around security and fraud, including how they might trust and understand any of these technologies for their benefit.
This sort of continuous digital upskilling allows seniors to not only understand and use these technologies, but also have a digital presence and identity and be found so that they can offer their services. We are seeing a rapid emergence of digital marketplaces that allows seniors to offer their services in the gig economy. It is still early days for these sort of marketplaces, and we see the first few placing focus on social responsibility. We are also seeing that it can be relatively easy to onboard the silvertech generation if they are given the right sort of training, that is simplified and forms a part of the work that they enjoy doing. There is an upside for silvertechs who participate in these sorts of new digital marketplaces because things are made easier, faster and more efficient to deliver their tasks. Further, we see these silvertech platforms creating entirely new ecosystems that connect transport the gig economy, supporting technology platforms, payment systems and digital training. Some platforms are including applications that help reduce stress and anxiety, which goes a long way to easing the adoption of technologies and participation on these platforms.
Large corporates are now placing attention to partnering with these silvertech start-ups to create returnship programs to access a new type of talent. This provides new opportunities where the silver economy goes through a mentorship program on these platforms, and then offer their services to whomever may wish to consume them. One of the hot areas in this emerging domain is in the insurance industry, which has lost many of its mature workers over the past years and the merits that they bring.
As older workers, their seasoned perspective and insights will serve insurance company’s well in both evaluating risks and building relationships, which is a fundamental cornerstone of the insurance industry. This also applies to the banking industry. Hence, it is truly a win-win situation as large corporates have access to trusted and experienced skill sets on demand using these platforms. Another part of the economy to consider here is consumer-toconsumer services. This is also a rapidly emerging domain for startups, that allow busy individuals to have access to any services that they were on demand, at a price that suits them. For example, if a busy individual requires assistance for either home maintenance, taking their children to school, tour guide assistance when travelling, or even concierge services, these can be procured at short notice on a silvertech platform.
We see a wide range of services being offered from in-person, on-site services such as childcare, pet care, cooking, home and garden maintenance, right through to remote services such as legal, tax, finance, accounting psychological support and market research. These silver tech digital marketplaces are growing rapidly as there are very few platforms that offer all in one services such as those listed above which include the ecosystem of transport, meals, insurance, digital training and a myriad of other supporting services. The next decade is going to be an exciting era of opportunity, inclusion, dignity and access for all – certainly worth being involved in.