In a world where it seems that being young is the most important thing, Fundación MAPFRE decided to set up the Ageingnomics Research Center, a neologism stemming from the words Aging and Economics, to focus on the opportunities of healthy ageing and the impact of this on sectors as diverse as tourism, healthcare, technology and finance.

TEXT: KINO VERDÚ

Iñaki Ortega Cachón is an advisor to the Research Center, in addition to having an enviable resume: “At the personal request of the President of Fundación MAPFRE, Antonio Huertas, and in association with various academic institutions, I have developed intense public activity around the neologism Ageingnomics. This signifies the economics of aging, also known as the silver economy or longevity economics. The book La revolución de las canas [The Grey Revolution] that I had the honor of writing together with Antonio Huertas, which has been translated into English and Portuguese, was particularly instrumental in this. But there was also awareness-raising work in the media and on social media, which, beginning in 2018, has sparked a rich debate focused on the opportunities of healthy ageing and its impact on sectors as diverse as tourism, health care, technology or finance. The Ageingnomics project “attacks” countless segments that track and leverage new business niches and consumer trends for people between 55 and 75 years of age.” Iñaki Ortega continues: The task ahead is huge. It not only involves raising awareness among seniors, but also among companies and the authorities. In fact, although the “gray euro” has been quantified as representing one out of every four euros in terms of wealth in Europe and, in Spain, 26% of the GDP and 60% of all national consumption, there are still situations that make older people invisible or even undervalued. All these stereotypes, this prejudice and discrimination against people because of their age is what the World Health Organization (WHO) has defined as ageism. This is a series of beliefs, values and standards that justify the unfair treatment of people according to their age. Furthermore, it has been proven that this new stigma has a negative impact on the health of the elderly.”

On the one hand, the expert is saddened by the fact that the silver generation is considered to be a heavy burden, but at the same time he is happy that in Spain we lead the world in life expectancy.

However, in addition to being one of the longest-lived people in the world, it is important to lead the social transformation that is essential for longevity to become a real opportunity. And that is one of the goals of the Ageingnomics Research Center. On its website ageingnomics.fundacionmapfre.org you can browse through all the activities (micro-stories, conferences, meetings, seminars, news) that the Center organizes, as well as a long list of publications and surveys that are carried out. The most recent, which was conducted in 2021 and developed in conjunction with Google, “provides insight into the habits of the more than 15 million Spaniards who are more than 55 years old. The reality revealed in this study moves away from the negative clichés about this age cohort and helps to put an end to the worrying ageism. Spanish seniors have more than one income at home (one out of two), help their relatives (four out of ten), and have the capacity to save (one out of two). Most use the internet (six out of ten), shop online (four out of ten), and are better informed than other age groups, especially with regard to sustainability.” If we look back at past initiatives, we can see that for some time the OECD has been focusing on the longevity economy as a phenomenon to be taken into account at the World Economic Forum, but it was the president of Fundación MAPFRE, Antonio Huertas, who wanted to give it a fully fledged boost, by setting up Ageingnomics and turning it into a global benchmark. Iñaki Ortega does not forget small experiments: “There have been pioneering initiatives in this field in Japan for decades, perhaps because that country leads the world in terms of life expectancy and aging. However, at the Center we are following innovative initiatives in Israel, Silicon Valley in the United States, and Germany. In Spain, some of the most notable initiatives are being run in Barcelona, by Professor Montserrat Guillén, and in Salamanca, by Juan Martín of CENIE (the International Centre on Aging).”

50×3: A recent studio by Oxford Economics and CENIE confirms that in 2050 in Spain 50 % of the population will be over 50 years old

To surgically dissect the research tackled by the Ageingnomics Research Center would require more time than we have in this article, but we should point out that it highlights a number of aspects that many people, especially younger individuals, are unaware of: the economic situation of the “gray-haired”, digitalization, travel, leisure, consumption, ecology and sustainability, depopulated Spain (or empty Spain, as many call it), entrepreneurship, new opportunities, and so on.

“Our reports measure the state of the population aged 55+ in Spain, not only as consumers but also as producers. On the first point, we can confirm that despite the pandemic, Spanish older adults have maintained their high level of purchasing power and their capacity to save. They still intend to live in their homes for many years, although they will need to renovate them because most are not adapted to dependent living. They are optimistic about their future and the overwhelming majority plan to travel in the short term. As a novelty, we have detected a trend towards economically supporting their close relatives. In turn, perhaps as a result of the end of lockdown or structural issues, housing and energy has displaced food as the largest expenditure for seniors. We have also noticed that the number of seniors who are active on the internet has not stopped increasing since 2017. The pandemic, as in other areas, has been an incentive for their digitalization, and the number of users has reached 10 million, going up by one million in 2020 to now include 60% of all members of this age cohort. As for seniors as producers, we can safely say that senior talent finds possibilities for development in the job market. This is good news, but there is more because in the commercial sphere, through senior entrepreneurship, many adults over the age of 55 are undertaking productive activities, and it should not be forgotten that volunteering is another channel through which the talent of these people can contribute to society. However, senior unemployment has almost tripled since 2008, self-employment as a result of necessity has continued to grow, and a trend of early exit from the labor market has been consolidated”, says Iñaki Ortega.

Cuando ser mayor es una buena oportunidad
Iñaki Ortega at the 2021 Academic Seminar on Economics and Longevity organized by the Ageingnomics Research Center.

There is a fundamental fact. A recent study by Oxford Economics and CENIE confirms a figure known as 50×3: by 2050 in Spain, 50% of the population will be over 50 years of age. It’s called longevity and health-related advances. Iñaki Ortega, advisor to the Ageingnomics Research Center of Fundación MAPFRE, does not want to dismiss this report without making a very accurate conclusion: “Today the advantages of what is known as the silver, or senior economy, unfortunately, are not sufficiently exploited by Spanish companies. It is worth remembering that Spain has the ideal conditions to be the benchmark country in terms of the silver economy, due to its leadership in longevity, health and the dependency system, as well as openness to the outside world. However, this opportunity will slip away if seniors are not present in the workforce, and it would also bring a new diversity perspective to companies. There is no excuse for not making urgent decisions to enable senior talent to contribute more and in an improved way to the Spanish economy. But this wake-up call affects not only the public sector, which sets the framework for the labor market, but also companies. The number of unemployed seniors has almost tripled since 2008. Entrepreneurship or self-employment is often the only way to remain active as a senior in Spain. Workers’ representatives must understand, with the new population pyramid, that extending the working life of older adults does not harm young people, because there are not enough young people to take over from the previous generation.”

Hey, being over 50 does not mean we should be shelved!