A Global Lesson in Dealing With an Aging Population
We’re on the precipice of a worldwide milestone. According to the World Health Organization’s Global Health and Aging report, the world will soon have more older people than children and more people at extreme old age than ever before. Since the earliest days of recorded history, the younger people have always outnumbered the elderly. Within a very few years, however, this will no longer be the case.
With the increased number of older people living for a longer period of good health worldwide, key questions arise. How will global societies deal with their aging citizens?
We believe we can learn a lot from how Japan has dealt with its aging population, especially over the past two decades. If we go beyond thinking about health and wellness in food and look at the broader context of what health and wellness means to people (as we document in our Health + Wellness 2019 report), it’s clear that mental and emotional health are becoming a central part of how people think about it.
Social wellness has been a particularly strong suit and central to the way the Japanese eldercare system has taken steps to look after their aging population. One example is in how there are volunteer programs now set up where younger people can volunteer to take care of those who are aging and need assistance, with the incentive that they will be taken care of in the future.
In the U.S., there is already a strong demand and a ready market for catering to Boomers and Silent Generation consumers needing additional assistance. This demand is not being met — particularly after efforts to curtail immigration in the U.S., as immigrant labor is a significant source of eldercare and services labor.
Many Boomers are themselves needing help in helping care for their own parents. This is an area where we find potential for food companies to provide simple, prepared meals, delivery services for heat-and-eat meals, assistance in sourcing and preparing food for those with limited mobility, or ability, for cooking.
Related: Health + Wellness 2019 report