The Ageingnomics Research Center provides a positive view of our ageing population, enabling us to identify the opportunities offered by this demographic reality, in both economic and social terms, so as to proactively manage this transformation toward a digital, fully-connected, sustainable society, with our seniors playing a key role in its economic growth.
TEXT: JAIME SOLÍS IMAGES: ISTOCK
Over the last 50 years, the average age of the Spanish population has increased by ten and a half years, from 32.7 to 43.3. In less than thirty years, the number of people over 65 has doubled and, at present, they represent 26 percent of the population; moreover, according to the projections of the INE (Spain’s National Statistics Institute), this will rise to around one third of the population by the year 2050.
These data are but a few examples of the accelerated ageing of the Spanish population, which is mainly due to two factors: greater longevity – Spain has the second highest life expectancy in the world – and a drastic decrease in the birthrate registered in the last few decades. A widespread phenomenon in those countries with greater economic development, this trend poses a huge demographic challenge for our country. This is true to the extent that it puts huge strains on the sustainability and maintenance of our welfare and pension system – with increased healthcare and dependency spending, a greater number of people receiving state pensions and increasingly fewer workers supporting the public pension system with their contributions.
However, there is another viewpoint that sees this trend in an optimistic light, offering tremendous value, given that it enables us to identify quite a few opportunities in economic and social terms. Spain must learn how to anticipate matters and plan correctly, so as to take full advantage and proactively manage this transformation toward a digital, fully-connected, sustainable society, with our seniors playing a key role in its economic growth.
This so-called gray-haired generation comprises those aged between 50 and 75, people who enjoy good health and a quality of life that lets them continue contributing to society with their talent, social work, experience and, in general, high savings and consumption capacity. Two figures demonstrate this: 40 percent of consumer spending worldwide corresponds to the over-65s and, in Europe, those between 50 and 75 years of age have 12 percent more purchasing power than any other population cohort. This reality should make corporations sit up and take notice, duly adapting their products and services to these new consumption habits. Numerous spheres of activity must be transformed in order to serve this growing sector and new entrepreneurs – many of them seniors – will emerge, relying on technology to take advantage of any opportunities that arise and adapting to this new scenario of longevity.
In the same way, the public authorities should take this information as a reference source in order to appropriately determine the volume of resources devoted to public services – health, dependency, etc. – and bolster the sustainability of the state pension system.
For nearly four years now, this is the notion that MAFPRE – in collaboration with Deusto Business School – has been analyzing with regard to the concept of Ageingnomics, a neologism designed to define in a single word the so-called economics of ageing.
Since 2016, both companies have been intensely involved in publicly analyzing and disseminating the tremendous opportunities the ageing population has to offer society at large. One of the major landmarks was the publication of the book La revolución de las canas [The Gray Hair Revolution], co-authored by the MAPFRE Chairman and CEO, Antonio Huertas, and the director of Deusto BS Madrid, Iñaki Ortega. Now in its seventh edition, it is available in Spanish, English and Portuguese.
Over the last few years, a space for reflection and debate on Ageingnomics matters has also been firmly consolidated through a series of public encounters. This has allowed us to discover the views of various experts on aspects related to talent, training, corporate trends, new business niches, and the evolution of consumption in relation to this age cohort, which represents an increasingly broader segment of the population. Other aspects addressed include such questions as sustainable mobility, digital health, the new professional profiles, the challenges faced by the pension system, entrepreneurship, social innovation and the inclusive economy.
Thanks to these endeavors, MAPFRE has helped introduce a positive economic and social perspective of ageing, with its inherent opportunities, on the public agenda in our country, setting forth the enormous possibilities that the growing importance of this so-called silver generation can offer our society.
Fundación MAPFRE creates the Ageingnomics Research Center
With the aim of expanding the scope of this initiative, in 2020 Fundación MAPFRE set up the Ageingnomics Research Center. Under the direction of Juan Fernández Palacios and the academic assessment of Iñaki Ortega, it plans to continue working and developing the knowledge accumulated to date in a permanent, systematic fashion. The aim is to go on to become a leading meeting space and forum in Spain, furthering research and the dissemination of knowledge regarding the economics of ageing, always offering a positive slant on this demographic evolution and helping raise the profile of entrepreneurial projects related to this field.
Launched with the intention of helping Spain lead the way in designing a global strategy to ensure increased longevity represents opportunities in economic terms, helping citizens and institutions make the right decisions to extend working lives, improving the living conditions of the elderly and promoting greater development of both public and private social protection systems.
The demographic challenge, a central issue on the public agenda
The Ageingnomics Research Center was launched last December 10 in a public event that was closed by the Fundación MAPFRE President, Antonio Huertas, and by the Fourth Deputy Prime Minister and Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge Minister, Teresa Ribera.
During her speech, the deputy prime minister underscored the enormous relevance of this demographic challenge for Spanish society. She listed the prime objectives of the National Demographic Challenge Strategy and set forth how these goals are to be aligned with the key pillars of the Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan. This plan is to be sent shortly to the European Union, as a prerequisite for obtaining funds to the tune of 140 billion euros envisaged for Spain as part of the European recovery plan, through the NextGenerationEU temporary recovery instrument.
This event also saw the presentation of the first research study undertaken by the center, the Seniors Consumption Barometer. This first wave, with a sample of 1,100 respondents, yielded highly interesting data on the consumption patterns of the silver generation, revealing that the elderly are a generation with purchasing power, active, highly technological individuals who take care of themselves and offer a guarantee of consumption in times of crisis.
Among the Research Center’s upcoming activities is the organization of a series of academic seminars – the first on ageing and COVID-19 took place on December 16 – informative forums and workshops, as well as the publication of further reports, and an annual call for proposals to support research projects on ageing-related matters that have a meaningful social impact.
Moreover, a specific category has been incorporated into the Fundación MAPFRE Social Innovation Awards which, in their fourth edition, will add a prize for an innovative project designed to offer solutions to the 55-75 age cohort in areas such as health, leisure, mobility, training, finance, insurance, or technology, among others. With projects from Europe and Latin America competing together, these awards will be presented next May.
10 keys that define senior consumers (over-55s)
55% of senior consumers live in households in which at least two people contribute a monthly income, which means that this generation has greater purchasing power than previous generations.
9 of every 10 live in their own house, with 74 percent being homeowners free of loans or mortgages.
Over half (56 percent) of the members of this generation manage to save every month. 43 percent save between 11 and 30 percent of their income.
6 of every 10 seniors are optimistic and do not believe their economic situation will get worse.
78 percent use technology on a daily basis to satisfy their banking, consumption, leisure and training needs. 41 percent are active on social media.
82 percent wish to continue living in their current home, although only one third have adapted it for dependent individuals.
Over 90 percent of those surveyed say they watch their diet and 77 percent take regular exercise. Solely 17 percent visit the doctor once a month.
8 of every 10 seniors travel at least once a year. 42 percent travel between two and four times a year.
Food, housing and technology are the three leading items on their list of expenses.
Increased spending in 2021
Senior citizens expect to increase their spending on food, leisure and health next year.