AgeLab Director Joseph Coughlin sat down for a public interview with Boston Globe reporter Robert Weisman at District Hall in Boston, MA, on March 1st. Dr. Coughlin spoke on a variety of topics including his new book The Longevity Economy, the founding of the AgeLab, and the aging of the Baby Boomers. The talk was organized by Aging2.0 and RetirementJobs.com founder Tim Driver, and attended by over a hundred and fifty professionals and enthusiasts in the field of aging.
The AgeLab began as a research project to study older drivers. Over time, it has expanded to examining and re-imagining the “infrastructure of aging well.”
Dr. Coughlin identified three myths about aging Baby Boomers that The Longevity Economy refutes: “We don’t like technology.” “We’re loyal to brands for life.” “We’re not interested in anything new.”
A small set of worn images about retirement provide a limited narrative of how to live out an 8,000-day phase of life. The newest trope: in retirement, “you’re all going to be riding bicycles by the river.”
In defiance of these norms, Dr. Coughlin said, are a few exceptional people who have veered off the beaten path of the 20th century retirement, to begin setting examples for those who will follow them.
Dr. Coughlin told a story of a 50-something Uber driver living in Florida. He’d sold his business for $60 million dollars and purchased a house by the beach. Every day he goes for a walk by the ocean with his wife and dog. Of those walks, he said, “I see the same faces going this way, and the same faces going that way.” He drives in order to meet new people.
The reinvention of retirement lies partly in the hands of innovators in business and technology. But the stereotypical “innovator” is a 27-year-old man-child in a hoodie and sneakers—while the most powerful consumer on the planet is the 50-plus female. Women are the primary decision-makers for a majority of healthcare purchases, technology products, and automobiles.
Businesses must reset their expectations of the older market, or miss a multi-trillion dollar opportunity.
Nonetheless, innovative products for older adults exist, and more will follow. Many are in healthcare, but others, such as the dating and relationship app Stitch, aim to satisfy universal human needs for social connection, excitement, and delight.
The event concluded with a book signing of The Longevity Economy by Dr. Coughlin.