Newer Older

    With Matt Marshall and Jody Holtzman, SVP of AARP yesterday.

    Here are some of the points I shared:

    The 50+ market is huge and a large untapped opportunity for entrepreneurs. In the U.S. alone, there are 100 million people over 50, and that number grows by 10,000 every day. By 2025, the entire nation will look like Florida does today. Demographics is destiny — the aging population is a perfectly predictable dynamic that will have massive economic repercussions. They already represent a disproportionate 45% of U.S. consumer spending, and healthy aging is already a $515 billion business (Furlong).

    The boomers are qualitatively different as well, both from the generations that preceded them, and from common assumptions. Advertisers often focus on the 18-34 year old segment to find adopters of new products. Let’s compare that to the 50+ segments. The 50+ spend 2.5x as much, and dominate the entire market for some segments (60% of all CPG and automobiles, 80% of leisure travel). But are they laggards? They are 3x as likely to buy online as the 18-34 segment. They buy the most hybrid cars, iPads and even online dating services.

    But are they looking to retire? Learn new tricks? Boomers are actually the most entrepreneurial age cohort. The per capita company formation rate for people over 50 is double that of 20-somethings and 30% higher than 30-somethings. Many of these businesses feed into the eBay economy, and in the future, when crowdsourcing companies like servio help create a marketplace for information services, then boomers could be America’s outsourcing alternative to off-shoring. (I testified to the White House Conference on Aging on that topic)

    Matt asked me how we have invested in this segment. I mentioned Posit Science which reverses age-related cognitive decline with games that promote neural plasticity, especially in the sensory cortex (since that generalizes to many improvements in memory and cognition, since noisy inputs degrades the higher level constructs). They have found an average reversal of 10 years of cognitive decline, and in an auto insurance study, a 50% reduction in at-fault crashes!

    And as I looked around the room, I pointed out that for those of us over 30, we are already in the long dive of cognitive decline (evolutionarily, there was not selection pressure for a life extended much beyond the breeding years, and our healthcare advances have done more for the body than the mind).

    By almost every physical measure of brain function, the slope of cognitive decline is the same in the 30’s as in the 80’s. We just notice more accumulated decline as we get older, especially when we cross the threshold of forgetting most of what we try to remember.

    But we can affect this progression. Prof. Merzenich at UCSF has found that neural plasticity does not disappear in adults. It just requires mental exercise. We will look back to the current day and marvel that we thought we could stay mentally fit without exercise. We will look at it like we do physical fitness. Few modern careers offer the degree of physical and mental exercise required to remain fit.

    But the form of exercise differs. Physical exercise is repetitive; mental exercise is eclectic. Do something new. (Here’s my short HBR article on this). Lifelong learning is not just about enlightenment; it’s an economic imperative.

    And since it was DEMO after all, I have to share a link to the beta version of the BrainHQ for anyone who read this far and would like to demo the latest from Posit Science. =)

    Top photo by Stephen Brashear of DEMO.

    solerena, zenera, scleroplex, and 12 other people added this photo to their favorites.

    1. jurvetson 77 months ago | reply

      At the age of 2 to 3 years old, children hit their peak with 10x the synapses and 2x the energy burn of an adult brain. From my blog post on Celebrating the Child-Like Mind
      Univ of Virginia, Cognitive Decline by Age

      Source: University of Virginia

      And from an earlier flickr post on aging expert Ken Dychtwald:

      “Throughout most of history, people didn’t age.

      They died.

      For 99% of human history, longevity was under 18.”

    2. Astrocatou 77 months ago | reply

      Maybe they were thinking more like developing a product line that appeals to the group...
      I mean bigger ticket items:
      riding lawn tractors with better suspensions
      self driven and directed lawn mowers...
      Cupboards that adjust in height...
      or....I don't know exactly what....low maintenance something or other...

      Something helpful is more likely to be a hit than "Alzheimer prevention puzzles"...

    3. solerena 77 months ago | reply

      great staff on baby boomers, useful thoughts, nice portraits here too, especially the one in the middle;):)

    4. jurvetson 77 months ago | reply

      dave halliday - Absolutely right on the marketing. While the need might be restoration, the marketing should be aspirational (e.g., "be my best self", "stay sharp") There may be an analogy to marketing sports equipment - a person might be running to lose weight, but they buy shoes aspirationally - to be like Mike.

      And a Kindle with fonts that are easy to read, or a robo-car that drives itself might appeal to the 50+, but provide performance benefits to all.

    5. Happy Tinfoil Cat 77 months ago | reply

      Funny you should mention Mike, he'll be joining the 50+ club within year.

      My reflexes, hearing, sight, memory, health, etc. are fading and I can grudgingly accept that as natural, but it terrifies me that my mind is decaying.

    6. scleroplex 77 months ago | reply

      scammers and con artists are all aware of these facts.
      no one else!!!!
      thank you for this.

      plus, you look great in this photo, though you may well need a marimekko shirt :-)

    7. jgury 77 months ago | reply

      Some demographics are not destiny arguments:
      I think destiny is destiny and much bigger than any demographics. Demographics are much more subject to rapid change without notice than we would like to think about too. So to make yourself comfortable just ponder the fact that dinosaur demographics had little to nothing to do with their ultimate destiny. After that you can deal with some other more disturbing facts like how the current world demographic owes a whole lot to one stubborn Russian submarine missile launch officer. I am not sure what roles destiny and fate play for today's epicure scientific rationalist. They are rather problematic now aren't they? Things that are still fundamentally beyond control, but not entirely unknown on many levels. Like the existence of souls, and spirits, along with all those other higher unknown powers and forces. For sure you can't just deny them clinging to the faith that science and rationality will prevail in ruling the world and explaining everything, trumping all those aspects of nature and humanity. I forget the details, but I do recall that yesterday's epicure scientific rationalist thinkers tended to the comfort of fatalism for these nagging questions.

    8. seatonsnet 77 months ago | reply

      This is very interesting work you are doing Steve. This sudden mass of old people may be the greatest revolution of our time.

      Our culture, food, tastes, habits of thought, in no way prepare us for living so long.

      If you think that most of the great men and women of history, with all their sublime works of art, literature and philosophy, didn't make it till 50 and didn't even have electricity or running water, we have to wonder if these added years of ours and our technical advances, are going to be a blessing or a curse, for society and for the elderly themselves. (full disclosure, I'm 67).

    9. jgury 77 months ago | reply

      David Seaton I'm not so certain about some of these age statements. "most of the great men and women of history, with all their sublime works of art, literature and philosophy, didn't make it till 50" When I do an evoked set I come up with very few young historical greats vis-a-vis the over 50 crowd. The only two really young achievers I can come up with are Alexander the Great and Adi Shankara among the men and most of those well documented Biblical women like Esther were pretty old and Cleopatra would probably have made it to 70 without all that romance, intrigue and suicide in her late 30s. Or take the US founding fathers as a group. That average age has to be in the upper 60s. Leonardo da Vinci, 67, JS Bach 75, on and on, but under 35? For China and Japan not one young Zen patriarch or Taoist master I can come up with. Age tends to be highly correlated with being a patriarch or master so that is somewhat unfairly biased. Also, "evolutionarily, there was not selection pressure for a life extended much beyond the breeding years" that is definitely false for male mammalian evolution, what with all that viable breeding potency up till death, alpha male dominant harems, and much much more.

    10. seatonsnet 77 months ago | reply

      This would tend to give you the idea that to live long in those days you had to be wise, but that today any fool can live to a great age... maybe that is the problem we are facing.

    11. jgury 77 months ago | reply

      David Seaton I think it helped more to be wealthy than wise back then and that is still very much in force. However, yes, one big problem we are facing now is the lack of consequences for foolish choices and behaviors along with things like large scale health insurance and, some would say-not me of course, too much wealth and power in the hands of seniors.

    12. jurvetson 77 months ago | reply

      jgury - When you say:

      "evolutionarily, there was not selection pressure for a life extended much beyond the breeding years" that is definitely false for male mammalian evolution, what with all that viable breeding potency up till death"

      Well, those are the breeding years, by definition =) The males just got themselves bumped off in silly squabbles by about 18.


    13. jgury 77 months ago | reply

      Steve Jurvetson According to this abstract, getting enough Vitamin C and antioxidants had more to do with longevity than things like sex:
      This Kinsey era one is full of interesting terms and conclusions after you skim over the bug sex and get to the summary about pleiotropic gene selection, sex and senescence:

    14. jurvetson 66 months ago | reply

      and from GigaOm today:

      "The AARP is looking for some good Baby Boomer entrepreneurs to back...

      The AARP has some strong statistics on its side: every day, 10,000 more Baby Boomers join the 50+ demographic, which includes more than 100 million people, and, as a group, they spend $3.5 trillion a year."

    15. jurvetson 64 months ago | reply

      jgury - but vitamin C is so much less aspirational... =)

      P.S. from today's WSJ:

      "A government-funded study published this month found that playing Double Decision can slow and even reverse declines in brain function associated with aging, while playing crossword puzzles cannot."

      This follows "a multi-year, government-funded trial, known as ACTIVE, showed that participants followed for six years had a 50% lower rate of motor-vehicle accidents following cognitive training"

    16. ivanpw 59 months ago | reply

      I'd like to let you know that I am using your photo for my blog post about

      Thanks for releasing this on CC!

    keyboard shortcuts: previous photo next photo L view in light box F favorite < scroll film strip left > scroll film strip right ? show all shortcuts