Find My Programme follows the newest trends and shares education industry insights. Today we will address a topic that was brought to our attention by the Dutch EdTech association and that is the place of older people in modern society.
What do older people in society have to do with education? The answer is very easy. “Throughout the course of human history, older adults have been respected and considered as the experts as they would pass down methods of e.g. making textiles and weapons, helping rear children and grandchildren, and would hold social history in their memories. Other society members would go to them for wisdom and advice”.
With technological advancements and lifestyles, we choose to follow, contemporary society is not asking for advice from older generations but simply use technology to find necessary answers, as it’s easier and faster. As a consequence, what is being observed is the fact that older people have lost their historic place in our social groups and no longer feel connected.
However, if we take into consideration the fact that populations across the globe are steadily aging, due to increasing life expectancy, lower fertility rates, and a modern lifestyle, the concern becomes even more real. To bring some numbers:
- Today around 30% of the population (roughly 90m people) is older than 55 and by 2050, this age class will represent around 42% of the total population, thus around 140m people (Ageing Europe- looking at the lives of older people in the EU- 2020 edition, 2020)
- In Europe, it is estimated that around 5k people will turn 65 every day between 2021 and 2030, driven by increased life expectancy.
- In France alone, there were 16.7m retired people in 2019 (~25% of the total French population) and on average, France is seeing ~720k new people retiring every year (Brighteye Ventures, 2022).
An important factor to be brought into consideration is that the current 65+ generation is no longer as technologically savvy as their predecessors. On the contrary, the digital skills and the presence of this population have increased between 2009 and 2020.
Source: by Brighteye Ventures (2020)
As stated by Kelly Twohig, “a majority of online seniors spend at least six hours a day online and own an average of five devices. These older adults go online for different reasons: staying in touch with friends/family (91%), managing their finances (87%) and improving their health/wellness (73%)” (Twohig, 2021).
Furthermore, according to the Office for National Statistics, about 80% of U.K. adults aged 55+ spend time online. Also, the proportion of individuals aged 75 and over who use the internet has nearly doubled in the past seven years (Office for National Statistics, 2021).
Considering that the 65+ generation enjoys a higher degree of freedom, which involves having more time, fewer responsibilities, and quite often more financial independence, why are we so stagnant about utilizing the older generation’s potential? This is especially important bearing in mind that older adults tend to not consider themselves to be ‘old’. As stated by Hannah Thomson, Founder and CEO of The Joy Club, what older adults realize is the fact that “they are in a distinct life phase and want to be with like-minded peers, with whom they can try new things and make the most of their retirement” (Brighteye Ventures, 2020).
Lessons for industry:
- Older adults have developed significant work and life experience that could be utilized in guiding younger generations in different contexts like schools, universities or workplaces. The gained knowledge and experience they have is often hard to access and even if partially outdated can still serve as a solid ground.
- Creating vertical marketplaces where knowledge is learned on the job and is usually hard to pass on to the next generation. This usually includes focusing on niches in such industries as energy or construction, where accumulated knowledge of 30-40 years is considered extremely valuable. The experience of older adults can be utilized via re-hiring retired workers to lead internal upskilling initiatives such as launching internal academies.
- Leading through a pre-retirement phase, ensuring 50+’ers are able to adapt to changing technologies and keep up with evolving requirements of labour environments until they reach official retirement age. This can be an opportunity for companies offering training courses and platforms.
- Opening an educational market for retired people that would incorporate education and socializing. Being retired does not mean putting everything on hold. On the contrary, with more time in their hands and following the lifelong learning concept, retired people who remained professionally active their entire life show a genuine interest to continue being engaged, learning new things, and sharing interests with individuals within the same age range. Creating learning/social hubs build on a strong sense of belonging to a specific group or community not only initiates opportunities to network (crucial for social well-being) but can also generate some great opportunities for both seniors and the industry itself.
Brighteye Ventures.com (2022) Learning for the over 50s: Untapped opportunity in Europe?, Available at: https://www.brighteyevc.com/post/learning-older-adults?utm_campaign=Dutch%20Edtech%20-%20News&utm_medium=email&utm_source=substack (accessed: 18 October 2022).
Office for National Statistics (2021) Internet users, UK: 2020 Internet use in the UK; annual estimates by age, sex, disability and geographical location (accessed: 19 October 2021).
Twohig, K. (2021) Consumer Insights, Why marketers’ picture of seniors is getting old? Available at: Digital habits of today’s seniors - Think with Google (accessed: 19 October 2021).