Americans turning 65 today can expect to live to age 78, on average, but the ones who don't smoke, exercise, and eat right are likely to live well into their 80s. In 2000, people over 80 represented 1.5% of the U.S. population; by 2050, they are projected to occupy 5% of the total U.S. population, according to the Census Bureau.10 There will be more than one million centenarians in 2050, up from 71,000 today. In fact, some gerontologists believe many baby boomers will have life spans of more than 120 years.11
And the longevity revolution is not just happening in the United States. The number of South Koreans age 65 and older is expected to surge from 9.1% to 24.1% in 2030 and to 37.3% in 2050—the highest in the world.12 The number of people in Japan age 90 or older topped one million for the first time in 2005.13
Longevity has already had a huge impact on the marketplace, especially in health. Already, traditional companies are repositioning themselves. Intel is no longer just a chip company; it is a technology and health care company. Philips hit a home run with its home heart defibrillator and has now moved into the home alert space with its acquisition of Lifeline. Many consumer products companies are now looking into the lucrative home spa product and service business. The anti-aging space is taking off, as are businesses catering to the activities and passions that active adults enjoy. Each of the challenges of aging—from vision and hearing loss to heart disease, diabetes, and cancer—is also a market opportunity. The fact that many boomers have high cholesterol has led to giant sales of pharmaceuticals such as Lipitor and Crestor.
Longevity also means that with average life expectancy at an all-time high, more people over 50 are remaking themselves at midlife. They are leaving worn-out jobs to start their own businesses. They are traveling the world for catered peak experiences with like-minded souls. They are rekindling marriages or starting new romances after divorce, widowhood, and empty nests. They are buying second homes and nostalgic collectibles. And they are volunteering in greater numbers: Nearly half of all Americans age 55 and older volunteered at least once in 2005.14