Demographic trends are inexorable: Italian society is aging, and it will grow older and older. That is why it becomes crucial to understand the needs and needs of people who are experiencing a "second youth" or a "third age".
That the Silver Economy is one of the key themes of the future (if not the present), is no longer a question of if, but of how much and how. As always, there is no better way to adopt a vision for the future than to start from the present reality, which in this case corresponds to the current and projected demographics.
The Istat showed for 2018 an increase in life expectancy at birth that, combined with the decline of the resident population, has generated a growth of the elderly population, which as of January 1, 2019 consists of 13.8 million people over 65 years, or 22.8% of the Italian population, of which 2.2 million (3.6%) over 85. In the future, however, the trend will become more positive. If we widen the horizon to the European scenario, the situation is not much different. A report by the European Commission shows that in 2015 there were 199 million people over the age of 50, or 39% of the total population.
The difference in the parameter between Istat (over 65 years) and the European Commission (over 50) has not escaped the careful reader: in fact, the question of identifying a unanimous definition of the target audience and the Silver Economy itself in general (or at least its perimeter) is one of the sore keys of this speech. Therefore, bearing in mind, however, the difficulties that result from this lack of universal uniformity, we will refer here to the definition of the Commission, which speaks of the Silver Economy as the "sum of economic activities that meet the needs of people 50 or more years of age, including also the products and services that these people directly benefit from and the additional economic activity that this expenditure generates".
If the "silver" component is evident in the light of these numbers, there may possibly be some doubts about the convenience of talking about "economy": well, the same report of the European Commission comes to our aid: if the Silver Economy were a sovereign state, its economy would be positioned, by size, behind only the United States and China. In total, these individuals consumed EUR 3.7 trillion in goods and services in 2015, contributing EUR 4.2 trillion to European GDP and supporting 78 million jobs across the Eu. Numbers that know an inexorable growth, estimated at 5% per annum (higher than all the major economies of the world, except China and India), mainly for the increase in the reference population that, in 2025, will be around 222 million people (42.9% of the total).
If, therefore, it is clear enough how much, and taken for granted the if, remains to be unravelled the how. In fact, there are potentially infinite variations that such a business can take on. To help us in this "dark forest", a macro-distinction that separates the component linked to the "third age" from that of the "second youth" can come to the aid. Quite intuitively, these definitions distinguish the elderly who for physical or psychological reasons are more linked to a "passive" use of dedicated goods and services and which, therefore, are part of the reasoning of non-self-sufficiency, home care and the health world, from those who instead enjoy a psycho-physical health such that "old age" is above all the opportunity to take advantage of free time after retirement. In particular, it is interesting to analyse this second category, whose productivity must be encouraged and developed, not frustrated. In essence, it is a question of focusing on two aspects that characterize the "elderly-young": the possibility of work and the willingness to consume.
As regards the first aspect, it is clear that work after the maturing of the requirements for retirement should be encouraged. Often, the economic convenience of getting rid of a senior for a young recent graduate does not compensate for the loss of experience; One of the crucial themes, therefore, is the formation of senior profiles, with a view to a re-education that keeps them updated – for example – with technological developments. For this reason, the so-called "University of the Third Age" are developing more and more, which aim to increase the attractiveness of these senior profiles precisely through training, as well as obviously generating a psycho-physical benefit for the elderly, who remain hooked on the world around him. Indeed, among the ten principles that make an University "age frendly", there is support for the desire to start a second career, intergenerational learning to actively involve in the community.
In addition, several studies demonstrate the great potential of start-ups started by over 50-year-olds: olderpreneurs have a competence, experience and a network of contacts resulting from a past working life that generate for the nascent business a survival greater than the average of start-ups. In addition, there is a greater availability of capital to invest in the company, as well as more free time to devote. It will be for these reasons that, as Barclays in the UK has pointed out, the proportion of over-55s who have started their own businesses has increased by 140% in recent years. In short, only a few flashes of what is an incredibly broad theme have been mentioned and which is in stark contrast to a generally passive view of the elderly, such as the introduction of the ban on the accumulation of pensioners seems to favour.
Speaking instead of the other side of the medal of "second youth", we must focus on the elderly "consumers", i.e. those who, after a lifetime spent working, having accrued the much-desired pension decide to take full advantage of their free time. Here the so-called Silver Tourism plays a dominant role: all the trends show a steady growth of the over-50s regarding the proportion of those who undertake tourist trips, but also more generally of those who actively employ leisure time. Specifically, the Commission is talking about 140 million tourists over 60 expected in Europe in 2030, four times as many as in 2010; most will come from Asia, then Europe, North and South America. A significant increase, considering that in 2013 alone 76 million over 65s traveled, almost half of the total, while more than 80% of tourists over 50 consider that at least up to 75 will make trips.
Therefore, some features have been identified that differentiate the experiences sought by this slice of the population from others: luxury travel, cruises, visits to family or friends, stays in spas and beauty farms, cultural travel and medical tourism. What many players in this market segment lack is the idea of a commercial offer built on those needs, rather than simply relying on marketing campaigns that wink at this population.
In general, the European Commission is working on a roadmap on Silver Tourism that helps companies seize the opportunity for growth: these involve responding to the needs of better infrastructure, accessible transport – especially straddling national borders – age-friendly hotels and inclusive technological solutions, or even just the inclusion of specific medical assistance in travel packages.
In conclusion, the much-feared challenge of ageing is increasingly becoming the subject of an all-encompassing and strategic vision, which sees it more as an opportunity through the involvement of technological and social innovations. A vision that, to paraphrase those who look to the future certainly did not fail, did not care about the next elections but of the next generations.