Aging spells opportunity for bio-economy

Every day we are bombarded with information about investments that will give us security and/or growth.
Why? The market is growing!
Those who study population growth and health now predict that 50 percent of the “baby boom” population will see the age of 100.
And 70 percent of the people over 65 will need help in the home as they live to that ripe old age.
The population of Thunder Bay and environs is 125,600 as of 1996. The rest of the region is 85,930. So the city has 59 percent of the population of NWO.
Some 13 percent of Thunder Bay’s population is now 45-54; they are the “baby boomers.” Extended to the region, that makes over 27,490 people.
So if one-half that number gets to age 100, the prediction is, for 13,745 centenarians in NWO!
And that’s not counting the people who are above age 54 already.
If 70 percent require home help after the age of 65, that makes for over 9,600 people 15 years from now. Unless something changes drastically, there will be more and more older people after that.
What does it mean for you and me?
First, our chances of living a long life continue to improve. If we want to enjoy that life, we ought to do things to keep healthy and save some money.
Bankers and investment counsellors can do us a good turn.
Second, our business institutions will need to respond far more creatively to this demographic shift than by giving seniors discounts.
Products and services geared to older people should and will abound.
Third, it illustrates how far we already have moved into the bio-economic era. Life science and life enhancement are becoming more and more important economic drivers.
By contrast, the resource-based industries of NWO employ ever fewer people.
“Gen-Xers” and younger people should consider training for health service employment. But the least amount of that is likely to be hospital-based.
There is a broad spectrum of opportunity. All sorts of home care and home help will be needed. Medical knowledge, paramedical skills, massage and diet therapies, exercise regimens, counselling, companionship, and much more will be part of the new health services tool kit.
Most of all, a strong service orientation will be important.
I believe there already are trends leading in these directions. Examples are the search for new spiritual expression, interest of music therapy and story telling, a wide variety of support groups, growing respect for caregivers, and counselling and coaching for people living with minimal impairments.
Beyond that, signs of the bio-economy also include gene therapies, research into brain functioning, tissue regeneration, tele-medicine, new technology combinations, and new fields of health care specialization.
What a fascinating time we live in–if we can exercise our inquiry and imagination in response to change forces.
Our aging population is one of those.
Linda Wiens, president of Quetico Centre, is an educator, organization advisor, writer, and editor in Northwestern Ontario.

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