Series: Population Growth and Aging

This is the first in my Series, presented with research, data, articles, links, context, and opinions. I hope you enjoy the Series, and please feel free to contact me directly. We can discuss a multitude of regional & world issues and explore potential solutions. I’d look forward to hearing from you.

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The world’s population is rapidly growing and aging.

These topics rarely seem to be discussed with the same urgency as climate change or renewable energies or global poverty. For the first time in human history, seniors over the age of 60 will outnumber children under the age of 14. Throughout all of human history, over two-thirds of all people that have lived to age 65 or older are alive today. In America, baby boomers turn 70 at the rate of 10,000 per day.  The population doubled in the past 47 years. As the population doubles again, from 7.5 billion to 15 billion – almost certainly within a century – we’ll experience extreme challenges meeting new demands with the rapid adjustment in demographics.

The average age of principal farm operators in America has steadily risen from 50.5 in 1984 to 58.3 years in 2014 and has been greater than 50 since at least the 1974 Census of Agriculture for the United States. This isn’t unique to the U.S., the average age of the Filipino farmer was 57 in 2013: “We might reach a critical [shortage] of farmers in just 15 years,” said Asterio Saliot, director of the Department of Agriculture – Agricultural Training Institute (DA-ATI). According to their most recent (2007) USDA Census of Agriculture in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, farm operators under the age of 35 accounted for less than 6% of all farmers and held less than 1% of all farm acreage.

 

 

This disproportionate age of farm operators comes at a time when millions of people worldwide are migrating into urban metro areas. We’re losing our farmland. Whether in the CNMI; Fresno, California; Brazil; or Indonesia the land is more valuable when sold as property for urban development than as farmland. Meanwhile, population growth demands ever-more food supplies. And pests are destroying our existing crops. The Fall Armyworm can cut maize yields by 60 percent and accounted for up to $5.5 billion in African maize harvest losses across 28 different countries. We’ll need the know-how of generational farmers to help educate ‘best practices’ and establish the new generation of aquaculture farmers in urban environments for our continued survival.

 

So what to do with the aging population?

This isn’t being addressed in most countries. In America, places like Florida, are neglecting their duties for senior care. Elderly patients died in their assisted-living facilities after Hurricane Irma because they didn’t have power generators and reasonable emergency preparedness.

Compare that with Japan, which has the highest percentage of seniors, the elderly aged 65 or older accounted for 26.7 percent of the 127.1 million total population in 2017. The number of people in Japan aged 90 and above topped 2 million for the first time. They’ve created the Fureai Kippu – their brilliant complementary currency to help care for Japan’s aging population.

 

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When the U.S. Constitution was crafted (1787), the average life expectancy in the U.S. was barely 36 years and the median age was a mere 16. When Otto Von Bismark picked 65 to be the marker of old age in the 1880s, in preparation for Germany’s first pension plan, the average life expectancy in his country was only 45. Similarly, when Social Security began in the United States, the average American could expect to live only 62 years, and there were 42 workers paying for each “aged” recipient (the term “Social Security” is only the nickname for OASDI – Old Age Survivor and Disability Insurance).

It is estimated that by 2034, the ratio of workers will decline from 3:1 to 2:1 – of those paying taxes to support Social Security beneficiaries.

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Consider the health risks latent in plastics, toxins, medications, water, pollution, foods, and pesticide exposure over a longer period of time. Let’s consider a basic factor like water contaminants in the simplest of terms. Forget about 4 parts per million of chlorine or 10 parts per billion of arsenic or 100 ppb of chromium. From bad pipes, nonstick cookware, plastic water bottles and food containers, from water treatment processes. Just imagine, as a simple hypothetical exercise, that a person ingests 2 particles of toxins per liter of water they drink or cook with, and they consume a mere 2 liters of water per day. Through age 45, that would total 65,000 toxic particles ingested. But extend their life through the age of 70 and that is over 100,000 toxic particles accumulated inside one’s body.

We’re constantly bombarded by radiation, toxins and chemicals. Cell phones likely cause health problems. Fire retardants used in mattresses. Termite control chemicals used in wood treatments for furniture and other pesticides. Waterproofing, stain resistance, color dyes, and petroleum-based fibers in clothing. Additives in soaps, toothpaste, and deodorants. Food preservatives. Common construction materials and paints/finishes. Pest control and weatherproofing treatments for outdoor woods – used in decking, docks, and telephone poles leach into soil, groundwater, and well water. Animal farm and industrial waste products destroy our fragile ecosystem.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), air pollution is the single largest environmental health risk. Globally, about 1 in 8 deaths were attributed to air pollution in 2012.

These considerations are likely factors in higher rates of cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, allergies and asthma, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, ADHD, and autism. The world faces greater challenges due to heat stress, desertification, food insecurity, massive climate change refugee populations and urban migrations. While fertility rates decline. While people live longer, requiring a share of the world’s resources as population explodes beyond what the planet can reasonably sustain. We will be forced to address more advanced health care needs and concerns. But income disparity means a lot of people cannot afford to retire in comfort nor receive the care they will require. Welfare systems are already stretched thin.

 

Dr. Ken Dychtwald is an expert on the aging population, founded Age Wave, and has written multiple books; like With Purpose, Age Wave, and Age Power: How the 21st Century Will Be Ruled by the New Old. In Dr. Dychtwald’s fantastic book, With Purpose, he describes how the elderly do not prioritize income over ideals like: involvement, volunteerism, making an impact, and feeling valued. Many people tend to adjust their values and goals around the age of 45 to 55. He’s coined the term “middlessence” for when people transform from monetary and material pursuits into wanting to live their life With Purpose. Understanding and recognizing this pattern of development could prove supremely valuable…

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So what to do with the elderly?

The big question people might ask is: “How can we monetize this?”

Why not plan for the impending need? Appeal to seniors that want a comfortable retirement, maybe on less wealth. Perhaps they would appreciate a unique opportunity to stay involved in their community while also giving back.

I have tried to present many potential solutions to many important issues to many civic leaders over the past 15 years. I understand these ideas can seem farfetched and outlandish to those uninformed. But my view is that the status quo simply isn’t meeting the demands of today. And most certainly will not meet the increased demands of the near-future.

 

We need to build better solutions.

The solutions are likely complex.  Most policy and governance is inherently focused on the short-term. Our problems are complex, yet we try to solve them in a 1:1 ratio. Homelessness? Offer subsidized housing. Poverty? Fund soup kitchens. Unemployment? Start job centers and hire job counselors. Economic development? Form some committee or advisory board. Rising crime rates? Increase policing.

But everything is connected… So, let’s connect things.

 

Explore cross-platform solutions.

Instead of viewing seniors as a net-loss to society, withdrawing a fixed income from retirement benefits without contributing much to tax revenue or otherwise… Let’s value their incredible knowledge accumulated over their many decades of living. That knowledge base should be extremely valuable.

Especially in a time when the education sector is always short on funding. Colleges still don’t have a requirement for classes in parenting as part of standardized curriculum. We may lack community centers as they’ve been converted into housing, fitness gyms, malls, or movie theaters. Income inequality means a lot of poor people cannot afford college as tuition and related costs continue to rise faster than inflation and earned income. People need social spaces — places to exchange information and knowledge. It has helped local Starbucks thrive, co-share workspaces like WeWork raised $4.4 billion in funding, and Meetup.com surpassed its 100 millionth member event RSVP in 2013.

 

The exorbitant costs associated with caring for our aging population have to come from somewhere. But where? Let’s unpack this conundrum and find new solutions to age-old problems (!).

I often describe that my brain is wired weird. For some, the term is divergent thinking. Perhaps it is creative thinking. It certainly isn’t like most. Generally, it is considered a ‘bad’ thing, because it means I am different. But somehow, I hold onto the belief that it should also prove to be my worth.

I don’t unpack details in the same manner as most. I don’t think in terms of ‘layers’,  like peeling an onion. I don’t merely see cause-and-effect. It is all in parallel – these factors all coexist. I mean, funding for needs. We’ll increase bridge tolls to pay for costly transit and infrastructure projects. We’ll increase sales tax or homeowners/property tax. We’ll increase income tax. But these policies only reshuffle the deck of cards, they don’t create more playing cards.

 

These necessary funding costs will challenge economies – while unemployment skyrockets due to artificial intelligence and increased automation. While advanced educational attainment levels drop. While offshore manufacturing and outsourcing continues to trend upwards in our global economy of consumerism. While climate change imposes more catastrophic natural disasters and massive financial loss across the globe. While more than 1-in-4 adults aged 65 or older have diabetes. While nearly $150 billion is being spent on cancer care in the United States alone with nearly 40% of Americans diagnosed with some form of cancer within their lifetimes.

 

Let’s connect our seniors with our youth. Let our elderly help mentor and teach. In any and every imaginable field. Parenting, cooking, architecture, law, business management, landscaping, urban planning, metallurgy, creative writing, photography… It doesn’t matter. Do something a few hours per week that helps contribute. Make that impact, stay engaged within the community. And get something in return.

Create a time bank system, like the Fureai Kippu. This would help them directly contribute towards their assisted-living or health care costs. Or a community currency that gives them a small amount to spend on locally made/produced goods and services. This would help extend their retirement savings by lessening their financial burden on direct living expenses. While circulating more money — that remains within the localized economy forever.

 

What NOT to do.

One thing needs to be clear. The status quo is ineffective.

Current methods of generating funding to help solve assisted-living, senior care, and health care do not work. The landscape of the corporatization of America, in favor of short-term profiteering, does not solve long-term needs. It only helps the rich get even richer.

Multi-billion dollar health care companies, like Kaiser Permanente, can pay a simple $2.2 million Medicaid penalty as easily as they can handle a slap on the wrist for their infractions. Medical billing is a complicated process where the providers don’t want anybody to know how much they actually charge. Even if you cannot even get medical care when you actually need it. It can even be hard to find a doctor. In the most simplistic terms, imagine each Affordable Care Act (ACA) patient is worth an average $1,500 per month in government health care subsidies. $2.2 million is barely 122 patients in annual revenue out of millions they cover. All in the name of profit, all worthwhile as a value proposition of making more money and risk those few instances in which they are caught for their ignoble violations.

 

The notion of affordable housing is just as ineffective. Fresno uses Tuff Sheds to house the homeless. Silicon Valley’s wealthy City of San Jose plans to build a “tiny home” village that is upsetting everybody. Subsidized housing costs of $660,000 per unit are problems from San Francisco to St. Paul. In other political arenas, the favoritism and ‘consultancy fees’ (read: bonus) for those already established within the circle of power, like Tom Richards in one of America’s most impoverished cities, Fresno, CA… received a $1 million bonus for building 69 affordable housing units at a cost of $11 million.

 

Want an even more ambitious solution?

How about targeting and appealing to recent retirees to move to your community? Maybe they seek a more affordable way of life in retirement. Others want a simpler lifestyle or a different climate – weather or political or otherwise. Some want adventure. There are retired expatriates inhabiting countries all around the world. And, potentially, there will be hundreds of millions of climate change refugees – displaced from their homes over the next fifty years and beyond.

What if you sought out 1,000 or 3,000 retirees who could be interested in moving to your region? With a relatively ‘small’ retirement account, perhaps it incentivizes them since their savings could be stretched to go further. $1,250 in allotted monthly expenditures equates to $180,000 over 12 years and $300,000 over 20 years, without interest or inflation considered. 1,000 such retirees at $15,000 per year would create $15 million in new annualized economy. With the internet and a global audience, would it be all that difficult to attract a relatively small number — to a program dedicated to offering a unique value proposition specifically catered to meet their retirement needs?

Many countries have programs allowing for citizenship to those with money or business investments. Dominica offers its Second Passport program. Canada, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Malta, Grenada, Saint Lucia, Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Malaysia, Thailand, and other countries offer citizenship by business investment opportunities. What about for retirees with pensions or a lifetime of savings?

 

Combine a multitude of factors into a solution. Address multiple issues.

Monetize it.

 

Design, create, and implement a system where retirees can stay involved doing something they are good at; need a relatively low cost of living; expect a certain quality of life, infrastructure, cultural offerings, health care, and safety.

Planned assisted-living environments could cater to their specific needs. Which could help also fund (and make available) health care for local residents – both the young and the elderly. While drawing talented retired professionals. And these certain economic contributions can be created – in exchange for a relatively fixed cost of living for an aging population.

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Please ask me how I can help you.

Even with just a bit of research, I’m certain I can help develop an outline of specific cross-platform solutions that can help you and your region. I can help research, design, plan, implement, and execute.

I’m available to assist you in any ways I can.

I am available to move anywhere in the world and help in any way – on the most difficult of challenges. I likely could work for less than $1,000 per month, depending on cost-of-living in your region. I would move to any impoverished area. I am not afraid of whatever hardships in living conditions I would face. I want to help solve any of the world’s toughest problems.

I hope to hear from you. I hope to help you. Thank you.

david Saipan