The seven myths of population aging

Populations are getting older and businesses that are quick to adapt to this trend can reap the benefits for both their customers and employees.


The global population just keeps on growing. There are now five generations of consumers and a workforce that is rewriting the rulebook with regards to traditional ways of working.

According to research from Accenture, today’s global population aged 60 or over makes up approximately 10 per cent of the overall population of 750 million. By 2050, it’s expected to soar to over 20 per cent of the population to more than two billion people.

An ageing population asks new questions for businesses. Commercially, there are opportunities to be realised but as an employer it’s evident that a fresh approach is now required as notions of retirement begin to change.

Read about how the ageing population is proving both a boon and a burden for companies and the way in which they perceive not only their customers, but their employees too.


In 2050 there will be over 2 billion people in the world that are over 60 years old.

Key Insights

From Asia to the Americas, populations are getting older—a trend that is likely to continue for decades to come. So far, however, while perhaps acknowledging the existence of this trend, policy makers and business leaders have done little to prepare for it. In many cases, this inaction stems from misconceptions about older workers and consumers. We have identified seven common myths surrounding aging populations and highlight how organizations can find growth where others see only cost and limitations.

Myth #1: Emerging economies will balance out the ‘silver tsunami’ of developed economies.
Reality #1:

Population aging is a Population aging is a global trend that affects many emerging economies

Myth #2: Countries with aging populations face decades of low growth
Reality #2:

By taking steps to increase the employment of older workers, countries can avert economic stagnation

Myth #3:

Employment is a zero-sum game, so retaining older workers will only worsen the crisis of youth unemployment
Reality #3: Retaining older workers is likely to increase overall employment growth

Myth #4: Older workers tend to be less productive
Reality #4:

Organizations can sustain older workers’ productivity by adapting the workplace to their needs

Myth #5: The entrepreneurial spirit tends to decline with age
Reality #5: Older people are more likely to set up a new business, and they’re less likely to fail

Myth #6: Older consumers are an unattractive demographic for marketers
Reality #6:

Older consumers have vast purchasing power, making them an untapped opportunity for marketers

Myth #7: Older consumers are less likely to adopt new technology
Reality #7: The digital divide isn’t inherently age-based, and it will close over time


Realizing Opportunities
Both business leaders and policymakers must recognize that now is the time to address population aging. As a starting point, business leaders can assess their company’s preparedness on key dimensions, by asking the following questions:

  • Have we quantified the opportunities arising from population aging?

  • Do we offer flexible, tailored work models that support the changing needs of older workers?

  • Do we have programs and incentives that encourage the exchange of knowledge between generations?

  • Do we have detailed customer profiles and market intelligence on consumers aged 55 and over?

  • Do we have an innovation strategy focused on the needs and preferences of older consumers?

  • Policymakers can make a start by focusing on the following questions:

  • Does our education policy include a strategy for supporting lifetime skill formation?

  • Are tax and pension systems aligned to encourage older people to stay in the workforce?

  • Do our digital policies sufficiently address the needs of an aging population?

  • Are we stimulating and leading discussions among researchers, business leaders and policymakers on the issues arising from an aging population?

  • Are we addressing the barriers—such as access to capital, or regulation—that frequently stymie the entrepreneurial potential of the older population?

For further insights read:

About the Institute for High Performance

The Accenture Institute for High Performance develops and publishes practical insights into critical management issues and global economic trends. Its worldwide team of researchers connects with Accenture’s business leaders to demonstrate how organizations become and remain high performers through original, rigorous research and analysis.

Research Team

Mark Purdy

Managing Director and
Chief Economist

Athena Peppes

Thought Leadership
Research Manager

Julika Erfurt

Business Strategy
Senior Manager
Accenture Strategy