It’s no secret that, around the world, the number of people over age 65 is increasing.  In the United States alone, the number is expected to double in 25-30 years to 80 million.  The result will be a large increase in the percentage of the population made up of older people, from the current 13 percent to 20 percent.

This type of shift doesn’t occur without tremendous impact on virtually every aspect of our lives.  That includes new challenges and opportunities for business as well.  For every area that will be undoubtedly be stressed by the longevity trend, there will be areas of growth.  At the same time healthcare experiences tremendous pressure to keep up with the demands on it, leisure activities, including travel, will see tremendous growth.

The decrease in the number of workers supporting a growing population of non-workers will be problematic, especially from a social programs cost perspective.  On the flip side, many more retirees than in previous generations will have not only the financial means but the physical ability – thanks to improving healthcare – to travel well into their eighties and nineties.

Older travelers will increasingly seek out more active travel experiences traditionally associated with younger travelers.  Leisure travel programs focused on adventure, education, health, and fitness all stand to benefit.  Expectations of products, services, and discounts designed exclusively for travelers will grow and, accompanying that growth, will be innovative new approaches for marketing to this segment.

For companies in the business of delivering travel-related technologies, older travelers will increasingly be far more comfortable with – even reliant upon – a variety of technologies, especially mobile devices and applications including a variety of “wearables.”

In hospitality, efforts are underway to provide products and services to an aging population.  Many of the same business practices and employee skills are transferrable leading to a natural progression from hospitality-only to a hybrid consisting of hospitality, senior housing, and continuing care (Marriott, for example, is already a leading provider of senior living residences).  Similarly, a growing segment of the population will seek to take advantage of innovative living arrangements fully-staffed homes, full-time spa living, serial cruising, etc.

From a planning standpoint, the bottom line is this – “older” is no longer synonymous with unhealthy, inactive, and many other words typically associated with aging.  As a consequence, many assumptions need to be questioned by businesses of all types but, especially travel.  Opportunities are emerging for new strategies and for new product and services to be introduced.