50 Voices of the Future: Jon Schwartz on the impact of empowering the aging population

In honor of UC San Diego Extension’s first 50 years, 50 Voices of the Future asks thought leaders about the trends, breakthroughs and social advances they foresee over the next 50 years.

San Diego is in the midst of an aging explosion. As those in the baby boomer generation continue to age, the senior population is growing at a faster pace than the total population in the country. According to Aging and Independent Services, the 60-74 year old community will increase by an average of 130 percent by 2030. Jon Schwartz, the marketing director for Seacrest Village Retirement Communities, understands firsthand the impact this group could have on our community. Although concerns have been raised about providing adequate assistance to seniors, he believes there’s an opportunity to empower those who are entering their senior years.

Why is the work you do important?

Our government, media and culture are nervous about the explosion in elderly people and the burdens this may place on society. Concerns regarding access to adequate transportation, increased health care expenditures, lack of affordable housing and a cut in social services are all issues that we should be worried about. However, at the same time, this age revolution is an incredible opportunity for society. Never before have we had so many healthy, wealthy and wise older adults capable of making incredible differences in the world. As we grow older we become wiser, more philanthropic, more empathetic and are less likely to engage in violence and crime. Our motivations shift; mentorship and being a positive role model become imperative. Therefore, the work we do in exposing these skills is critical in making the world a better place.

What are the influential/exciting development happening in your field now and why?

I believe the most influential development happening in our field is the fact that 10,000 Baby Boomers turn 70-years-old each day. This generation will redefine the way we age. No longer are the “golden years” meant for just leisure. Everything from housing, transportation and medicine will improve as a result of this generation.

What’s the next big thing?

I believe technology and medicine will continue to exponentially improve. In terms of technology, we can expect to see improvements in the home to enable individuals to remain safe and comfortable. Today in Japan, the amount of seniors needing care exceeds the amount of caregivers able to provide this care. Therefore, they have begun using robots to supplement care. For example, they are used as medication reminders and to serve as companions. I anticipate this happening in the western world in the coming years.

In terms of medicine, we will continue to see incredible advancements in a race to extend healthy years in life. Many companies, funded by deep pockets and brilliant minds, are working on giving us all more healthy years. I believe they will achieve this through personalized medicine and customized nutrition. One day, everyone will have their genome sequenced, allowing clinicians to provide targeted therapies specific to our DNA.

How big an impact will your field play in shaping the future of the San Diego region and beyond?

The field of aging will place a monumental role on the future of San Diego. In the year 1900, average life expectancy in America was just 47 years old. Today, average life expectancy in America is 78. In just over 100 years we have gained an extra 30 years of life, which I feel is one of the most remarkable achievements in the 20th century. To me, history will prove that the 21st century will be remembered for the incredible things that society does in those extra 30-plus years of life. As global aging continues to surge, we will soon reap the benefits of millions upon millions of more educated, wealthy and healthy seniors than the previous generation. We will see the elderly use their time, wisdom and compassion to make the world a better place in ways that we have never seen.

Hop in to your time machine … what does the future look like for this field in 50 years? How can individuals/companies get prepared for what’s next?

I think in the next 50 years our society will continue to improve on providing opportunities for seniors to expose their talents and wisdom. I imagine there will be more inter-generational structures in the work place and in housing. I anticipate a greater percentage of seniors working, volunteering and being incredible assets to their community. This will all come about as our most disruptive age related diseases: dementia, heart disease and cancer, will have better therapies.

Jon Schwartz is the director of marketing at Seacrest Village Retirement Communities. He has been a featured speaker at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at UC San Diego, a membership program for adults over the age of 50 who want to be part of a learning community with peers.


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