The megatrend Silver Society: demographic change in Europe


Older man sitting in a library reading a book - Silver Society
The most important facts about the “Silver Society”

reading time: ca. 5 minutes

  • Unlike "normal" trends, megatrends can reshape a society and have a global impact. 
  • The megatrend Silver Society defines elderly people's role in our society which is becoming more and more relevant and positive.
  • In future, the older generation will aspire more towards self-determination and social responsibility than towards success and status.
  • Companies need to establish future-oriented measures to motivate elderly employees as well.

Demographic ageing is visible worldwide and influences all areas of life. At the same time, the idea of "ageing" is changing from a resting lifestyle to a more active and engaged one.

As a result, we need to adjust to an ageing society and develop meaningful measures with foresight. But the megatrend Silver Society also brings numerous opportunities with positive effects.

What is a megatrend?

Trends are both observable and difficult to influence: They are capable of triggering a new social, economic or technical movement. In 1982, John Naisbitt first used the term “megatrends“. The concept is still part of today‘s futurology. 

How does a trend become a megatrend? There are four factors determining the emergence of megatrends:

  1. Duration: They are long-term and last for several decades, to be more precise at least 50 years.
  2. Globality: They are global, but they do not occur everywhere at the same time and to the same extent.
  3. Complexity: They help to make a multifaceted and highly complex social change understandable.
  4. Omnipresence: They do not only show up in society, but also in politics, media, culture, consumption and last but not least in everyday life.

Megatrends provide guidance in times of change and transformation. They combine a variety of individual trends and can transform entire societies.

Older woman sitting in a café and laughing - Silver Society

Just in the German-speaking countries, the “Zukunftsinstitut“ has currently defined eleven megatrends: New Work, Female Shift, New Learning, Connectivity, Mobility, Globalisation, Neo-ecology, Individualisation, Health, Urbanisation and Silver Society. This article takes a closer look at the megatrend Silver Society.

In the future, retirement will no longer be a time of rest. Instead, elderly people will continue to be professionally active. They have a high level of professional experience and a broad-based network within the industry they have worked in. This can be an opportunity for companies in particular by changing retirement rules and job descriptions, as well as enabling lifelong learning and age-appropriate workplaces.

Elderly couple standing in front of a house - Demographic change

The megatrend Silver Society

The ageing of our society is a global reality. The decline in birth rates and increased life expectancy are two relevant aspects of demographic change. The Silver Society describes the challenges and opportunities of societal ageing.

Based on the following four assumptions about the future, the perception of an "ageing society" will be transformed to "best agers":

  • “The old" used to be: Elderly people think and act more "youthfully" than young people themselves.
  • Quality of life as the greatest asset: An ageing population brings topics such as mindfulness or social engagement into the mainstream.
  • Age-diverse teams: Diversity in companies also means combining young and old people both in teams and in leadership.
  • Pro-aging: A new mindset has emerged called "pro-aging", which takes a more positive view of ageing.

In the future, people will not only be older, but increasingly healthier and more active. Even in retirement, the Silver Society, for example, wants to contribute to society. The "new old" are fond of travelling and consumption. Individual and easy access to education, technology and mobility provides them with new opportunities. 

Opportunities and risks of the demographic change in Europe

The megatrend Silver Society is a consequence of demographic change. The shift within the population pyramid towards an older age group creates both risks and opportunities in Europe.

The amount of Europeans actually going to work is getting smaller and smaller. The fewer people who go to work, the greater the workload for the individual employee. For this reason, proactive solutions must be found to increase productivity.

As already shown by the assumptions about the future of the Silver Society, the older generation will strive more and more for self-determination and social responsibility. Success and status are no longer the issue, but instead each individual will want to realise his or her own potential. In the process, new forms of ageing will emerge, which will also offer opportunities.

Silver Society promotes a rethinking and a liberation from cultural ideas of ageing. European countries such as France or Germany are already engaged in "active ageing" programmes.

How does the Silver Society influence companies?

If elderly people are working longer than before, companies need to establish future-oriented measures. The level of loyalty and commitment of older employees towards the company is crucial.

First of all, an age-friendly corporate culture is an essential element to promote diversity proactively. The exchange of experiences between young and old employees creates an improved decision quality. Not only do the older employees pass on their knowledge to the younger ones, but knowledge can also be passed on vice versa in terms of digitalisation.

Flexible working time models can also motivate older employees and reduce their workload. Increased investment in health management is beneficial in the long term for the entire staff and effectively prevents diseases.

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