Getting older, but still young at heart

07/16/2014 10:05:00 AM
Tom Karst

Tom KarstWe were cruising through the lobby of my in-laws’ retirement home the other day on the way up  to their apartment for our regular a visit and we noticed a crowd gathered on the back patio of the facility. As I peered out the glass doors of the patio, I observed several TV crews were among the throng gathered.

As I stepped on the back patio area, I saw colorful chalk marks on the cement, noting best efforts among the seasoned citizens who were competing, yes, in a good old-fashioned watermelon seed spitting contest.

I hope when I’m 80 or 90 that I can have a summer afternoon like that - outside, having a little throw-back fun. Spitting seeds, or thinking more ambitiously, throwing a baseball with a grandson.

As a country, we are getting older. As individuals, we are not necessarily accepting that fact.

My younger brother and his wife are attending a Paul McCartney concert in Kansas City this evening, and the 72-year old Sir Paul is still rocking the house.

The Census Bureau recently reported the median age for the U.S. as a whole rose from 37.5 years in 2012 to 37.6 years in 2013. As the oldest baby boomers became seniors, the nation’s 65-and-older population surged to 44.7 million in 2013, up 3.6% from 2012. The youngest of the baby boomers, my brother included in that group, is just entering their 50s.

The aging of America will, of course, accelerate. We have known and heard plenty about this reality for years. It is woven into the debates about immigration, social security, health care and virtually every other issue that people care about.

There will inevitably be more knee and hip replacements, more walkers, more “jazzys” (motorized wheelchairs) and slow drivers.

The percent of the population that is over 65 increased from 11.4% in 2000 to 12.7% from 2008 to 2012. But, in the words of the BTO Boomer classic, “baby, you ain’t seen nothing yet.”

By 2015, a middle estimate from the Census Bureau predicts that the 65 and older crowd will increase to 15% of the population, rising to 17% by 2020, 19% by 2025 and 20% for 2030. The percent of the over 65 crowd will grow to 21% of the population and cling to that ratio through about 2050, according to the Census Bureau.

Get ready for more than a few education sessions at trade shows in coming years about how this demographic transformation will change the produce industry. Will it mean more delivery services, the explosion of online shopping, expanded foodservice sales to retirement homes, reduced consumption of fresh versus processed fruits and vegetables, throwback brand marketing at retail, new fresh produce varieties with targeted health benefits, or perhaps something else? What changes do you think are coming?

One thing is certain: you and I are headed in more or less the same direction. In about 25 years, I’ll look for you on the back patio for the seed spitting contest - if we can still find watermelons with seeds by then. And we’ll crank up Sir Paul.



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