While America has given birth to the song “Young at Heart”, and the phrase “you’re as young as you feel!” can be heard from coast to coast by millions of people, demographic trend point firmly toward the other direction: aging.
Currently, the 65+ population comprises slightly more than 12% (35 million) of the total US population. By 2030, this percentage is predicted to almost double to just below 20% (71 million)[i]. In other words, within a generation, an unprecedented demographic reality will exist in the US: 1 in 5 Americans will be older than 65.
This is indeed news worth celebrating, because it means that more Americans are living longer, healthier lives than ever before. Yet this trend also presents some very real health-related problems that American society must solve.
Various sectors are frenetically trying to position themselves to deal with this aging demographic inevitability. The dental care field is loudly lobbying to increase awareness and resource-support for age-related ailments such as defective denture and reduced saliva-flow conditions[ii]. At the same time, the allied health care field is similarly trying – and admittedly struggling — to develop the immense resources, such as many more doctors and nurses, who will somehow absorb the imminent and overwhelming old age-related demand for surgical procedures and other health care commodities[iii].
Yet while the dental and health sectors strive to adjust to this demographic trend, the nutritional sector has not kept pace. A quick look at any health food store shelf will see energy bars and powders that are (according to their marketing images) suitable only for high-performance (e.g. young) consumers. Similarly, the nutrition sector has not done a good job at destroying the myth that macronutrients such as protein are essential parts of all healthy diets – regardless of age.
The nutrition sector’s general neglect of the senior community is something that is just barely beginning to show as the population ages, and as the “baby boomer” generation of 76 million strong moves towards retirement[iv]. However, it is inevitable that this service gap will become larger as the future unfolds. Essentially, tens of millions of seniors are going to need to find new and innovative nutrition solutions possibly for the first time in their lives.