Aging as an Engine of Innovation, Business Development, and Employment Growth

Sunday July 1, 2018
  • Magazine Article


Despite the changing definition of “old,” older adults’ increased physical activity, and continuing high levels of engagement in the workforce for much longer than in the past, aging is typically viewed as more of a challenge than an opportunity in our society. To be sure, major challenges exist. Figuring out how to cover the additional costs of social safety net programs for the frail elderly, for example, is unquestionably a major issue (Atkins, Tumlinson, and Dawson, 2016-17; Hoagland, 2016-17). However, we believe aging can be a new engine for innovation, business development, and employment growth in the U.S.

This article makes the case for such an age-focused economic development strategy. Toward this end, we begin by setting the demographic context, presenting data on both the current state and projected future of aging in the U.S. Next, we highlight areas in which major opportunities exist to innovate, form new and expand existing businesses, and create jobs aimed at facilitating successful aging and creating age-friendly communities. We conclude by discussing areas in which major policy changes are required to sustain and expand the strategic focus on aging-anchored economic development.


Johnson, Jr., J. H., Parnell, A. M., & Lian, H. (2018). Aging as an engine of innovation, business development, and employment growth. Economic Development Journal, 17(3), 32-42.