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Inclusion Innovations for All Ages

October 08, 2018
6 min read

To meet thought leadership and convening needs that advance inclusive leadership in a time of rapid demographic change, GMF recently inaugurated its new Inclusive Leadership Hub in Paris, France. This continued growth in GMF's inclusive leadership portfolio addresses a critical need on both sides of the Atlantic.

The Hub is set to host annually its signature “Inclusive Leadership Summit” and on a more intimate scale, four “Inclusion Strategists” conversations. In this frame, the inaugural Inclusive Leadership Summit took place in Paris September 27–28, convening 70 rising leaders who are actively guiding inclusive leader networks that create pathways for diverse talent into leadership. Over two days, this group exchanged strategies to optimize their networks and increase their influence and impact. We invite you to read some of the thought leadership for this event here: Optimizing Inclusive Leader Networks.

“Innovating Across Generations: How we can we best leverage impact investing toward innovations that make our societies more inclusive regardless of age?” just prior to the Summit, opened the Inclusion Strategists series as an intimate session among experts. This discussion, hosted in collaboration with AARP, the largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization in the U.S. dedicated to empowering Americans 50 and older, drew over 20 leaders representing business, civil society, and government, ranging from their early 20s to over 70, and modeled the kind of dynamic and strategic conversation about inclusive leadership that GMF will continue to host through the Paris Hub. We invite you to gain insights through the brief interview with French and U.S. lead participants that follows.

Scott Frisch, chief operating offficer at AARP, and Nicolas Menet, chief executive officer at Silver Valley, please share your experience during the Paris Hub Inclusion Strategists session, and describe how the conversation about inclusivity and age is changing in the United States and Europe:

Scott Frisch: The message of changing the conversation in the United States and globally about what it means to age is a universal theme, and this discussion confirmed that. This issue is not just relevant in the United States, nor just in Europe, it is important all over the world. This issue transcends countries, it transcends industries, and it transcends organizations.

Nicolas Menet: It was striking to get a sense of the AARP’s initiatives and their breadth. We feel that their work has a massive impact in the United States, touching the lives of several hundred million human beings, and this is very interesting for us and for the startups that we support. For us at Silver Valley, technology is not the only solution to all of today’s problems, which is also something that came up in the discussion. It is also about how to change our attitudes toward aging and find new innovative solutions for the elderly. One participant stressed that whenever we talk about inclusion of seniors in society, it is fundamental to be able to understand and include their opinions in creating solutions. These two items are important to deeply understand the elderly’s lifestyles and visions, so as to offer them the most accessible and useful innovations, and not simply to focus on technological solutions merely because they are technological. 

To what extent does the entrepreneurial ecosystem today serve the needs of older adults?

Scott Frisch: The ecosystem is just starting to awaken. The culture of innovation is just starting to realize or recognize that the older market is big. We use a term called the longevity economy, which represents in the United States for people 50 and over, 7.6 trillion dollars of economic activity for this market. That is a tremendous market that has huge potential. I think organizations and companies are just starting to realize how big that cohort is.

Nicolas Menet: The European ecosystem today is very developed, especially in France, because since 2005, and then consequently in 2010, 2013, and 2016, we have had a government that legislated on silver economy, on homecare, etc. which created the most favorable conditions for the development and modernization of the silver economy in France. Today we are one of the most advanced countries in the field. Asia, for example, looks a lot at what we do as they will be faced, in 20 years’ time, with more than 400 million people over 60.

So today, the ecosystem that has been built around the silver economy is in a mode of constant rethinking and those involved always come up with new innovations and ideas. Today a lot of public money is devoted to this sector as we face an important societal phenomenon, demographic change. Indeed, societies change, societies age, and every Western country is concerned with this trend. Nevertheless, it is an ecosystem that still needs to be developed and that must do so quickly as the population ages. We must find the best solutions to address society’s future needs.            

Is there a general lack of adaptation to technology among older adults that constrains innovation?

Scott Frisch: There is a myth that the older you are, the less comfortable you are with technology. Studies have shown that, that is changing. Today's 50-year-old is vastly different than the 50-year-old of 30 years ago as is the 70-year-old from 30 years ago. As the generations age and the 50-year-old becomes the 60 and the 70, their comfort with technology will continue with them as they age.

Nicolas Menet: I do not believe it is necessary to adapt the new technologies for the older generation because today a 50-year-old person owns and uses a smartphone like me and you or a 15-year-old person. Hence, I do not believe that technology limits and restrains innovations. A 50-year-old person is completely capable of using a smartphone and will still be able to do so in the future. They are also capable of using connected objects and are comfortable with new technologies. Today, the digital divide is more toward 75-year-olds, at least in Europe, and for them there is a lot of work that needs to be done.

For the future Western market (Europe and United States), new technologies need to adapt in order to meet everybody’s needs. It is important to understand why we use technology in the field, which types of needs new technologies must address, etc. The question which must be answered today is the question of utility rather than one of adaptability. We must ask ourselves what is going to be the use of new technologies for tomorrow’s seniors.

We look forward to the September 19-20, 2019 Inclusive Leadership Summit on Achieving Political Inclusion, as well as to upcoming Inclusion Strategist sessions including a deeper dive into intergenerational questions such as equity, disparities and changing demographics of the work force in connection to rapidly aging populations in the United States and Europe, and the inclusivity strategies that are needed to make this intergenerational connection a success.