The Institute for the Ages

It is no wonder that many companies are beginning to explore the preferences of the aging population and consider what it will mean for their products, services, and workforce.{{more}} Research organizations are devoting more resources to exploring the physical, mental, social, and other needs of older individuals and communities.

In 2050, the world will look very different. The population is aging at an unprecedented rate. Today, 40 million Americans are over the age of 65. In 2050, nearly 90 million will be.

This demographic transition will require product, service, and policy innovation on a scale we haven’t seen before. We can’t hope to meet this challenge without engaging people of all ages and taking into account the environment in which we age. The complex interplay of formal and informal caregivers, support organizations, social networks, and the infrastructure in our communities all must be considered.

It is not by accident that the Institute for the Ages is located in Sarasota County, Florida. One-third of the population of Sarasota County is 65 years of age and older and nearly 50 percent of all households has a person over the aging of 65 living within. When community leaders realized that this demographic, unique in the nation, was a mirror of the global population in 40 years, they explored the possibility of forming an organization to help entrepreneurs, researchers, policy makers, urban planners and other aging-related professions shape the agenda for global aging.

The Institute was formed with collaborative private and public funding to provide a natural, community-scale test ground for innovative products, services, and policies for the aging market. The mission of the organization is to activate ideas that prepare us for the opportunities and challenges associated with aging populations.

Governments are facing a realignment of policy priorities, resources, political interests, and the very structure of their communities. Organizations are responding to this “aging tsunami” with varying degrees of success. Research organizations and product developers don’t have the access they need to study populations of adequate size to determine the efficacy of technologies and other interventions. These demographic changes will impact housing, healthcare, retail, leisure, entertainment, finance and many other areas. We have not yet developed incentives for the exchange of knowledge about health aging.

The Institute for the Ages connects older adults with organizations that need their perspectives. It enables research and development on a community scale, with older adults living not only in institutional settings, but in interconnected, intergenerational places. It gathers people together to address opportunities or problems related to the demographic transition. And it produces findings, products, services, tools or approaches for people and organizations that need them, when they need them.

The Institute recently announced that they have been selected to host the 7th International Positive Aging Conference Feb. 9 to 12, 2014 in Sarasota, Florida. They expect about 500 leaders, scholars and lifelong learners in all aspects of older adulthood to attend. How lucky for me that we spend our winters in Sarasota will be able to attend.

Joanne Byrne served as Senior Services Coordinator for the Town of Orange. She is now actively and happily retired. Email her at to share your thoughts on retirement.