Color & Control:

The future of aging

Following the immortal words written by DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince, baby boomers are about to shake things up…again! For their next hit, listen for their influence on seniors,
aging well and the role of caregivers.

By Shirlee Sharkey

Baby boomers—those born after the Second World War, between around 1946 and 1964—are often referred to as the most influential generation of modern times. This is perhaps due to the sheer size of the group (more than 75 million in the US and 10 million in Canada), combined with a curiosity and thirst for advanced technology and new thinking about science. Baby boomers can legitimately take the credit for thousands of innovations and approaches that have changed the very fabric of our society. They benefited from the development of the polio vaccine, which kept their children safe. They influenced pop culture, and played a major role in the meteoric rise of television and how it changed families by providing a window into the lives of others. Boomers also transformed computers by shifting from a mainframe focus to personal devices. The list goes on!


Do you remember Toys ‘R’ Us in its heyday? The dominance of this juggernaut destination for parents and kids grew out of boomers’ demands for new, different and educational toys and products for their children. Toys ‘R’ Us was one of the original “category killers”—previously, toys and children’s products had been sold in traditional department stores. Toys ‘R’ Us directly addressed the needs of boomers and blazed a trail for other unique stores that catered to specific needs. Today, with Amazon and other online retailers, the influence of Toys ‘R’ Us has waned, but the shift it caused in the retail world remains a very relevant example of the boomers’ impact on consumer culture and behaviour.

Bust a move!

With 10,000 boomers turning 65 every day, It will be very interesting to watch how they influence society as they enter the fourth quarter of their lives.

At SE Health (Saint Elizabeth Health Care), we have just finished writing a book with research and consulting firm Idea Couture, titled The Future of Aging. It covers many of society’s foundational shifts related to aging well. We found that a dedicated resource for this did not exist in Canada, so we set out to fill the need. In addition, the book explores topics such as the economy, technology, the aging workforce, income disparity and seniors’ loneliness. Each shift is explored using lively and interesting seniors who each have a lesson to impart. It is the fictional seniors that are used as a vehicle to share stories and context that make this book come alive—it is a very approachable, digestible and well-researched piece.

Our research for the book told us to watch for technology to continue to play a starring role in the future, but we also learned how identity, humanity, innovation and scaled solutions will be celebrated approaches. We are planning to launch the book in mid-June, so please visit to find out more as that time approaches.

My generation

The band The Who sang the classic song My Generation. One key lyric reads, “People try to put us down…Just because we get around.” When that song was released in 1965, there was generational conflict—Western society was fraught with disputes between young people and their older counterparts. Because of some of these challenging interactions, baby boomers learned the importance of peace, standing up for one’s beliefs and full rights for all people.

The boomer generation proudly defined what was important to them, and made it happen. More recent generations rely on Twitter and other social media platforms to communicate and interact. On these new platforms, no filter is necessary—users can post their true opinions and beliefs and, in that activity, are able to influence organizations and share their views widely. Young people today are heavy users of Amazon and subscription services, which they use to take better care of themselves and their families. This begs the question…

What is next?

I hope adjacent generations will continue to work together to customize life experiences that complement and leverage individual talents. I am convinced that people and their caregivers will continue to play a key and critical role, and I look forward to innovations that further support them.

From a generation that survived and thrived under the cloud of the Cold War, nuclear threats and political uncertainty, I have every confidence in boomers’ collective ability to ensure they make the world a better place. I look forward to seeing what is next with curiosity and fascination. As boomers age, they will have a birds-eye view of the world of the senior. Based on their viewpoint, I cannot wait to see what needs and innovations they will discover.

Shirlee Sharkey is president and CEO of SE Health. SE Health delivers excellence in home care, builds capacity through education, creates new models of care and accelerates digital health and wellness technologies.

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