Opinion: Maturing population creates new investment opportunities

portrait of happy smiling senior couple using laptop and credit card at home

A growing number of companies are basing their business models on servicing or supplying the expanding population, says Peter Sharkey. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Hitched together by nothing more fateful than a desire to eat lunch at the same time, my wife Clare and I were ushered to a table where two ladies of a certain age were already seated; both smiled and greeted us warmly as we sat down, the initial coupling process quickly and genially complete.

We were enjoying our second day aboard the Indian Pacific, a half mile-long train travelling between Perth on Australia’s west coast to Sydney, more than 2,000 miles to the east, though Clare and I were due to disembark at Adelaide, a mere 1,325 miles away .

The elegant, air-conditioned dining carriage contrasted starkly with the baked brown landscape of the Nullarbor Plain, mile upon mile of sand and rock gradually being brought to maximum heat by a relentless, beating sun. The carriage’s ad hoc seating arrangements (all tables were set for four) were a great way of getting to know different people and so it proved with Ursula and Rose, our lunchtime companions. Conversation, riddled with laughter, continued.

It transpired that both ladies had left the UK almost a fortnight earlier, breaking their journey initially in Dubai before flying to Hong Kong prior to travelling to Perth. Upon reaching Sydney they planned a “few days’ retail therapy,” after which another flight would whisk them to Auckland and a 10-day cruise around New Zealand. Once their ship returned them to Auckland, they would fly home.

We were exhausted just listening to their itinerary. “Well, you can’t take it with you,” said Rose. “No,” Ursula confirmed, nodding, before adding: “and there are no pockets in a shroud.”

Unbelievably, Rose was aged 86; Ursula 93. They each looked as though they were in their early seventies.

Our memorable Indian Pacific lunch took place around 15 months ago, but I was reminded of our adventurous dining companions after receiving an email earlier this week which detailed possible post-pandemic spending, saving and investment trends.

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The incoming email’s attachment outlined the consequences, some immediate, several likely to take much longer, of ‘the road back to normality’.

Clearly, it declared, we’ve adapted to completely different ways of going about our lives: buying online and arranging home deliveries has become second nature for many folks. The propensity to binge-watch box sets on TV could, the paper suggested, permanently usurp cinema as a means of entertainment; working from home could leave great swathes of office space unoccupied for years, while staycations are, for the time being at least, as popular as they were before Freddie Laker’s Skytrain arrived on the scene.

Yet although we find many of our new ways and habits acceptable, either because they’re convenient (home shopping) or less stressful (commuting), eventually our lives will resemble their pre-March 2020 pattern.

One of the future themes the paper considered was investments in products and services targeting the ageing population.

Image of passenger commercial aircraft taken from below, showing the airplane from the bottom side i

Could foreign holidays be once again on the cards for the over-55s, post-pandemic? - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

For people fortunate enough to live in the West, life expectancy has risen dramatically since 1945, thanks to the availability of better food, housing, free healthcare and remarkable advances in medicine. Yet over time, as fewer children are born in industrialised nations, the proportion of the population aged over 50 has risen steadily and will continue to do so.

Accordingly, a growing number of companies base their business models on servicing or supplying this expanding population cohort; these include innovative pharmaceutical enterprises, specialised real estate agencies, financial companies and travel-related businesses.

One particular fund (the $680 million-valued iShares Ageing Population ETF) caught my eye, as much for its recent performance (up 21% in the last 12 months) as for the areas of commercial activity in which it invests - healthcare, financial services and discretionary consumer spending account for 93% of its 300-odd holdings. One of its largest investments is in travel website TripAdvisor.

Pensive dreamy elderly 65s woman sitting on couch holding tablet looking out the window feels health

Checking on the availability of hotels and making travel arrangements has become easier for 'silver surfers' over the past 12 months, as their digital skills improved to keep them connected during the pandemic. - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Regularly advised by their children or grandchildren on how to activate video calls via Zoom or Teams, or execute other internet-related processes, ‘Silver Surfers’ have come into their own over the past 12 months. Many are now conversant with digital terminology and understand how to implement what once seemed like impossibly complicated online instructions.

As a consequence, checking on the availability of an hotel in Jacksonville or an Airbnb apartment in Buenos Aires has become second nature for folks sporting more than the odd grey hair. Booking flights, cruises and train journeys across Australia is similarly straight forward; I imagine Ursula and Rose, together with millions of similarly intrepid ‘you-can’t-take-it-with- you’ mature travellers are chomping at the bit to get back on the road.

THE WEEK IN NUMBERS

  • 57 trillion - It was revealed on Tuesday that the geolocation app, what3words, which divides the whole world into 57 trillion 10ft x 10ft squares, was responsible for saving the life of a 70-year-old cyclist in a remote part of Yorkshire after two other cyclists checked the app to see where the injured man was.
  • 5th - It’s been announced that the genial Clive Myrie, one of the coolest men on television, is to become the new presenter of Mastermind following the retirement of John Humphreys. Myrie becomes the show’s fifth presenter.
  • 300 - Following the government’s Defence Review, deemed ‘the biggest revamp since World War II’, the size of the British Army will be reduced to 72,500 fully trained soldiers, the nation’s lowest number of troops for 300 years.

ONLINE

One year on… Read Peter Sharkey’s blog exclusively at www.moneymapp.com/blog

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