When Hollywood and the fashion industry converge on a theme, we should probably pay attention. Last year, the venerable Women's Wear Daily pronounced the "$21 billion Boomer Market" -- which both understates but also indicates the trend. With a billion of us over 60, why wouldn't Michael Kors, Donna Karan, Calvin Klein, and Robert Verdi see us as a market? Why wouldn't they design things just for us?
Note to designers: make our pants with deep pockets. The over-60 demographic in America holds over 70 percent of disposable income. While equivalent figures are harder to get in other "old" nations -- like Japan, Korea, China, and much of Europe -- everything we know about the economics of aging suggests that there is a substantial market here that any business would want to tap into. No lesser an organization that BlackRock has conferred as much, most recently in their recent white paper, "The Longevity Dividend."
And Hollywood gets it. Tinsel Town is keenly aware that there is a market beyond the teen and millennial fascination with the silver screen's version of video games. What we're seeing now is a new genre evolve where "older" stars are the heroes, as in Red and Red 2, which must be doing well since HBO plays Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren and John Malkovich about every 3 or 4 weeks.
And then there's the delightful and truly insightful Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, both the original and the sequel. The franchise added Richard Gere to the star-studded, gray-haired cast that goes from the UK to India to find new lives, reinvent retirement, have great sex, and win the war against prior century's notion of "aging."
Indeed, it is nothing short of inspiring to see Dame Dench on a moped going to her new job where she manages and improves the work for a bunch of the employed youth who could be her grandchildren; and it's equally empowering to see Maggie Smith overcoming her hip replacement surgery and running the hotel.
As for Gere -- his silver hair is nothing if not part of his charisma in a love story where two people find each other later in life. And it is not inconsequential that the franchise has now sparked entrepreneurship itself, as Elizabeth Isle's Senior Entrepreneurship Works demonstrates in their creative partnership across the world.
But Hollywood is just getting started. The latest is the genius take on nostalgia in the form of the new The Man from U.N.C.L.E., which explores exactly how and why the two spies came together in the 60s TV series. Now, millions of Boomers will finally have the mystery solved on how Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin joined forces, and, as the movie concludes, they've clearly set it up in a way to spin off multiple sequels.
Clearly someone at Warner Brothers sees lots of money to be made, and as there is no gee-wiz 21st century technology gadgetry, you can bet they see their demographic as those who watched the TV series during the height of the Cold War.
But the really cool thing about this new genre in Hollywood is that it provides a provocative counterpoint to discussions about population aging that have mostly taken place in wonkier settings -- like policy discussions, roundtable debates, and even corporate boardrooms. Here we see the movies fulfilling the role that art has long set out to do -- to mirror and dramatize the tensions that shape our society.
Enter Tribeca Film's Intern, starring Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway, and directed by Nancy Meyers. The film is due out late September, but the trailers reveal that the movie will use comedy to explore a profoundly serious topic -- how to re-imagine retirement from a time of hobbies to a time of serious work.
Let's thank Hollywood for this cultural installment of illustrating the 21st century workplace. It's a much-needed complement to so much other work going on in less sexy settings. In early September for example, I will attend a meeting with the OECD at Oxford University to explore Ageing and the Digital Economy. We will be joined by leading voices from business, academia, NGOs, labor unions, and more - and collectively we will articulate how the digital economy becomes a platform for growth as populations age.
It's a serious, profoundly important topic -- but also one that can use a bit of comedy and high-fashion.