Americans are living longer than ever before, and in the years to come, increasing longevity will challenge the U.S. and nearly every industry that serves older adults. This includes reverse mortgage professionals, according to one expert on aging who spoke during a reverse mortgage industry conference this week.
Longevity is both the greatest gift and the greatest disruption of the 21st century, explained Kathryn Lawler, division manager of the aging and health resources division at the Atlanta Regional Commission, at the 2016 National Reverse Mortgage Lenders Association (NRMLA) Annual Meeting & Expo in Chicago.
The idea of longevity used to be somewhat “cute” and when someone would live past 90, it would show up in the newspaper and would be a feel-good story. Today, however, it is no longer longevity for the few, but longevity for the millions.
“It fundamentally requires a reimagining of everything we know—in the language we use, the way we think, the way we frame our issues and certainly in the way we deal with individuals and the way you need to deal with your clients,” said Lawler, who delivered the keynote welcoming address at this year’s NRMLA conference.
Older adults in this country are no longer taking retirement at 65 in order to sit on a beach until their day comes. People over age 65 produce over $1 billion in wages in Atlanta alone, according to a study by the Atlanta Regional Commission. The shift is in when people are actually deciding to retire, if retiring completely at all.
In addition to business adapting, as the reverse mortgage industry will be tasked to do, companies who have a larger portion of older workers will have to be flexible to keep seasoned employees from retiring.
“Big companies know they won’t survive if everyone retires at the standard predicted rates,” Lawler said.
Longevity is going to challenge every aspect of American life. It also directly correlates with how reverse mortgage professionals are doing business, as the industry will need to embrace the fact that one prospective borrower who is 75 years old will not, and should not, be treated the same way as another 75-year-old client.
“If we accept longevity as the greatest disruption of the 21st century, we are going to have to find a radically different way of looking at the world in which we live and rebuild everything in our society to make sure it is going to be here for everyone,” Lawler said.
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