Jackie Ferguson: Thank you for tuning into our show. My guest today is Bradley Sherman. Bradley is a demographic futurist and opinion maker on business longevity. He's the founder of The Super Age, a global strategic advisory firm. Bradley helps organizations understand how shifting demographics and mega trends are remaking social and economic norms. He's the author of the book, The Super Age, Decoding our Demographic Destiny. Bradley, welcome to the show.
Bradley Schurman: Thanks for having me today.
Jackie: Of course. Bradley, I always like to start by just asking our guests to tell me a little about yourself, your family, your identity, anything you'd like to share.
Bradley: Yeah. I'm from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. That's a big part of my identity, in large part because the socio-cultural elements there leave such an impression on people. It's hard to get away from the place. even though I haven't lived there for twenty-five years.
I'm the son of Gary and Carol Sherman, my dad's a doctor, my mother's a teacher. And I suppose that my path is a bit different than most people in my family because I left, I left Pittsburgh I moved away and I moved to Washington DC because I wanted to try something new, explore my own identity and, you know, realized moving here that I was comfortable as a gay man.
And that has influenced my perspective on the world. And I'm not sure if people will see the video cast of this, but I am white. I don't hide from that. and I realized that obviously with that brings certain privileges as well as certain challenges, that I think I'm getting more comfortable exploring.
Jackie: Awesome. Bradley, thank you for sharing that. I want to get into exactly what, I said demographic futurist, right, in your intro. Can you describe what a demographic futurist is?
Bradley: Yeah. I think a lot of people think of futurism is kind of BS a BS science. But my brand, a futurism, doesn't just kind of look into a crystal ball and give you an idea of what could come. It's actually based on, on a lot of heavy research into where populations are where they move looking at historic trends, as well as past behaviors, human behaviors. And from there we can, you know, with pretty reasonable accuracy predict how certain events will turn out. we have a very good idea, of what the labor market will look like you know, 5, 10, 15 years out, in large part because we have done such a good job as a society of capturing data.
People don't realize this, but the American government in particular, although I will give lots of credit to the UN and its agencies, the European countries, obviously some in east Asia as well, Korea and Japan, really good at capturing data. So we have a sense of what our population trends are and what they will look like for the foreseeable future.
Jackie: Wow, you know, you're right. When you hear the word futurist, a lot of us are like, okay, this, this might be some hokey information, right?
Bradley: They always feel on that way.
Jackie: Exactly what you said, there is so much data that we can be looking at and the issue with most of us, right is we don't take the time to do that. We are moving through our day and just taking it as it comes and surprised by everything which is different from, you know, how you think about things, right. We're just taking it as it comes for the most part.
Bradley: Right. And it's really hard for a lot of people to see the future because we're in a very knee jerk point in our society where we lunge from one crisis to another. I mean, it's just like, we can't seem to get out of this cycle of, of crises and headlines in the news.
So the ability to be able to step back and say, well, actually things aren't that bad, throws people off a bit, you know, in many regards and I know this is tough for people to hear, but we're, we're many more. Living in the golden age of man, you know, we have a high survival rate for children, the highest ever, our life expectancies are longer than they ever have been.
For the most part, we have great mobility, obviously there's things that we can fix there, things that we should work towards bettering. But man, we're in a really good place Right. now. It just doesn't feel like it, in large part because of the news cycle.
Jackie: That's interesting. Bradley, let me ask you this, so we very often, you know, between what, what's happening on our phones and our TV and what we're seeing on our computers, like are moving from what you said, crisis to crisis, and we're thinking about that every day, all day. how should we be navigating the world with that perspective, should we be limiting how much time we spend looking at the news and Twitter and all of those things? How do we, how do we make it feel better for ourselves?
Bradley: So this is, this is really a universal answer to most of our challenges remain curious. The big issue that we, we run into all the time, and I think we saw it, we've seen it throughout the, the advent of social media, but certainly in the last two election cycles, is that because of the algorithms, the way they're built, we're getting our news in a bubble and then we further bubble ourselves off.
And we think that our worldview is the worldview. So when we encounter somebody who is contrary to us we hit them with almost like this combative tone. How could you be so wrong? but if there's one thing we know about people is that they're, they're not necessarily built on extremes. They're built on shades of gray.
So, you know, there's, it's, it's easy to find commonality with folks. If you're curious about understanding who they are, and certainly in this day and age, we can't take all news at face value. we have to be willing to get out of the headlines. We have to be willing to consider reading more long form reporting, which is really difficult for a lot of folks in this day and age, but getting your news from twitter getting your news from Instagram or even Tik-Tok. I mean, I don't know if you're following the war in Ukraine very closely, but like there's real time stuff coming up on Tik-Tok about Ukraine right now.
And while it's, it's good to follow these things and to see them take. And wait for the things to digest before you make any harsh conclusions one way or the other, because there's an incredible amount of misinformation out there. And I think a lot of times in the, in the, in the rushed report, some nuances missed.
Jackie: Absolutely. That's good advice Bradley. So let's talk about your, your company is The Super Age? What is The Super Age?
Bradley: So we're entering into a new period for humankind where our societies are getting quite old. And this is happening because of two colliding trends or mega trends, the first is that we're having a lot fewer babies than ever before. Our birth rates are really at their lowest point in human history, in most of the Western world.
And, and also in parts of the Eastern world as well Europe in particular but also the United States, Canada, large swaths of Latin America as well as most of east Asia. It's really quite shocking how birth rates have just plummeted from place to place. In fact, the only places you'll find really high birth rates right now are on the African continent and a few tiny little countries in, in Latin America. But on the whole birth rates are down.
The second thing is, is that due to scientific innovation, social innovation, clean water access to food, we have an incredibly high survival rate now through childhood. many of us live into adulthood more than ever before. and this is allowing us to live much longer lives because of it on average. The super age is when one out of five people in a, in a society are over the age of 65. This is a UN designation it's accepted, but for a long period of time, it was really considered to be a negative. it was just like, this is when the wheels fall off the bus folks. Like this is when this is what all the problems hit us at once.
And the reason for that is because for most of human history, you've had a lot of young people at the bottom of a pyramid and very few people at the top, the young people held up the few old people, well, today that's really squared off and in some countries that's actually inverting. So you've you. If we don't change the way we do our business, if we change, change the way we do our work, if we're not more inclusive of older populations in our economy, in our society, then that, that pyramid will tip over.
It just can't hold itself up anymore. so that forces us to challenge a lot of historical bias, about older populations and to really be, be intentional about, about inclusion, including them, in work and in the community.
Jackie: Bradley, when we think about your organization, can you describe how your work with companies help them recognize the trends and how do you help them navigate this super age, and you know, the changing demographics in the workplace?
Bradley: Yeah. I mean, one of the biggest challenges is that this, this, this, my company requires a lot of education, and that's a big reason why I wrote the book was to get that education piece out there so people would understand what demographic change means for their bottom line. And for most organizations, we like to start with the workforce.
Let me be clear about this. You know, a lot of these trends that we were predicting were coming, you know, 10, 15 years out, just a few years ago, and then the pandemic hit. And the pandemic really is a truly transformative, a truly disruptive event for society, so most of these things that we were expecting in 2030, maybe 2035 happened in the past two years.
So we help them understand what this transformative period, this compressed transformative period means for them and for a lot of businesses, probably most of the people that you work with, Jackie, understand this term, great resignation. Well, great resignation wouldn't have happened if there hadn't been a great retirement or a great redundancy. In fact, during the pandemic, we had an excess and extra 1.5 million retirements than we would have had during a normal period.
Well, we were already getting to a period where smaller populations were going to cause a labor force crunch. This sped that up. So when you layer on top of that two years of, of pseudo independence for people who had knowledge, jobs, that ability to work at home have a flexible schedule, take care of their kids, maybe take care of their parents and a business now says all Right, time's up, back to the office. They now have the leverage, the power to push back against their business, their, their employers, and say, Yeah I'm sure there's a better deal out there somewhere else, but it's because in large part of this removal of older people from the workforce, either through redundancy or chosen retirement, that the market conditions exist.
So, today's workforce looks a lot less like pre pandemic and a lot more like post-World War II. And in the post-World War II period, up until when the first boomers entered the workforce, you know, we had a nearly 50% participation rate of older men, people over the age of 65 in the workforce today, that's about 20%. So in order to keep our economy humming along here, in order to beat down inflation to a large degree, we have to bring older people in that will help lower our labor costs.
Jackie: Wow, you know, Bradley, I'm going to tell you, you just answered a question that so many of my peers have been saying, like what happened to all the people? Because when we're thinking about this great resignation, it's like everyone is, you know, has available jobs and it's hard to fill them. And what happened to all the people is the question that we're, I'm hearing again and again, and that's what happened. That's the answer.
Bradley: This This is exactly what happens. So when we, when we talked to businesses now, the conversation's a lot more, first of all, the predictions were a lot more prescient that I think people realize two years ago. there's a tension in the media. Around. And in fact, I did a piece for Newsweek just a few weeks ago on the subject. But we, we instruct businesses that they have to consider a new business case for engaging workers.
And the first is that they're going to have to compete for talent. Like they'd never have before. And typically, you know, it's through salaries. That's how we were trained to think. Well, we'll get people with more money. People want more than that today. They want, they want a new benefits package. they want to feel, they want to feel like they're part of something. They want to have purpose. They don't necessarily want to be a cog in a machine. So purposeful work is something that, that folks are looking for.
The second thing is that businesses will have to augment their workforce with artificial intelligence and automation, wherever possible. So this is a little contrary to the HR practice piece, maybe, but it helps businesses better understand how they can make work, function better for their employees. So, you know, the fact that we're doing this right now on a digital platform, this would have been virtually unheard of two years. in fact, think about how often you had a zoom call prior to the pandemic. It just, it wasn't part of our culture, and now it is.
So digital tools can help streamline work in ways that that benefits everyone, but it's augmenting not replacing workers because you do need that human component in virtually everything today. The, the third piece is support. your workers need help right now, they're in pain. They need help with, with caregiving, they want flexibility, these are things accompanies can do. we've proven it time and time again. Just do it. figure out a way to do it, or you won't be able to get the talent and the last piece and probably the most important one is if we don't extend working lives, we're stuck.
If we don't have people working, we don't have people consuming. If we don't have people consuming, the market starts to flatten out. it could actually go into recession because of it. so extending, working lives can be helped with two different interventions. The first is ergonomics making sure that our workplace is inclusive, that people of different abilities, people at different ages feel comfortable can use the space, but also through education, you know, these people that are working today, their assets now they're not disposable, they’re assets. You want to keep them as long as you can. so through those two lenses, through those two practices, you can really make some big change within an enterprise.
Jackie: Well, that is fantastic. And Bradley, tell me how do we, and certainly you got into it just there a second ago, but how do we best support older generations in the workplace? Right. So we, we want them to continue to stay and not say, you know, what time for retirement, right? How do we, how do we specifically around older generations, make sure that they feel that that's a place where they belong?
Bradley: I would say this is such a novel concept, talk to them. Talk to them first and see what is keeping them up at night, see What they're thinking. what we know across the board, is that flexibility is the one thing that all generations embrace now. And because of that, workplaces that have the flexibility to be flexible really should. This idea of, of tethering people to a desk is, is so arcane.
It's, it's almost laughable at this point. This idea that, that we were going to monitor people on their computers at home to make sure that they were working nine to five is embarrassing for organizations. This hubris that thinks that people are just going to come back when you tell them to is, is really going to put folks in a, in a tough bind.
There are good practices out there for, for seeing what older workers want, and typically if you design with them in mind, it'll bleed down into your rest of your workforce, create a workforce that is a more sustainable for the long-term. There are businesses like BMW and Porsche and Mercedes in Germany that have really led this effort and have shown that we can do this in industrial settings too. We don't have to do it just within knowledge jobs.
But again, I really believe more than anything else. That flexibility is the key here. What's the biggest complaint you hear from employers? Older workers are too expensive. That's usually the biggest complaint. there a big line item on the budget. Well, they are a big outline on the budget. They may not want to work a nine to five anymore. Move them into our work with them about getting them into a mentorship program or a consulting program for your enterprise.
In fact, in Japan, company called Mitsubishi heavy technologies heavy industries rather, they actually have a program where they retire older workers from a full-time position and they go into basically a consultant group and they choose projects as they want to. And they're all around the world because they're a global, highly skilled industry. So, you know, men in their sixties and seventies are popping into Africa to help build infrastructure right now, teaching people there how to do it. And that's a really impressive and really pragmatic approach to solving for a demographic challenge within the workplace.
Jackie: I love that Bradley because you know, you, you're continuing to have the benefit of that expertise and knowledge and experience, but they have more flexibility. They take the projects that they want. and it's something that's, I think that's really great because it's exciting for them and then beneficial for the organization as well.
Bradley: Right. And, and making a mistake here, if, if you, as a business owner or an HR practitioner don't figure this out, older workers will figure it out for themselves. they have resources now that they've never had before and the biggest ones are around the gig economy. And you know, when we think gig economy, we typically think, you know, Lyft, Amazon, but the gig economy is also places like Etsy and Fiverr, where you can sell your services. There are burgeoning platforms right now. There's, there's one in Switzerland and the name of it escapes me now, but they're capturing this older experienced talent, and then allowing people to pick up projects as they want again, gig economy.
So in our gig economy today, which has made up of about 16% of the US population, 20% of that is over the age of 50, and a full third of that 20% is over the age of 65. So it's not that older people don't want to work within a traditional setting. It's that the traditional settings aren't modifying themselves in a way that's attractive at this point. And people have to get on board from a business perspective, have to get on board because we can conservatively estimate that by 2030, just a few years away, the 75+ workforce will double in this country and the under 24s really, that kind of kindling, it keeps the fire of the economy running we'll contract by about 8%
Bradley: So we've got to turn around our thinking pretty quickly if we want to remain competitive. and I think there are some bright spots out there, but, but not nearly enough to say we have a clear path forward.
Jackie: Bradley, I think that's an important, because so many organizations have a dusty, old playbook as that, how they recruit how they work. And we've got to really open that up and start taking a red pen to it and making significant changes based on what we're seeing occurring in our society.
Bradley: Well, and I don't fault HR practitioners and experts. I don't fault them at all, they grew up in a world where there was a glut of labor. We've had a glut of labor in the US workforce, since what, 1962, when the first boomers started to come. This massive push of people, and then at the same period, we had globalization.
Well, now all of this created an abundance of labor. Well, all of these countries are starting to shrink now or starting their labor force is starting to contract. Those days of cheap, readily available labor are gone. I mean, pre pandemic, we were already talking about the rising labor costs in China. Well, they're just going to get worse because China has had population contraction. Now they're running out of workers too. so we have to think about homegrown talent, more than anything else and really working with what we got because other only a few places that are still growing in the world right now.
Jackie: Hmm, you know, and that's another thing Bradley that I love that you're talking about because very often we look at our own society in our own communities or cocoon, right. And we really need to think globally about what's happening in the world and how that affects us in our business and our communities. It's, it's important to be able to think more globally and not just in, you know, your American box or your, you know, your regional box.
Bradley, let's talk about your book, The Super Age, Decoding our Demographic Destiny. This was so eye opening, I really enjoyed learning so much. Tell us overall, and I want to dig into it a little bit, but tell us what we learn by reading your book.
Bradley: So demographic change, this is the top line. Demographic change is on par with climate change and how it will affect each and every one of us. It's not a book about old people. I know that we like people tend to go to that because they say, oh, you know, this, you're talking about old people a lot.
You've got this pedigree of working with aging populations at AARP and leading age, but it's really about how this will affect our collective future and how lengthening lifespans are actually altering our, our life course. you know, when my grandparents were born, you know, at the, at the start of the last century, they expected a three-stage life.
You were kids, you were adults, and old. But by the time they actually started living, retirement was emerging as a, as a new life stage. And by the time they passed away, they were actually five life stages that had emerged in their lifetime, a total of five. And that was childhood, adolescence, adulthood, retirement, and then old age. We are in a period right now, that's experience experiencing another shift in, in life stage.
And two more really emerged at this point. The first is an extended adolescence and that was really codified into law by, by the affordable care act where kids are now kids until 26, they're the wards or their parents, at least for health insurance until then, but also there's an extended middle-age or, or, or an opening up of middle, a middle plus years.
And the people who live in that period the super-agers is, as I like to call them are, are really unlike any other people that age we've seen before. They're there they're physically fit. They're cognitively healthy and strong they're mentally sound, they’re engaged in work in some way. They're very intimately involved in their health and their wellbeing. They're, they're, they're active. They're curious and they're, they're really consumers more than anything else.
They want to be part of us and they're doing whatever they can to make that happen. They know that they're older. They're not afraid of being older. But their concern that they think the approach that we've always taken, which has been to other them because they are older to make them not part of us, even though they are, is not what the future looks like from them. They're pushing the narrative away from we're old into one that is more we're part of us. We're part of you.
So there are things that we get, right. The book goes through three sections, a history, basically how we got here, a dystopia, what happens if we do nothing to, to address some of the challenges of today. And then the third section is what the promise of tomorrow can bring if we make these adjustments that are, that are so needed. And obviously it's really hard to shy away from some of the tough conversations because while I say we may be living in the golden age of humankind, w there's still a lot of us that's broken.
I mean, we still have significant issues with, with gender certainly with race to some degree with, with sexual identity or and certainly with gender identity. And these create certain challenges for, for desperate groups of people. My experience in life as a white CIS gay man is very different from yours. Period. And if we can't accept that fundamental fact, we can't get to the next step. So, whereas you may enjoy a slightly longer life expectancy than me, as a white CIS gay man, I'm going to earn more than you. That at, on average, on average. So I get to die earlier with more money, and you get to live longer with less. Like that doesn't quite add up to what, what, what the future should be.
So these conversations on equity, which is kind of the, it's kind of like this wheel, but that never wants to fix itself. You know, we have a chance right now, a once in a lifetime chance to say, let's get this right, because we've screwed it up time and time again, let's really try to close the gap here by focusing on early life intervention, and carrying those through, into adulthood. That's one way we can fix these things, but to put a fine point on it in my adopted hometown of DC, the life expectancy gap here is 27 years from the richest of the poorest and that invariably tacks to race and gender.
And that's shocking, but it's not the worst. It's worse than Chicago, where it's nearly 31 years, and when you look nationwide from a small, very wealthy community called Farrington Village in North Carolina, where the average life expectancy at birth now is 97 years at birth. The average life expectancy nationwide is 78, mind you, to the lowest life expectancy in the country, which is Stilwell, Oklahoma at 56.
It's a nearly 42-year gap. So we have a lot to do, and Stilwell, Oklahoma. For those of you who don't know is on the reservation. It's, it's a mostly indigenous population. So we have a lot to do here, a lot to do here to fix things. And, they pop up in the everyday. And I think there's quite a bit that BLM got right. I noticed, I note that in the book but there's so much more that we can do in the public and private sectors.
Jackie: Absolutely. So Bradley, a few parts that struck me in the book where the sections on a super aged CEO and the cost of doing nothing. What do we need to understand as we lean into generational diversity and inclusion in the workplace, and what happens if we ignore these?
Bradley: The super age CEO is, is an interesting point of conversation because time and time again, the CEO is older than the average employee within a company, and in order to break ourselves of that in order for corporate leaders to break themselves of that, they have to identify, or at least be aware of their own ageism. Age-ism can be levied from, from one person of a certain age to another person of the same age. It's, it's a unique bias. It can be re lobbied from somebody who's older to somebody who's younger, because it's not a great mark, it's just one note, you're using a person's birth date as a measure.
So within a company, you know, one of the best ways we can, we can tackle bias on a number of different, different levels, not just age is you're really focused on outcomes-based work more than anything else, you know, measure even measurements across the board. We'll never get to a perfect system, I don't think. But it doesn't mean we shouldn't try; it doesn't mean we shouldn't try to find ways to make salaries more level. It also doesn't mean that we shouldn't consider ways that we can have some trade-offs, you know. So I'm married, no kids. I work like a dog; work is part of my identity.
So should I be paid more because of that? Maybe. I don't necessarily need to have caregiving time or, or take care of kids. Maybe that's a trade-off for some people in the workplace. So I think if we're talking about kind of more crystal ball future, you know, I think there's dynamic pricing that could come in the labor markets in the near future too, where depending on your mix of responsibilities and your personal and professional life that could iron out or what's what a compensation package could look like in the future.
AI might be one of those ways that we get there. It may help us understand what an individual. Wants these desires actually are so that the package isn't just standard and universal. Or that we le t issues like gender and race or sexuality play into the hiring and then the compensation package. and I think, you know, young people today are making this pretty significant push for, for salary transparency. And I don't think that's a bad thing at all.
I think. Yeah, it's in many ways, feels like the start of a modern labor movement. But if we do nothing, if we do nothing, we kind of just grind to a halt. You know, the stuff that we want to fix, that we want to change won’t change. we'll get pushed further and further apart, in terms of earnings, and that will create greater and greater problems for society. You know, if the house is on fire, you put out the fire, you fix it. It's at least smoldering now. if not raging in some parts of business, we have to address this stuff head-on.
Jackie: So Bradley, at the beginning of our conversation, we talked about most of us just navigating the world day to day and going from one crisis to another. How did you begin putting these things together and understanding what the trends are and how they apply to what's happening in the world? Because most of us again are just waiting to be told what's happening, right? How do you lead that and put those, those pieces together?
Bradley: I mean, I'm unique. I'm weird. I, I'm not afraid to say that. I tend to fixate on. Understanding things I don't understand. Almost universally, it requires a trigger, something that kind of, you know, is that spark that makes me dig into understanding it for myself and then applying it to how it might help other people. So with demographics, it was really happened 25 years ago, almost by happenstance. my grandparents were in long-term care. I was traveling between Pittsburgh and DC, and I noticed this pattern where as I went further and further into Pennsylvania, the population got older and more people in later life were engaged in, in work and physical work.
Uh, whether it be at a gas station or, or, you know, serving food at a restaurant it was, it was not unusual at all to see this happening and I found it curious, and I wanted to know why that was. And I realized very quickly that this wasn't just happening in central Pennsylvania, this was happening worldwide.
And in fact, the United States was one of 35 countries that was going to be part of this dubious, notorious, interesting group of countries that are entering the super age will be in the super age, just by the end of this decade. I thought to myself, this is going to be transformative, but virtually with anything around demographics, anything affecting people, I'd like to dig a bit deeper than what the narrative, the narrative that's out there is, is saying.
So but of course I deal with a degree of caution because I sit in a very interesting place of privilege as a white man. And I try to do the analysis agnostically as much of an agnostic analysis as possible working strictly with numbers, because if I don't, my bias starts to, my own bias, starts to slip into the conversation, but I can tell you living in DC, geez, the past five years have been a lot, but obviously as part of the past two years was the Black Lives Matter movement that really the Genesis of the movement.
And I live just off of 14th street in the Logan Circle neighborhood. And 14th street was the main protest routes. And I mostly started digging into Black Lives Matter a because of the book, but really, because of the protests, because I wanted to understand where they were coming from and what was being missed. And because it seemed kind of at the time, very one note, but when you dig a bit. You're able to give greater color, greater texture to the conversations that are there, that move you past things like defund the police and into what could reform really look like that benefits all of us.
I guess I'm lucky that I can sit in that position and, and examine things. I have that luxury, but I don't think we're doing enough of that today. We are so caught up in these ridiculous soundbites and communication, I know you, you know this in the workplace. That's the one thing that falls apart first amongst generations, amongst people's communications, we'll apply that to society.
You know, one group of people here is one statement one way, and another group hears that another way, and the two shall never meet. Forcing nuance in conversation and examining it from a top-line perspective. I think it's what drives me. But B I think it's just so. It's so necessary to our overall health, because these screaming matches that we're in are getting us nowhere.
Jackie: Absolutely, absolutely. You know, I love that. You said take the time to understand where they're coming from. I think if we all did that just a little bit more, we'd be further ahead and find more opportunities to connect and understand each other.
Bradley: Yeah, well, you know, just case in point, you know, I dedicate a full chapter to my book on the rural question, you know, what's happening in rural America. And I think much like, conversations on race. People said, how can you talk about that? You're an urbanite. How can you express what's happening in rural communities?
And I said, I'm not going to express how people feel I'm going to express what's happened to them. It's very easy to say, you know, those rural folks are all racist. I mean, that's really easy to say or they’re Hicks or hayseeds, but there's a lot of nuances to rural culture that our coastal bias gets in the way of, there is a discernible anger and frustration amongst those populations in the state of the world right now, because the things that, that have helped urban communities, automation, globalization, I mean, those helped us.
They really destroyed our communities, and what's left now is, is, you know, really a hollowed-out place, and a lot of folks that are struggling. So again, like if we can do anything, whether it's in the workplace or in our communities, it's, it's think past the soundbites, think past the, the negative perception and dig a little deeper. A lot of times people just want to be understood.
Jackie: Wow. That's amazing advice for all of us. Just taking a second with that, that's just awesome advice. We all need to do that a little better.
Bradley: I mean, it really leans into empathy. You know, an empathy is not something that comes naturally to everyone. I think it's difficult for a lot of people to, to grapple with these days. I don't, I don't understand. I mean, I guess maybe because empathy has been so intrinsic to who I am. But just try, try, maybe not to put yourself into the other person's shoes because you will never have their living lived experience, but, but just try to empathize with what it might be like. Envision what it could be like. And with that, you can, you can have a hand or a role in designing better systems, and quite frankly, a better future for us all.
Jackie: I love that. Bradley, when you speak on these topics, tell me what is the general sentiment? Is it something that people are open to? Is that something they push back on? What are, what are you seeing as you have these conversations with people?
Bradley: It's such, that's such a good question, Jackie, you know, at first it's shock and awe, because this has all been happening under our noses for such a long time that people say, oh, no that can't be that can't be. And then they take a moment to breathe and actually look and they say, oh my God, it, it is everywhere.
Like society has changed, and it's oftentimes the, the little things that I point to where people immediately give the pushback and then realize they actually fall into that group or they, hit, or they know somebody who falls into that group. So again, not a book specifically about aging. The fastest growing group of parents in this country are aged 40 to 49.
And we all know a parent who is 40 to 49 now, if we're not parents ourselves at 40 to 49 new parents at 40 to 49. So there are all of these different shifts that are happening. The second piece, I think I get a little bit of pushback on is my positivity about what the future can be. But again, lean into historical precedent for my predictions and when things are broken or get to a point where they're so broken in this country, we tend to fix it. May not be a perfect fix, but we take these giant steps forward to adapt, to meet the needs of tomorrow. Obviously not universally on all issues. But on some big ones, you know, we did that quite a bit through the last century, have we done it quite yet? And this one. No that's why things are so broken.
But I hold out a lot of hope for the future and change in large part because I'm actually seeing generations come together to talk about these issues whether they be related to demographics in terms of the aging of the population or in terms of racial equity or even gender equity. You know, I think one of the pieces I pointed out in the book is around BLM in particular and accompany was measuring people, people who were there by their mobile phones, they were able to capture mobile phone data who was actually showing up at the protest. And the people who were showing up were either really young or really old.
People like us, who, who kind of sit in the middle we were, we weren't showing up, in the same numbers as the young and the old. Why was that? I don't know, but it shows that there's a lot more commonality between the two extreme age groups than not. It at least shows that. So I, my positivity is there because I do see that that, that we can come together when we choose to, But the pushback is we're not coming together as, as we want. And there's truth to that, but we can do a lot more for we're very deliberate about it. And we, we take some ownership for our own actions.
Jackie: Yes, definitely that. Bradley, what is next for us? What should we be looking out for?
Bradley: Well, I think, I think it depends. I think it depends where you sit. you know, if we're talking about ways in which companies can evolve, companies need to focus on inclusive design for their products, their services, they need to consider a diverse set of users. We know diversity pays off in the workplace.
It's a little harder to do. Let's make no mistake about that. It's not an easy thing to achieve. But if we do it. We have greater success. We take away some of the blind spots, whether that be in the design of the workplace or innovation, and product design, or even the way we communicate those things through, through our marketing strategies, diverse teams, tend to do better across the board.
We actually know age diverse teams do well. in fact, in 2013, there was a study of 147 different companies in Germany and the ones that were age diverse performed much better. So there's, there's statistics out there that are already pointing to this, in terms of our near future from public, from a public policy standpoint, we're going to have to make some very hard decisions very quickly about the future of social security and the future of Medicare in particular. Social security for those who don't know is that the national pension system and Medicare is, is the health insurance program for older people over the age of 65.
We just have to address these things because they are on a collision course with the disaster right now. And if we truly believe that that these social welfare programs have value, then we have to renegotiate them. We have to look at a way forward that doesn't place the burden on younger generations.
Because if we do that, if we do that, productivity will grind to a halt these, these younger people will be saddled with so much financial burden. They're already saddled with enough burden, housing costs, education costs, healthcare costs. Now we're going to put on taking care of the parents and the grandparents as well? I mean, when does it stop? And we're going to have to take that on pretty quickly.
And I think that what we're looking forward to in the very near future is, is, is seeing inclusion as a central tenant to frankly, all parts of life. And that to me is so exciting because it heralds a new era one where we're not just designing for a certain class of people or a certain group of people that are able bodied versus those that aren't, that we're really being considerate of thinking about the larger society, not just a one monolithic group.
Jackie: Absolutely. Bradley, what do you want to leave our listeners with today?
Bradley: I say at the end of the book that the future may look gray, but it's incredibly bright. And I think that for most people hopefully I think certainly for your listeners, there's such opportunity here in this period, but it really is an inflection point. And for as much opportunity, there's, there's equal amounts of peril if we do nothing at all.
So don't put your head in the sand. Be clear-eyed about this. Follow the data, follow the book. look at what's coming because it will be here sooner than you think. The pandemic really sped things up for us. And I don't think that most people, the average person realizes quite how much has changed in the past few years, but the past two years have been nothing short of revolutionary and truly, truly disruptive.
So. If you have a chance and it may, it may be hard for most people because you're dealing with the, the challenges of everyday life, but take a breath, take a look at the broader picture and you'll be able to see the future with a lot more, a lot more clear-eyed that may be right now
Jackie: Awesome. Thank you. So we'll take a quick commercial break before I get to my other 386 questions. Oh, Bradley. I have enjoyed this conversation so much and I really enjoyed reading your book. The Super Age, Decoding our Demographic Destiny, it's really been so eye opening and allows us to think in a way that we don't think every day and consider some new things about what's happening in our world. So thank you so much for spending some time with me today. I really have enjoyed the conversation.
Bradley: It's been my pleasure, Jackie. Thank you for having me.