Depending on what news report you hear or who you talk to, 70 is the new 60 and 60 is the new 50 as the massive number of baby boomers approaching retirement age lead active lifestyles and are living longer.
On the other hand, that overwhelming number of seniors and soon-to-be seniors are going to be a big burden on our health care system as they get older. Again, it depends on who you believe.
Being of the vintage that is still a few years away from retirement age, but getting close, I prefer to believe the first one. What do I have to lose by having a positive attitude after I hit 60 and 65?
After all, other than a few aches and pains now and again, I feel pretty good and after chatting with Gar Hamilton and Warren Crosbie, two well-known names in Canadian golf now winding down their careers, I was happy to see them staying active.
You can listen to the audio files with Gar and Warren here and here and, don’t tell her I told you, but Jocelyne Bourassa, the subject of the current GNN audio files on the home page, celebrated a milestone birthday on Wednesday and also remains very active.
So, why wouldn’t I use their active examples of what can still be accomplished over these dire predictions that the health care system will be burdened by an aging population.
After paying into the system all of my working years — and rarely using it — I don’t want to be known as a burden on health care based on when I was born. Sooner or later, we’ll all need it, so the onus is on governments and the medical community to adjust as needed.
The same holds true with businesses, for purposes of this contribution, the Canadian golf industry.
The latest census, released earlier this week, reveals that the number of Canadians aged 65 or older grew by 14.1 per cent between 2006 and 2011. Seniors accounted for 14.8 per cent of the population in 2011, which is up over a percentage point from five years earlier.
The 60 to 64 age group grew 29 per cent over 2006, while the number of people aged 100 or older reached 5,825, a 25.7 per cent increase. Here’s an interesting number: the number of people 100 or older in Canada in 2061 is projected to be 78,300.
Like the health care system, golf will have to adjust to these trends just like other businesses. I recently chatted with a golf course executive who laughed that it’s usually older people who would rather walk his course, while the younger people often request golf carts.
So, the desire to play is still there, but will the funds be available to play as much with fixed incomes becoming a reality for many of today’s core golfers? If they can play as much as they do today, will fixed incomes affect their spending on food and beverage or in the pro shop?
How important will it be to install another set of tees if you want to keep players participating into their 70s and 80s? Will senior rates need to be adjusted to be affordable for people on fixed incomes? How often does a golf course work closely with senior centres to encourage play?
The questions go on and on.
With much of the attention these days placed on the importance of junior golf or drawing women into the game, a more immediate focus on senior golf will also be required over the next 15 to 20 years, but that’s not to downplay the importance of the other demographics.
Golf, and all businesses for that matter, face a changing population in a few decades. As it stands right now, the 5,607,345 children aged 14 and under in Canada is only 0.5 per more than in 2006 and they’re expected to be outnumbered by seniors by 2016.
In 20 years, the 14 and under crowd will be in their mid-30s, many with families, thus emphasizing the need for golf to appeal to all members of the family, including their kids and women, to help fill in the gap left by core golfers now approaching retirement.
That will account for some of the replenishment golf will require, but another non-traditional group that can refill the fairways is many of the 250,000 immigrants arriving every year in Canada. That’s a big number that, for the most part, is untapped by the golf industry.
The future will be fractured in terms of the people we’re attempting to lure to the golf course, but with seniors being an immediate concern, are you also willing to look beyond that and starting to build the foundation for 20 years down the road?
Success in the future won’t be based on one particular group, but several that may not have been exposed to golf as previous generations were in the past.
There are many of us currently in the golf industry who fall into the baby boomer generation now approaching retirement, just as our clients are, and the question is do we really want to concern ourselves with what’s going to happen in 20 years?
Do we want to leave a positive legacy, or be seen as a generation that failed to react to something that was put right in front of it?
The answer to that doesn’t come in words, but with action.