Alright, I have the pleasure of introducing our next speaker, Bill McManus. You know, he, he was here a few years ago and he received such great reviews. See, that’s why we need you to do those reviews on the survey that tells us who to bring back and who do we have to speak. Those surveys are really important. He had great reviews last time, and we decided to bring him back. Bill earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania. And as I mentioned, as the Director of the Hartford Funds Applied Insights team, he works with the MIT AgeLab to bring the latest research to life. Today, he will cover accelerating trends and how technology will help people age better. Please help me welcome Bill McManus.
Good morning, everybody. Thank you so much, Laila. Thanks to the Pence Wealth Management team for having me. Thanks to all of you for joining us, really excited to spend a little bit of time with everybody today. As Laila said, my name is Bill McManus. I’m a managing director for our Applied Insights team at Hartford Funds. In my role, I travel throughout the country. It’s actually nice to be traveling throughout the country instead of looking at my computer screen. What we do is we work with wealth managers, like Pence Wealth Management. We spend a lot of time with folks just like yourselves in this room, sharing research and insight from really this fantastic long-standing partnership that we have with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and specifically this program that they have called the AgeLab. Now I know there is some familiarity with the AgeLab, but I always like to take a little bit of time on the front end just to reintroduce or introduce for the first time.
I think it helps to understand who the AgeLab is. What kind of work are they doing? Why is that work, I’d say, increasingly relevant for all of us here today? And then we’re going to jump into our project or our program entitled accelerating trends, and it’ll fall in line really in response to sort of what we’ve experienced over the last 18 months or so since the pandemic hit. So quick background on the AgeLab at MIT. It started in 1999, and Hartford was a founding sponsor. It’s housed in the School of Engineering systems, but it’s multidisciplinary by nature. So the way that they would describe it, it’s about a third engineering, a third of every flavor of psychology that you could think of, and the remaining third is really a mixed bag. There are researchers with backgrounds in gerontology, anthropology, healthcare, economics, architecture, the list goes on and on.
So we’re really able to garner some wide ranging insights into decision-making and behavior. The real focus of the lab (by virtue of the name) is studying aging, changing demographics, the impacts of extended life expectancies. If you go back to 1900, which in the grand scheme of history is really not that long ago, life expectancy in the industrialized world was less than 50. We fast forward to today and the prospects of living into our eighties, nineties and beyond pretty much expected at the Lab. They call that a “longevity bonus.” So what they do is they work with different businesses and industry groups to rethink and reshape products and services and technology and how it’s delivered to this changing segment of our population, not only here in the United States, but around the globe. I always like to share example or two, maybe a little outside of the scope of our discussion.
However, I think it gives some context to the work that they’re doing at the lab. As you can see on the screen, we have two researchers wearing kind of what looks like a funky body suit. The name of that suit is AGNES, and it stands for Age Gain Now Empathy System. So we could take anybody in the room and we can dress you in the AGNES suit. You see, it looks like coveralls, but it has a helmet with straps that attach to the arms to reduce mobility, a neck brace that reduces the amount of degrees. You can rotate it until your neck system of weights and pulleys in the legs and lower back simulate fatigues and friction and the frustration that comes with that. There are gloves that simulate arthritis, goggles, that simulate macular degeneration; we can calibrate the suit and make you feel 80, 85, 90, a hundred years old.
Believe me, believe me, every time I talk to the researchers, I say, where is the suit to make us feel the other way, right? That’s what we need, not this one! So, they’re hopefully working on that. You may have caught the key word in the title of the suit though. Empathy. What is the experience like? So they’ve used the AGNES suit at places like the CVS pharmacy. CVS wanted to know what is it like for someone who’s 90 years old to shop in the store, walk down the long aisle, bend down, and get something off the lower shelf. So based off of that data, they’re redesigning the stores to make them more accommodating. There’s also the atomotive industry. That’s really where the Lab started. We see our Volkswagen Beetle on the screen. Pretty sure that’s the world’s only $5 million VW bug. It’s actually hooked up to a simulator at the AgeLab. There’s eye tracking software conductance in the steering wheel to measure the sweatiness in your palms, all designed to understand the impacts of stress and physical limitations and new technology, as it relates to driving.
As a matter of fact, a lot of the things we find standard in our automobiles today, like lane departure warnings and reverse monitoring systems has come out of work done at places like the AgeLab at MIT. Does that give everyone a feel for the kind of work they’re doing? There are all kinds of other examples in technology, healthcare, consumer services. From our standpoint, we direct our research into a couple areas as it pertains to planning, right? What are the conversations, questions, things we need to think about as we’re experiencing extended longevity. For the purpose of today’s conversation, that lab has done a lot of work in light of COVID in terms of what’s next. There are a lot of questions that have come up. How are things going to change? What’s going to be different? What do we need to be thinking about?
What the lab said from the get-go is that things are not so much going to change or be completely different, but trends that have existed, things that were happening, have just been accelerated. I’ll give you an example. Higher education, right? Go back 20 years. Certainly you could get an MBA online. It would maybe not get held in the same esteem as the on-campus program at Wharton or Harvard or Stanford. Then two, three years ago, it became much more widely accepted, right? Much more widely accepted. I’d say education was probably ripe for disruption before COVID; talk about the gas pedal going down on something, right? It’s completely going to change the way people think about education and how universities deliver it. As a matter of fact, MIT has instituted what they call a MicroMasters program, where 95% of the learning is done online and just 5% in campus.
So we’ve seen that acceleration in so many different areas. And there are three that we’re going to talk about today. The first one is work. The second one is communication, how we interact with each other. And lastly, how technology has really shaped this, and how we’ve adopted technology in many different ways. So, the first one we’re going to talk about is work. It’s interesting in talking about acceleration; we did a survey about five years ago of 30,000 people across the country. We asked people to write down the answers to four different questions: year of your birth, gender, and zip code for all the socioeconomic data. Then we asked folks, to write down two things you envision yourself doing after age 65, and if you were already 65, just bump it up five years incrementally. Thinking about that a second here, two things you envision doing after age X, what do you think some of the top answers are? What would you say? Travel’s the number one answer. That’s sort of the quick one.
Work was the number number two answer. Maybe not work in the same way, shape or form you did for a majority of your career, but some type of work, small business consulting. I put volunteerism there, right? Work is we’re going to change in terms of how we do it. We’ve got flexibility. We’ve got technology that allows us to work remotely or just work in a different fashion. And yes, we were kind of experiencing it a little bit pre COVID. Here’s another accelerating trend, right?
What we see now is work from home is becoming much more popular, not only from employers but from employees as well. We see benefits to it, right? For both sides. From the employee standpoint, work-life balance different well being, communication, it’s more efficient, it’s not restricted by location. I myself actually moved to Austin, Texas from Philadelphia, right? Not restricted by location because of the ability to work remotely and to travel. There’s a lot of flexibility. Same thing for the employer, right? Increased productivity, reduced absenteeism, expanding the talent pool. We can go a lot broader in terms of who we’re looking for as all of these things are sort of coming together to really change the way we think about work. We actually have a project where we’re really focusing in on multi-generational workforces.
We’re experiencing that more and more due to several trends; obviously, extended longevity, but then also the ability to do things through technology. And we see all kinds of different reasons for people continuing to work and engage. The interesting thing is when we see these surveys, economics and income reasons are always further down the list, right? We see things like staying active and involved. I enjoy working, you know the, the interaction that I get with it. I actually read an article yesterday.. There was a woman in new England. She’s 101 years old. She’s a lobster woman. She’s been doing this job for 94 years. She started when she was seven years old and she gave the best answer when our doctor asked her, why do you do it? Thinking she’d have some big, grand answer to all this. She goes “Because I want to keep going.” I mean, you can’t argue with that. Right. I saw another couple of stories that were pretty interesting. The world’s oldest billionaire was a gentleman from Singapore. He actually passed away last year in September at the age of 102. The billionaire went into work, right into the office, six days a week. I read another article; a 97 year old World War II veteran lives in Northern New Jersey, and bags groceries three days a week. But what was really fascinating about the story is when they asked very different people (billionaire and blue collar) “Why do you do it?”
they both gave the same exact answer: I need something to do. So it’s interesting how we’re seeing this trend again, and become even more accelerated due to COVID. Then we layer in technology, right? The gig economy is working on demand. The clearest examples I can think of are the ride share services, your Ubers and your Lyfts. Actually, there are more Uber drivers over the age of 50 than under the age of 30. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that’s the plan for everybody is to go and drive for Uber, right, as soon as you leave here, but just think about what that technology does, the backbone of it. All it does is create a service and experience, right? Someone has a ride, someone needs a ride.
They come together and this takes place, which always drives economic activity. We’re just doing it in a very different fashion. I’ll give you what would be a timely topical example. Healthcare.Thinking about healthcare. I don’t like to make assumptions, but I’ll just make a guess. My guess is you all here in the room, have probably heard the words telemedicine more over the last, let’s just call it 12 months, than probably the 12 years before that. Well, the AgeLab has been talking about telemedicine for years, which makes sense. How do we think about delivering health care to an older population? Can we do a lot of things where people don’t have to take the unnecessary risk of a physical trip into the doctor’s office or a hospital?
Just talk about the gas pedal going down on something. It’s just going to completely change the way we think about consuming healthcare. But I think of the flip side; I think of who’s delivering that healthcare. Not sure if we have any physicians here in the room, but I think about a physician contemplating retirement who loves practicing medicine. I don’t think I’ve ever met a doctor who didn’t love that aspect of the job, but maybe doesn’t love doing it 70 hours a week being a part of the big practice, the bureaucracy, the red tape and so on and so forth. What if I could be a doctor on demand, right? I could see who I want when I want on my schedule. So I’m still doing what’s been a meaningful part of my life for a majority of my life, but I also have the flexibility to do all the other things that I really enjoy doing.
I think you can see how that application can really have an impact in a lot of different areas. It’s just going to change the way we think about work. I’ll layer one more thing onto that. I can’t remember if we did this specific presentation, but we have a project called 8,000 days. So 8,000 days, it’s a little shy of 22 years. The way it works is that if you segment out an average lifespan from the time you’re born to the time you graduate from college, that’s going to be roughly 8,000 days; 22 years from that period to your first midlife crisis. Now that we’re living longer, sorry to say, but that’s going to be about another 8,000 days from there to our traditional retirement.
When we think about that last phase, it could be another 8,000 days or 10,000 or 12,000. We just don’t know. So we think about it. We’re spending as much time in this period that we did from the time we’re born to the time we graduated from college. That’s a lot of time to fill, right? What is it that we’re going to be doing? What we’re seeing is work, I say that sort of loosely, is really playing a bigger role, and is certainly something that COVID has accelerated going forward. Next area? Communication. There are three questions that determine your future quality of life. Number one, who will change my light bulbs, number two, how will I get an ice cream cone, and number three, who will I have lunch with?
So who will change my light bulbs? How will I get an ice cream cone? Who am I going to have lunch with? This came from MIT, by the way, rocket scientists and engineers. That’s what they came up with. Simple questions, seemingly simple by design. They’ve proven to be extremely effective at starting some of the biggest conversations that we need to consistently have. So I’m going to focus on the last one, who will I have lunch with? And the AgeLab says they’re all important, but that one’s probably paramount. It’s the social network that we have. It keeps us engaged and active. We need dates to circle on the calendar. Things to look forward to. The real key with this one is intentionality. We have to be intentional about incorporating new people into the social network and younger people into the social network.
Then the last thing I’d say is intentional about the role that technology plays. We’ve seen this evolution of communication where we’ve gone from smoke signals and the Pony Express and Morse code to today. Certainly, we’ve seen a massive ramp up in terms of adoption and uses of technology as it pertains to email and texts, video chats now, right? We just have the ability to communicate with each other with the touch of a button. I never would make the argument that technology is an apt replacement for social in-person interactions we can have with friends and family. That just can’t be replaced. But I’ll tell you one thing; the last 18 months have proven it’s proven to be a pretty good supplement, right? It’s the ability to stay connected, to find new connections through the tools and technology that we have in order to sort of maintain that social connectivity.
We can almost put COVID aside and just look at demographics. If we look at it, our family tends to make up a large part of our social network. If you look at demographics, the baby boomer generation had fewer children by two, on average, and children are much more likely to be geographically dispersed. We’re just so much more mobile now than we were in generations past. I recently moved to Texas. All my family’s still in South Jersey. So having these tools to be able to stay connected have been phenomenal. We’ve got our FaceTimes and our Skypes and Zoom and House Party. Has anyone ever heard of house party? It’s a video sharing application much like FaceTime but it has games embedded in it.
There are games like trivia, charades, and Pictionary. So the ability to hop on there with my nieces and nephews on a Saturday morning and do that for a half an hour and see the smiles on the face is just extremely additive. Again, using this technology taking advantage of it is really, we think, an important step and something that that’s not going to go away. This will continue to be how we communicate and how we interact with others. We’ve got all types of ideas up there. Stitch, actually, was started by two women here in Southern California. It’s like a meetup type of organization. OurTime is match.com specifically for people over age 50. It’s actually the fastest growing dating app from a percentage increase of usership.
So last area: tech adoption. So this is, again, the perfect example of an acceleration of a trend. We’ve been adopting technology for years. We understand the impact that it has on our life. There’s really not a portion of our life that technology doesn’t touch. It just changes the way we communicate, consume, go about our daily lives, learn. All of these things sort of culminate, and technology helps to aid that. Pre COVID there was a prediction; they predicted by the end of this year (and it’s right on track) there will be 50 billion connected devices worldwide.
There’ll be about 7.6 billion people on the planet, so that’s six and a half devices per person. So we have to think outside of just our smartphone; that’s what we tend to think about our tablet for a connected device. Everyone has a have a smart TV, right, beaming your Netflix shows that you’re binging. We’ve got smart appliances, we’ve got fitness trackers. Everyone have their Apple Watch or their Fitbit? The more we see these things come online and interact, the more adoption and awareness of technology that we’re going to see. It’s across all age cohorts, right? Say what you want about social media, but going back to the communication aspect, that’s a great way to connect, to stay in touch with folks as well.
Technology is going to be and will continue to be a major part of our lives. So a couple of areas that we find sort of interesting around this. We’re talking about consumption. How do we consume? So monthly meal kit sales. Look at that reaction from what happened from December of 2019 to February. Then all of a sudden we get to April. Obviously we all know what happened in March. We see a massive increase in this. We saw it also in grocery deliveries or companies like Instacart and obviously Amazon. It just sort of changes the way we think about consumption. Amazon’s plan is to open 1500 small distribution centers all around the country with the aim being that basically whatever you want they’ll get it to you in the same time it would’ve taken you to go to the store and get it.
We’re going to continue to see this. Certainly, it will have an impact on how we think about consumption healthcare. We talked about telemedicine through the lens of the provider from the physician, but now we think about it as us, consumers of healthcare. We see a mindset shift in terms of how that’s delivered. We talked about tele-health virtual visits and we see all of these types of routine care or maintenance-type care that can get delivered. That way creates a ton of efficiencies. It saves a lot of time on physicians’ part, and I think it frees up a lot of time within the healthcare system. We’ll certainly see that continue to take place. The home. I spend a lot of time talking about the home and there’s a couple reasons for that.
Housing is such an important conversation. Number one, just from a cost standpoint, it’s the number one out-of-pocket expenditure for people over age 65. That’s with or without a mortgage, because what else goes into housing costs? Taxes , insurance, HOA fees, maintenance, which will go up as we age. What about big improvements that might need to be made to the home? What about technology that might need to be incorporated? AARP issued a survey recently. They asked people where do you intend to age? 90% of us said in my own home, right? Have we spent the time to think about safety, accessibility, appropriateness of that home. If not, what types of improvements need to be made?
What types of technology might need to be incorporated? There’s actually so much awareness and demand around this. There’s now a certification for contractors and home builders called “CAPS.” Certified Aging in Place specialists. They’re experts at understanding what types of modifications needed to be in the home.The AgeLab is actually working on a housing consortium; they’re working with Stanley, Black and Decker, and some other companies to really sort of rethink the home almost as a platform for all of the things that we talked about: access, communication, work. All of these things sort of come into that. We’re definitely seeing a lot of different trends and changes within the home, all related to technology.
It’s really interesting how we perceive technology. It really is based off of the benefit that we derive from it. So I see something like an Amazon Echo. I’ve got the Google Home Hub and I say, that’s pretty cool, right? What’s the weather going to be today? What was the score in the ball game? What’s the news? I read an article recently; a woman had published all about the impact that Amazon Echo had in her life.
Unfortunately, her husband was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease and was in a wheelchair. The whole article was about how through the sound of his voice, through a tool like Amazon Echo and other sort of smart devices in the home, gave him back a sense of control. I use the word cool to describe it. She used the word lifeline. It’s just very different in terms of the benefit we get from technology. You know, we’ve got our smart thermostats and devices in the home. We’ve got robotics, right? Whether it’s the Roomba or other devices.
There’s an automatic window washer. If you have big windows in the home, that might be something to look for. It’s the one I’m most excited about. It’s not really mainstream yet. That thing that looks like an old computer stand in the middle, that is actually an automatic laundry folder. It will fold your laundry for you. I it’s number one on my list. I like to keep my place in order; the one thing I hate doing is laundry.
I joke around and I say my clothes are the busiest clothes ever because I just keep them spinning in the dryer because I don’t want to fold them. That’s number one on my list when that comes out. Then we’ve got apps and devices and services to make life easier and make life more interesting. So we’ve got things like Life360. I know Laila’s a huge advocate of that. We can keep track of kids and grandkids and grandma and grandpa. It’s a great way to ensure we think about safety and things like that. Good RX. I don’t know if anyone’s ever used that prescription medicine shopping; it’s actually phenomenal, and can provide a ton of savings.
We also have prescription medication management systems. We talked about telemedicine volunteerism. I know that’s an important to all of you here. So there different companies now or websites, like Volunteer Match or AARP, as we’re getting back out there to do our philanthropic endeavors resources. Education. I mentioned before all types of different areas to really improve there, like EdX and Coursera.
So, there are ton of different apps and services to really improve life. So let me do this. I’m going to wrap with two quotes cause I am out of time. The first one is from Dr. Joseph Coughlin, he’s the founder and director of the AgeLab. And he says before the pandemic, we believed that we had to organize our lives in a certain way. After the pandemic, we discovered that was not necessarily true. It’s just changed. Our mindset changed the way we sort of go about things and changed the way we think about technology. I think it’s an important,and I think it really is telling, and it’s great to have these types of conversations to see what life is going to let go and look like going forward. My last quote from my favorite philosopher, Yogi Berra. Yogi Berra once said the future ain’t what it used to be.
And I think we would all agree with that now. And that’s what we at Hartford Funds in our partnership with the MIT AgeLab and the great team here at Pence Wealth Management, are thinking about for each and every one of you on a daily basis. So with that, I will just wrap by saying thank you very much for having me and for your time and attention.
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