Engineering for changing ages
How many people can you fit on a planet? 2012 is the year we reached 7 billion, though the question of population growth has long been a source of vigorous discussion. Less contentious, but just as important are the changes in the shape of our populations. The world's population is growing older and the world of 2050 will be ruled by a crowd with more years of life experience than ever before.
With these changes come new needs, new opportunities and new markets. These needs can be physical (expanding healthcare), economic (ensuring financial security during retirement) or much higher up Maslow's hierarchy of needs (fostering creativity, responsibility, fulfillment). An awareness of changing demographics is not just for economists but also for engineers. Engineers will be central in satisfying our physical needs but increasingly, with more interactive and user centered designs and with engineering that facilitates communication, engineers will satisfy needs much higher up this pyramid.
Populations are changing, not just in size but in shape. From a position where just over 10% of the Chinese population are currently over 60 years of age, by 2050 30% of the population will occupy that category. Whether an economist or an engineer, consider what great opportunities lies in wait.
Maslow, A. H. A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review, Vol 50(4), Jul 1943, 370-396