Isn’t it nice when you occasionally come across someone with whom you wholeheartedly agree. For me, Joseph F. Coughlin is one of those people.   

“One of the greatest under-appreciated sources of innovation and new business may, in fact, be women over 50 with new ideas, lots of life ahead of them and with the verve to get it done,” says Coughlin, director of the AgeLab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in an interview with US website Today.

Coughlin is the author of the book The Longevity Economy: Unlocking the World’s Fastest-Growing, Most Misunderstood Market, which looks at what many of us know but too few acknowledge, especially those in the youth-obsessed advertising and marketing industry: people over 50 still hold a lot of economic power even if they appear to be invisible to many advertisers.

While he sees over-50s as the key drivers of the new economy, he identifies women as the ones holding the keys and purse strings: “Women do more. They have more education than at any time in history. They’re likely to live longer.”

A woman is the researcher of the house… She is the caregiver-in-chief… A woman is the chief consumer officer of the house… Because of all these factors, she is likely to be the person who is closest to understanding what the new jobs and the opportunities of living longer, better are going to be.

In another article for Forbes, Coughlin outlines why businesses are mostly failing to truly understand the technological and healthcare shifts that are extending the boundaries of what we have traditionally perceived of when we think of categories like ‘youth’, ‘middle aged’ or even ‘elderly’.

Old age is going to be very different for us than it was for our parents and grandparents. Mainly, it’s not going to look all that “old.”

Indeed, the new generation gap is about expectations – the next generation of older adults don’t simply expect to live longer, they expect to live better. And women are the lifestyle leaders inventing the new old age.

Just as Millennials have seemingly extended some of the rites and passages of youth by living at home longer, and delaying marriage and children, older people are deciding to stay in the workforce longer and looking for more rewarding lifestyle options than sedentary retirement when they do finish up with work, with options like travel proving popular. 

By the way some businesses seem to totally ignore older people, and especially women, you’d be hard pressed sometimes to see it, but these demographic trends — driven by economics, technology and healthcare — are opening up all sorts of opportunities for smart businesses.

It’s so refreshing when someone like Coughlin talks about ageing not as a burden on society but as something wonderful and full of potential, both in the economic and social sense. Women — people — have so much to offer beyond the number that denotes their age. For too long we’ve been willing to use these arbitrary digits to put people in boxes and assign them roles.

People and businesses that continue to ignore the burgeoning economic power and cultural strength of older people are missing out on great market opportunities, fantastic employees, and the potential of what wise heads have to offer.