Recently, there was some shocking news released about the aging phenomenon happening in Korea. It is expected that in 2026, Korea will enter into a super-aged society where the ratio of the elders reaches 20 percent or more of the whole population. Korea's aging speed is six years faster than that of Japan, widely known for its high population of elders. The general thought of the public toward the elders is ordinarily that they are lazy people who readily rely on others for care or help. However, life expectancy is gradually increasing so inevitably, and it turned out that seniors have more spare time than before. Thus, seniors' desire to participate in social activities is growing. They are yearning to live a new life after their retirement. Accordingly, the elders who break those social stereotypes of the public's general expectations and live their own lives are now being recognized as the New Silver Generation.
The New Silver Generation includes those who actively participate in social and economic activities even after their retirement. They do not spend the rest of their lives just meaninglessly killing spare time. They put their effort into giving their knowledge and experience back to society. They enjoy staying active, doing things like sports and traveling.
This Generation is distinctive from the original Silver Generation in a number of ways. The Silver Generation is known to be conservative and rigid in their thinking. They often rely on their children for help in their uncertain future. They do not have enough interaction with the younger generation and refuse to change. In contrast, the New Silver Generation tends to be positive, flexible and have practical thoughts. Also, they refuse to live with their children and try to be independent based on specific plans for their future. They are open-minded and do not have a repulsion to change.
The desire to live young has affected some elderly among the New Silver Generations to change their appearance. The general view is that plastic surgery is only for the young. However, the number of senior citizens who had plastic surgery in 2015 was two times that of 2011. They normally get Petit Surgery, known for its use of Botox injections, or they get fillers to make themselves look younger. From their appearance, they can gain self-confidence, and it also has positive influence regarding their jobs.
Some New Silver Generations are vigorous in another field. A YouTuber, named Park Mak-rye, is 71 years old. What's surprising is that she has more than 220,000 subscribers for her YouTube channel. She uploads videos with diverse content, which is popular for younger generations. For instance, she does a parody of a female K-Pop star's advertisements. Another example is a Facebook star Kong Gang-ja who has more than 80,000 likes on her Facebook page. She is also a senior citizen who actively interacts with others. Until now, social media has been recognized as an exclusive property for the young generation, but remarkably, it is spreading far and wide to other generations.
The novel advent of New Silver Generation has also brought about the development of New Silver Business. Usually, as people get older, their overall consumption tends to decline. However, Baby Boomers, which is generally regarded as New Silver Generation, have more economic power than the original Silver Generations because of the drastic development of the Korean economy in the past. Thus, after the Baby Boomers grow old, they will exercise a considerable influence on the growth of the silver industry. It is estimated to grow approximately 14.2 percent a year. In the past, elders were known as poor minorities, but recently, they have become known as the rich majority. For example, in 2009, seniors accounted for 27 percent of the total sales of Lotte Department Store, but they only occupied 22 percent of the actual number of the customers. Normally, the ratio of total sales and the actual number of the customers have to be equal, but it tells us that the seniors’ financial power is much more powerful than general. As the elders are becoming more and more financially stable, those who do not rely on their children and live their lives with the money they earned for themselves in the past, so-called Woopies are also rising.
The size of the silver industry was 33 trillion won in 2010, and it is expected to increase to 125 trillion won by 2020, according to the Ministry of Health and Welfare. Among various aspects of the silver industry, the information category is expected to bounce up to 25.1 percent in 2020, compared to 10 years ago, which was remarkably only 5 percent. With such a large rise of the industry, the Senior-Friendly Industry Promotion Act was legislated on March 23rd, 2013. It is clearly stated that the senior-friendly products (products or services primarily targeting at seniors as their customers) be researched, developed, manufactured, constructed, provided, supplied and sold. The Ministry of Health and Welfare has promulgated an enforcement ordinance just four months after the promotion act was legislated. It demonstrates that the government is quickly taking action and is regarding this issue seriously.
The New Silver Generation's influence to our society is much more substantial than the general prediction as stated above. As the society develops, various lifestyles exist, and the New Silver Generation is one of them. That is why breaking the stereotype and broadening the perspective toward it is crucial. In the novel Lost Horizon, written by James Hilton, the phrase Shangri-La was introduced. Shangri-La means a paradise that everyone can be immortal and attain eternal youth without getting old. Attaining eternal youth in physical terms is impossible, but behaviors and minds of the New Silver Generation already exist, and as more elderly enjoy Shangri-La to seemingly stay forever young.
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