With the poluation increasingly being made up of the older generation, Tony Baker warns that treating the over 60s as a threat is a mistake. Instead, companies should be actively seeking these customers...

In 1900 the average life expectancy at birth in Britain was about 43 years for males and 47 years for females. Today it is about 75 years for males and 79 years for females. Why is it that women have the apparently 'fixed' an extra four years? An easier life? I doubt it, especially with today's women generally holding down two or three jobs – paid work, the family and the home.

Still, during the past century, male life expectancy has improved by 74% and women by only 68%. Keep this up and by 2100 male life expectancy will be 131 and female 133. Only two years behind.

The world will change significantly as a result of this ever-ageing population. Today there are four people to support each pensioner. In 40 years time there will be just 2.5 people. In the same period there will be over four million more pensioners and more than two million fewer people of working age.

So what does the wise business person do? Plans for the future by courting the ageing.

Supermarkets will soon have allocated areas for walking sticks and zimmer frames. Restaurants will have space set aside for noisy conversations for the hard of hearing. DIY stores will allocate a day when under 40's need not pay extra for anything they want to buy. Someone, probably the Government, will give free computers to everyone over 50.

Insurers are already gearing themselves up to the ageing population.

Make them realise they're old seems a popular ploy. Double their holiday insurance premium when they reach 65 or 70. Make sure it's not easy to change motor insurer after you become 70 and difficult to get a policy after 75. Dramatically increase the cost of health insurance at some fairly arbitrary age. Keep the cost of life insurance high, just in case the life expectancy figures start to stabilise or fall. Try and make sure you have as few employees over 50 as possible.

Perhaps this is a slight exaggeration, but the industry needs rapidly to accept that an ageing population is an opportunity, not a threat. There will be vast business out there because the over 60s will have enormous spending power and a lot of disposable wealth.

They will want the holiday home, the two or three holidays a year, entertainment and leisure activities to suit their advancing years plus a little part-time job. They will want quality goods and services and will have the money to pay for them, but not money to waste. They will be discerning shoppers and, if they get together, will be very powerful.

Those of working age will be busy paying off their university loans, trying to save to buy a home and putting money away for a very long retirement. Great news for the savings and pension market, but a real worry for many other industries.

Governments will increasingly pander to the elderly as they will have voter power. Already there are signs this is happening, with, for example, the massive extra spending on the NHS. Who benefits most from this? The elderly.

Sweetners are also evident. The big increase in the elderly heating allowance is a recent example. The higher real value of the state pension is another.

So get out your crystal ball and work out how your business can adapt to, and benefit from, population changes and particularly our ageing population. That is before it is too late.