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Who will pick up research where MetLife left off?

MetLife Mature Market Institute work is done.  It’s been a bad year for losing the stalwart icons of life and thought. Car Talk stopped producing new shows because Tom and Ray had had enough and that means that all those Saturday shows are repeats. Jean Stapleton (Edith Bunker) passed away. Then recently I received a note recently from Dr. John Migliaccio at the MetLife Mature Market Institute: “As of June 1st, 2013 the MetLife Mature Market Institute will cease to produce new research and materials, or have the MMI team available. MMI content will continue to be available for use on the MMI website for a period of time.” This is the MetLife that segmented the ridiculously broad boomer population into younger, middle and older boomers and produced that gut-wrenching report “Buddy Can you Spare a Job?” in 2009 about baby boomers looking for work. MMI sponsored Aging in Place 2.0 in 2010 that looked at the challenges to actually realizing the AARP responder vision of remaining in their home.

Does trend research about older adults matter to other large corporations? I certainly hope that MetLife continues to research internally – oddly they ceased offering Long-term care insurance in 2010 – people might have been living too long and then needing too much care. But just as the Car Talk programs live on (forever? Really, NPR?), but without new material, the core subjects that MetLife tackled and their great reports live on. How about moving them under the name of another with a vested interest in the research results? Perhaps another company will buy up the MetLife assets and start its own mature market research institute?  Wouldn’t this be a great opportunity for United Healthcare or Humana – perhaps their Medicare Advantage businesses could include such an institute?  Or how about Philips? They have declared that aging well is one of the $32 billion firm's signature vision and initiatives.

Who will fill MetLife’s research gap?  It won’t be Pew – take a good look at their topic list and then the frequency of reports about seniors -- it is great material, but frequency is sporadic in the context of their extremely broad mission. It won't be AARP. They seem to be linking to the research of other organizations. Take a look at the 2012 public website page with its one AARP report and the links to MetLife and Miliken. And there is another aspect of that page that prompts questions: "What do boomers want? Find the latest research on the American 50+ population, which reveals important trends among boomers and other age segments." Other age segments? What does that mean? Rand Corporation publishes research – but let's just say that the topic list is, uh, different.  And there are companies out there that conduct surveys of older adults for their corporate constituents, but you and I aren’t the customers and thus, sadly, we are not going to read them. The loss of the MetLife Mature Market Institute research is a very sad moment for those of us who build our ideas around consumer data.  Let's hope that the baton is passed and caught.

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I have been worrying too much about what to write about MetLife Mature Marketing Institute closing it's doors. Not enough to say it is an institution in this area.

And trying to figure out just how an organization as big as MetLife can shutter a leadership role in understanding a 'tsunami' level growth market. The cost cannot have been more than a footnote in their budget. Brand connection had value for me.

They stopped selling long term care insurance. They stopped doing reverse mortgages. Just how tough is it to crack this market? Is it so hard they plan to ignore it? Boomers and seniors...100 million strong... with assets.

More evidence of what a long strange trip we're on!


The concept of youth is hard to fight – human nature revels in the young, staying young, looking young,being among the young, the view on aging is that it is bad, leading to the inevitable – no one wants to die, which getting older means!

So although the demographic of older people is growing exponentially, the mind fights it. We are always looking back, and at a certain point in time we fear looking ahead. For those who are able, we start trying to live in the NOW!

What does this all mean; the majority of society still targets “youth”- the medical community defaults to ‘well you are getting older Sarah’ or at least thinks this – most want to treat the ‘novel’ and they find the
treatment of the aging community, in many cases, a burden and possibly pointless – let nature take it’s course; consumer products, in the most part, are new innovative product and software for informed first buyers; the developers of technology are predominantly young graduates in their 20’s revered for their programming acumen, supported limitlessly to generate stuff without an understanding of life and true ultimate acceptance by ‘the people’; most past 40 are deemed unqualified to be a part of the “new generation” of advanced technologists and shut out of encouragement to invent.

We ARE living longer, and therefore facing aging related challenges (alzheimer’s, physical degeneration, intolerance), the young are involved in “getting as much out of life” for themselves as possible, as we
all did ourselves. There is a chosen ignorance of the future, that they will face the same situation as is inevitable, but still kept out of mind (who thinks THEY are going to die – even my mother 94 with alzhemer’s, daily fights to stay in this world, even living with incontinence, celiac, and ‘trapped’ in a beautiful Sunrise senior residence, continually trying to attain some quality in being alive).

The huge challenge in living longer is to do it in dignity and comfort, ‘enjoying’ the wonderful world, just the daily routine, stimulation and CONNECTING with others, trying to get the attention of relatives and friends. Society does not have enough money or people to help the needy elderly and we do not know what to do – reference Metlife, Car Guys, VCs, Corporate America, even Relatives and Friends.

One major emphasis should be put into empowering the “elderly” who still have phenomenal talent,knowledge and desire to continue contributing to society. Every corporation should have a program (like support of women in the workplace) that demands oversight by competent “seniors” of their products and policies, not just focus groups but permanent objective consultants. We need to rekindle the respect for the elderly and work on focusing on very specific ways to improve life’s journey.

We must take advantage of all the WISDOM , ’the trait of utilizing accumulated knowledge and experience’ residing in this large and growing demographic, to leverage solutions to our own and future generations of seniors.

Excellent points, Larry. And to carry your plea for empowerment a bit further, engaged seniors at local levels (city, county, neighborhood) should create the institutions, soclial infrastructure, and programs of the future, rather than relying on the perpetuation of the funding pipeline from Washington through the State capital, down to the anxiously waiting peasantry. I can envision skilled retirees "running the show" as volunteers at non-profits and public agencies, with modest compensation. This would save the public money, and allow the better paid, though younger work force to learn from the older, wiser elders.

Here's the upside I see. MetLife, like many others, goofed. No one accurately predicted the success we're experiencing in staying alive longer.

I like the result, even if the prognosis was flawed. Fewer LTC policies are offered because it is an unwise investment. We are smarter in building, maintaining, and improving our homes. Louis Tenenbaum and others are getting the good words out. A real impact on improving lives is underway.

The demise of MetLife comes at the expense of losing their excellent studies and thought. The work of many fine people will continue to change lives for the better. Overall, I'd say it was worth the expense to achieve the advances we're making.

Going forward we need able minds, active voices, and empirical research to improve life as we age. I am optimistic, hopeful, thankful, and only slightly sad about MetLife's own turn to the future.

I read the comments on your blog about the demise of the Mature Market Institute with great interest (and everyone"s appreciation for the value it provided) as the MMI was a personal as well as a professional journey for me, having started it 16 years ago and having put my blood, sweat and tears into it I loved it all. Hard to believe its gone, other than the website which will be on for a year or so.

We had a great team, and over the years, produced terrific research thanks to John and others in the organization. The population won't stop aging, not only here but globally, and the boomers won't stop retiring. Someday MetLife may start something like the MMI all over again---long after we are gone. Stay tuned, we will regroup and hopefully be able to do something similar in another venue. And these comments made my day!

Sandy Timmermann

As you are saying, research in this segment must go on. The big question is in which directions? To my humble view the major barrier to new business is: The Baby boomers are still "young and rich" (only 60-65) and they are not truly  aware and not truly anxious about the next phase in their life

In fact I am wondering if any one in the Insurance & Aging Industries can really predict what will happen even in the next decade.

Needless to say this is  truly the real challenge : Transferring the AiP Industry from "Products to sustainable  Holistic  Personalized Complementary  Services." Transferring the Aging Industry from Micro Aging (for each individual) to Macro Aging ( Sustainable  Global Aging). To my humble view this is what Homage for Life is all about.

Provocative blog, Laurie. Attempting to tackle some of the questions you pose, suggest the following. Who will take Metlife's place? In addtion to the organizations you mention, I'd like to see several "branches" of research sprout. I assume stepped up emphasis on livable communities. Therefore, 1) it's about time the urban/regional planning community got on the stick, and started to implement some of the community-building senior programs in localized settings. In other words, take the concepts proffered by Metlife, AARP, and others into local politics and policy development. Also, 2) how about the academic community, especially university programs of gerontology, nursing, and sociology? As to your reference to United Health Care, please note that they have declined to participate in the California Affordable Care Act insurance exchange, so as not to have to deal with individual policies and policy holders. If they choose to cherry pick rather than participate fully in the extention of universal care (along with other reforms) in this country, they have outlived their usefullness in the public interest arena, and have become just another American insurance company reinforcing the deservedly poor image of that industry. In other words, write them off, as I plan to do next time my open enrollment period rolls around. I hope AARP disengages from its partnership with UHC as well.