Some of us are wondering, or worrying, about what life will be like in the coming millennium. What does the future hold for elders and aging baby boomers? our children and grandchildren? How will we be living, working, playing?
Since futurists and marketing experts are diligently researching answers to these and other 21st-century-related questions, we decided to call on one of the best: globally recognized trend forecaster Faith Popcorn, founder of the international marketing consultancy BrainReserve.
Popcorn and her staff have been identifying emerging lifestyle and consumer trends for Fortune 500 companies and others since 1974. Documented as having a 95 percent accuracy rate, Popcorn correctly predicted the explosive growth in home businesses, home delivery, stay-at-home working mothers and home shopping. She also foresaw the demand for organic and specialty foods, the rise of four-wheel-drive cars, as well as the failure of New Coke.
The best-selling author of "Clicking" and "The Popcorn Report" shared her visions of 21st-century life with us via cell phone while being chauffeur-driven to her midtown Manhattan office. She began her prognostications by citing the so-called "99 Lives" trend as one of the major, and possibly most powerful, currents of present and future life.
"99 Lives means that we're living at too fast a pace with too little time to do everything," Popcorn says. "This forces us to assume multiple roles," she adds, but it also means that people are working harder and longer than they did before. "Many elders are already on their second careers," Popcorn notes. "In the future, we'll see elders become even more enterprising as they embark on their third and fourth careers." On the downside, however, these elders, along with everyone else, are going to be living at faster paces and in more complex circumstances.
"Time will be the new currency in the year 2000 and beyond," she says. "We'll spend it, save it, invest it and trade it -- the way we did with money in the 1980s and '90s. "For instance, companies will start rewarding their employees with time bonuses rather than money, she says. What's more, people will be searching for extra time in every area of their lives, and this is why "by 2010, 90 percent of consumer products will be home-delivered. Mothers will give children lists so they can shop for the family's groceries and other necessities over the Internet." Kids will also be taking cooking lessons so they can prepare meals for the family, Popcorn says, because so many parents will be working too late to cook dinner.
In addition, while the kids or live-in elders are cooking dinner and parents are commuting homeward or working out at the gym, personal assistants will be running our errands. "Just as a hotel concierge gets tickets to sporting events or arranges a doctor's appointment for a guest, so will the personal concierge" work for overextended people, Popcorn says.
Given that the elder population and 72 million baby boomers are aging en masse, Popcorn says that the "clanning" trend is destined to define life in the 21st century. "Multigenerational families (living together) are on the rise," she says, "and so are alternative families that include single friends or relatives. "Families and disparate individuals will choose to live together for economic and child-raising advantages, along with the emotional and social supports that family-style living can confer. "There is going to be a blending of families and unrelated people that we've never seen the likes of before," Popcorn says. "People are really going to team up and care for each other in profound ways."
Gated communities, which she likens to armored cocoons, are also going to become more popular as we strive to distance ourselves from increasingly threatening social realities. As our 21st-century lives accelerate into technologically oriented and depersonalized lifestyles and job styles, "anchoring" will emerge as a key lifestyle trend. Anchoring refers to the desire to reconnect to our spiritual and ethical roots, and taking "what was secure from the past in order to be ready for the future," says Popcorn. "People are already rediscovering their religious and spiritual traditions, or discovering them."
In the next decade, Popcorn predicts that spirituality will become much more integral to daily life as companies and employers begin scheduling meditation or "spirituality breaks" for employees to pray or otherwise connect with a higher power. Noting that more Americans attend religious services than all sporting events combined, she adds: "Pick-your-own religions will become the new status quo. For example, people may combine Jewish ritual with Catholic sacraments and Zen principles."
This multiculturally blended practice of world religious traditions ties in with Popcorn's broad definition of how we will be living in the 21st century. "People are more spiritual, conservative and less apt to spend," she says. "Life after 2000 is going to be primarily focused on living and being rather than on buying and having."