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Pilgrimages, Longevity Clinics, Athlete Retreats and More

The global wellness industry is transforming — in what matters and who it matters to. Here are 5 future wellness trends to look out for

I recently attended the Global Wellness Summit in NYC for a review of the current trends in proactive wellness and healthy aging. We wanted to share some of our favorite takeaways — things you might want to keep an eye out for or learn more about. 

There is considerable momentum in the health and wellness space — as it’s expected to grow from $5.6 trillion today to $8.5 trillion by 2027. At AGEIST, we’ve long believed that your health is your greatest asset, and we are happy to see that wellness has shifted to a top priority for an ever-growing percentage of the population. 

Meeting people where they are or where they want to be

What initially stands out is the role that our current culture plays in creating wellness spaces defined by dramatically different — even contradictory — markets and mindsets. These wellness markets and mindsets were referred to as “hardcare” and “softcare.” 

Hardcare is the hyper-medical, high-tech, super-complex, very expensive wellness market. This trend is the manifestation of our desire for longevity and will continue to dominate in biotech spaces with high-tech, high-medical, high-cost longevity clinics. This is a result of a desire for highly customized, concierge-type care from an aging population who has witnessed the failure of traditional healthcare to tackle prevention.

Softcare captures new desires for a low-pressure, simpler, less expensive path where emotional, social and spiritual wellbeing matter most. This trend pushes back against the last decade of high-pressure and uber-commodified wellness. This “softer” approach to wellness can be seen everywhere from intuitive eating to the simple act of walking. 

The future lies in both “harder” and “softer” care, and the polarity of those seeking these wildly different paths will only widen in the future. 

There were 10 trends highlighted during the summit, each with its own unique solution to the important longevity-related issues we face globally. You can access the full 2024 Future of Trends Wellness Report here, but below are the 5 trends we wanted to share with you. 

  1. The Power of the Pilgrimage (softcare)

A positive from the pandemic was that people all over the world rediscovered the joy and health benefits that come from a simple walk — especially in conjunction with nature. Walking enthusiasts are taking this up a notch with an emerging trend around walking ancient trails and multi-day hikes in countries around the world. These journeys range from the famous (like the Camino de Santiago in Spain) to off-the-beaten-path sites in Japan.

A pilgrimage allows for meditation and a deeper engagement with your surroundings. These events can lead to unexpected encounters with strangers (we love novelty and the benefits of meeting new people) that can lead to a deeper perspective on “our place” in a very big world (we love finding purpose and connections). Keep an eye out for resorts offering wellness programs that incorporate journeys to ancient sites or participation in spiritual services like meditating with monks. 

  1. From Manning Up to Opening Up (softcare)

We have long felt that men (in general) have considerable work to do with regard to our emotional wellness. But there is a cultural shift underway. As the dire consequences of rising male loneliness are exposed, the wellness industry is responding with solutions designed to help men reconnect with themselves and with one another. 

Examples here are men’s retreats around lessening stoicism and authentically sharing feelings, and new mental health apps designed specifically by and for men. This trend serves as a much-needed catalyst for male connection. Anticipate that social and emotional wellness offerings for men will become more nuanced and more evenly distributed across all stages of life. 

  1. Longevity Has Longevity (hardcare)

Driven by an aging population seeking a longer healthspan and a medical establishment still not focused on prevention, longevity is here for the long game. Longevity clinics — highly medical, highly technical (and highly priced) clinics — are the fastest-growing business genre. Most offer advanced diagnostic testing to identify issues before they become a problem. 

High-end gyms are becoming longevity clinics, offering preventative diagnostic workups along with their workouts. Wellness resorts are becoming highly-medical longevity destinations, urban longevity hubs are under development, and wellness resorts are stepping things up with Blue Zones retreats — yes, there are such things — to get guests connecting, cooking, and moving like the people who live the longest in the world. 

  1. A Wellness Check for Weight Loss Drugs (hardcare)

This is not a new topic for us at AGEIST, but we found the expected global impact eye-opening. 

Big Pharma’s extremely effective GLP-1-inhibiting weight-loss drugs upended traditional behavioral-change approaches to weight loss with the view of weight loss as a matter of biology rather than psychology and “willpower.” 

The number of people taking them has skyrocketed and there are at least 70 new drugs in development (think cheaper, very effective ones like Zepbound hitting the market soon). Proponents argue these drugs could end the global obesity epidemic and save millions of lives, while critics question their impact on long-term health. We understand the costs are coming down massively in the near future.

Expect better integrated, whole-health, weight-loss approaches (nutrition coaching, fitness, mental health services, and advanced metabolic health analysis) and “wellness companion” programs for the drug takers, to aid in getting people off these “forever” drugs and improving their health while on them.

  1. Sports Finds Its Footing in Hospitality (hardcare)

While I do not necessarily see myself as a “near-elite” athlete, I do, in fact, fall into this category. And, it seems that other people want to train like near-elite athletes. It’s strange how much “sports” has been left out of the hospitality equation, but that’s now changing. 

Hospitality destinations are answering the call with high-end wellness catering to recreational athletes who are serious about their sport, letting guests train and learn from their sports idols. New hospitality brands are squarely aimed at elite athletes, offering nth degree wellness, fitness and recovery programming. Think pro-level gym, personal trainers, brain-stimulating tech, cryo chambers, IV drips, and 5-star nutritional menus. Hospitality groups are thinking beyond “training like an athlete” and actually organizing competitive play: swimmers, runners, and tennis and pickleball players really want to compete with people at their level. 

You may want to sign up for the Global Wellness newsletter, and check out their other offerings. We often find out about breaking trends and techniques here.

See medical disclaimer below. ↓


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The ideas expressed here are solely the opinions of the author and are not researched or verified by AGEIST LLC, or anyone associated with AGEIST LLC. This material should not be construed as medical advice or recommendation, it is for informational use only. We encourage all readers to discuss with your qualified practitioners the relevance of the application of any of these ideas to your life. The recommendations contained herein are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. You should always consult your physician or other qualified health provider before starting any new treatment or stopping any treatment that has been prescribed for you by your physician or other qualified health provider. Please call your doctor or 911 immediately if you think you may have a medical or psychiatric emergency.

David Stewart
David is the founder and face of AGEIST. He is an expert on, and a passionate champion of the emerging global over-50 lifestyle. A dynamic speaker, he is available for panels, keynotes and informational talks at david@agei.st.


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