Extended lifespans, which will dramatically change how retirement planning and savings tools are used, can fuel economic growth, say BlackRock executives.

Those were some of the themes of a BlackRock Retirement Roundtable Outlook in Manhattan on Wednesday.

“We’re now in a place where living long is now the norm,” said Michael Hodin, executive director of the Global Coalition on Aging.

That, combined with declining birth rates, mean economic growth will partly depend on the contributions of older people.

“The evidence of increased human capital shows up first exactly where you would expect it to: in increased income for individuals. With 20 percent of Americans aged 65 now in the labor compared to 13 percent in 2000. We have seen the real median household income in the U.S. For 65-69 year-olds increase 26 percent from 1993 to 2013, and that of 70-74 year-olds increase 23 percent,” according to the BlackRock report, “Unlocking the Longevity Dividend: How Longer Lives Are Changing Retirement, Investing and the Economy.”

The number of people age 60 and over is growing dramatically. Globally the number of those age 60 and older will reach 1 billion in five years, BlackRock officials said..

The advanced economies are already affected by this trend, according to the report.

“In OECD [Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development] countries, there will be more people over 60 than 15 by the year 2050,” the report said. Growth rates could be hurt in many countries with low birth rates. Hodin named Russia and Japan as nations that are “de-populating.”

Even a high population growth nation such as India, which once had a birth rate about three times the United States, has slowed down. India’s birth rate, Hodin noted, is now similar to the United States.’

Fewer births are happening at the same time that “super-aged societies, those top heavy with those ages 65 and older, will grow from 8 percent to 20 percent, says the United Nations.

Both public and private retirement systems, under the stresses of more people using these systems for long periods and with fewer new workers contributing to them, could break down, BlackRock officials warned.

Advisors and investors must think about this “deep-structural transformation,” which will endure at the least through the middle of the 21st century,” they added.

“If we hold onto the kinds of assumptions that made sense in the 20th century that were fiscally sustainable then but are increasingly unworkable today -- nations will be expected to divert an increasingly large portion of their total economic output to retirement funding,” according to the BlackRock report.

What should be done?

BlackRock officials argue for the more aggressive use of defined contribution plans. They contend that every employer should use auto-enrollment and auto-increase techniques, ensuring the workers start early enough to achieve a high-income replacement rate, usually 75 percent or more.

Clients shouldn’t primarily look at how much they have in retirement assets. They need to know their retirement debt, which is how much income they will need to replace.