Everyone hopes to live an independent and healthy long life.
So, first here’s the good news. When it comes to longevity, this is happening. As reported by Business Insider;
“The 85-and-over population is projected to increase 351 percent between 2010 and 2050, compared to a 188 percent increase for the population aged 65 or older and a 22 percent increase for the population under age 65.”
But this is also where it starts to get interesting.
As much as everyone hopes to age long and well without a whole lot of help or support, this is not necessarily the reality. There are many things that can impact this intention. Here are just a few;
Health and Mobility
Often an independent life starts with the quality of someone’s health. The National Council On Aging (NCOA) reported;
“Approximately 80% of older adults have at least one chronic disease, and 77% have at least two. Four chronic diseases—heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes—cause almost two-thirds of all deaths each year.”
Also, did you know that one in four Americans aged 65+ falls each year and every 19 minutes, an older adult dies from a fall? Falls are the leading cause of fatal injury and the most common cause of nonfatal trauma-related hospital admissions among older adults.
In order to remain healthy and independent, we need to focus on the prevention and management of some of these concerns. We need to find ways to stay healthy through age targeted nutrition and exercise. We need to ensure that if a medication is prescribed, that it is adhered to.
Loneliness is a significant concern for many people – and especially concerning for older individuals. The AARP reported that 1 in 3 older adults in the US are lonely. And with loneliness comes an increase of both physical and mental health risks. What is also interesting is that the answer for loneliness is just not being with people. Loneliness is actually a very personal situation requiring personalized solutions.
We must find ways to help people stay engaged with others as they age. We need to ensure that there are appropriate programs in place to ensure that we minimize the opportunities for this situation to happen.
Aging In Place
Approximately 90% of older people plan to age in place – this means remain living independently in their own homes. However in order to actually make this plan a reality, a number of things need to be available. For example;
- A physically safe environment. One that an older person can easily maneuver in without any physical risks.
- Ease of maintenance. How will the home be maintained – both inside and out? Even simple things like changing a lightbulb need to be considered
- Access to services. How easy will it be to get groceries, prescriptions and any other necessary household items?
- Social isolation. How easy will it be for people to engage and stay connected with other people?
- Financial management. How will all the bills be managed and paid?
- Caregiver support. There is already a dire shortage of caregivers and with an aging population this is just poised to become an even larger challenge.
So, as much as people hope and plan to age independently, chances are they will need some help to do this. Also, given the increasing demand for this support, this is where we desperately need businesses and entrepreneurs thinking and their commitment to help.
To better understand these opportunities, I spoke with Jon Warner – Author and CEO of Silver Moonshots. Through Silver Moonshots, Jon’s organization provides support and guidance to businesses and entrepreneurs focused on developing products and services for the 50+ demographic.
Jon confirmed that unfortunately, many organizations are only considering product innovation and development to support an aging consumer as a secondary thought. For example, the Apple iWatch was originally designed for the middle aged individual. It was only after the creation that they began to consider different applications for an older audience. There are now a few features available on the device. One feature can sense a fall coupled with the ability to message for help and another feature has an electrical heart rate sensor that monitors for irregularities.
Jon also shared that where there has been some specific targeted development, the actual products are often just modified for an older audience. For example, GreatCall – is primarily a technology company that provides products that have just been modified for either simpler or easier to use for an older audience.
We are seeing some changes in language around aging through health and beauty products. For example, Allure magazine discontinued the use of the word “anti-aging” in any of their magazines, Jane Fonda and Helen Mirren walked the catwalk for L’Oreal and of course there was that cheeky Trojan condom commercial specifically aimed at baby boomers.
But what we are missing in this space is innovation.
We need innovation to primarily focus on and tackle some of these specific issues and opportunities related to aging.
Jon and his team provide incubator support for businesses and entrepreneurs interested in developing innovative products and services to support this aging demographic. Jon says that the opportunities in this space is wide open – there is plenty of space available to create innovative solutions.
But what Jon and I both wonder is why this isn’t happening already. Typically businesses and entrepreneurs as we often say “follow the money” however in this case this is not happening at all.
As Forbes reported;
“Boomers, those in their 50s and 60s, are poised to become half the U.S. population by the end of next year and control 70% of the nation’s disposal income. They account for $46 trillion in wealth and stand to inherit $15 trillion in the next 20 years.”
So to all potential innovators, entrepreneurs, business leaders and anyone else – this is an invitation to you. Please get creative and help tackle some of the largest and potentially beneficial challenges we have for an aging society. Not only may this effort benefit others – some day in the future, it may also benefit you.