Ten thousand Baby Boomers turn 65 years old every day in the U.S. How and where they age not only presents a huge societal paradigm shift, but will also drive big business.
The businesses that serve this population are vast and varied, ranging from construction; assisted living facilities (from active senior to memory care); home care services; pharmaceuticals; and technologies. Coordinating services and clear communication and education about their services to complimentary businesses and end-users, will be key to succeeding in what they set out to do: providing feasible options for seniors to improve quality of life.
The quality of care and the variety of options in senior living has clearly increased and improved as both the population skews older; and lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic. Look for senior living communities to take queues from entities such as the Ritz Carlton hotel experience, including refined food service, athletic facilities, concierge service.
One growing trend that should be paid attention to is “aging in place” An organization of that name, Aging in Place, that studies and informs about this trend and the industries growing around it, reports that every year, more seniors decide to stay home rather than move into an assisted living or senior housing development.
While there is certainly an emotional aspect to this decision – people tend to become attached to their homes — there is also a safety aspect to it as well. The COVID-19 pandemic reinforced this trend as it brought to light the shortfalls in housing and care systems. Business Insider predicts the U.S. home care market to grow from its $100 billion in 2016 to $225 billion by 2024.
There are challenges to this as well as solutions. One of the biggest challenges is the labor shortage for home care workers. Forbes magazine, which provided a series on COVID-19 and aging, reinforced futurists and other trend watchers’ assertions that digital technology is the answer. Telehealth and wearable devices to monitor seniors for irregularities will improve care and health outcomes for seniors choosing to age in place.
We will certainly see industries arising to meet this trend of aging in place – whether digital or otherwise. For example, the increase in home modifications for at-home seniors has become a booming business. The University Southern California Leonard David School of Gerontology’s Fall Prevention Center of Excellence offers training, research and assistance to professionals responding to the increasing demand.
While aging at a senior facility or aging in place, the opportunities for technology assistance are plentiful and come with challenges as well. While voice assistance can help seniors monitor medicine schedules; telehealth can provide convenient health checkups; smart mattresses, clothing and devices can monitor seniors for irregularities; and even personal robots may be helpful in providing senior assistance, there is one big obstacle. The generation that most benefits from these technologies is not a digital generation. In one of its aging articles, Forbes indicates that only half of those 65 and older own a smartphone.
Digital education for seniors will play a big role as will access to devices that are user-friendly and helpful. Medicare has announced its dedication to ensure seniors have access to the latest devices and it will be up to our health care providers, family members and other professionals to ensure they are used correctly. It is not hard to predict that the service providers who are able to communicate and coordinate with compensatory services and educate end-users, will succeed in this growing market segment.
Marx Layne & Company provides public relations and communications support services to a variety of industries that service the aging population from assisted living facilities and ADA-compliant construction to health care and technology providers.