Finding Opportunity in AgingBy Margaret Franckhauser, President & CEO, NextFifty Initiative September 29, 2017
Face it: we’re all aging and generally living longer, more productive lives. Baby boomers are the first generation in the history of humanity who can expect to live past age 70; and although they are the first such generation, they will not be the last. Each generation is expected to extend the lifespan a bit longer than the generation before them. What does that mean for innovators and forward-thinkers? Opportunity.
During this year’s Denver Startup Week, we talked a lot about harvesting the potential that lies in the changing demographic landscape, joined by AARP, Aging 2.0, Silvernest, Startup Health, Rockies Venture Club and others. Together we discussed the evolving needs and desires that need to be met as people age, as well as the need to engage and enable the growing aging demographic to be participants in this evolution.
There are a few things to consider when looking at the opportunity to innovate, capitalize and even improve society as we all age.
How are Innovation and Aging connected?
Have you heard of the Longevity Economy? If so, you understand the deep connection between the two. If this is a new term to you, allow me to explain.
According to AARP, “The Longevity Economy, ‘the sum of all economic activity serving the needs of Americans over 50,’ is responsible for at least $7.1 trillion in economic activity every year. Overall, it accounts for nearly 100 million jobs and more than $4.5 trillion in wages and salaries.”
With staggering statistics about how many people are aging, there are products and services that will clearly be in demand. Some of these already exist – and we applaud the companies, non-profits and individuals who have focused on meeting the needs of aging populations.
However, the opportunity for innovation is ripe. There is new technology, medical breakthroughs, transportation solutions, mobility improvements and more that need to be created, funded and executed.
What are some of the challenges of innovation in the aging space?
There are a few key takeaways when looking at the shifting landscape of the aging population.
Older generations are a diverse mix, with different needs. Some people are located in urban markets, while others are in hard-to-reach rural areas. Others are out living epic adventures and pursuing passions, while some are struggling to meet basic needs such as food and shelter.
When introducing a product or service to this audience make sure these three points are top-of-mind:
- Are you providing measurable utility? While some of the aging population still has disposable income, a large majority doesn’t. You will need to provide a clearly defined value proposition - a missing need.
- Are you providing upfront price point details? This audience has a finite budget and needs to understand the cost of your product or service. Because they are often taken advantage of, making sure your pricing is transparent and to the point will go a long way.
- Are you testing your product or service with the customers? We’re talking about testing all aspects (design, pricing, process, etc.) of what you’re offering with people over 50. Don’t just source the opinions of people who work with this population – go directly to the source. And take their feedback seriously.
How can organizations collaborate to improve the aging industry?
It is in society’s best interest to support innovation for our aging populations. Whether an investment firm, a medical research organization or a governmental agency, there is a role for everyone.
An understanding of demographics, open dialogue about the needs and desires of aging populations and strong support of innovation are all necessary to keep this engine moving.
My prescription? Think about what you want your later years to be like. What will make life easier? Ask someone older what they wish they had access to. Dream big – and think about thriving, not simply surviving!