For the first time in history, people aged 65 and over outnumbered children younger than five globally. The most recent projections suggest that the number of people aged 80 years or older is going to triple, from 143 million in 2019 to 426 million in 2050.
Governments focus on these demographic changes because they will have a great impact on social and healthcare budgets. However, the increasing longevity opens up a new range of opportunities for businesses targeting this consumer group. Seniors are a growing market for new products and services. It is the so-called silver economy which, according to the European Commission’s Silver Economy Report forecast, is going to expand by approximately 5% per year up to 2025, reaching €5.7 trillion.
There is no need to say that keeping in good health and living independently and with a good quality of life is every ageing person’s goal. Entrepreneur and longevity investor Dmitry Kaminskiy believes that “technology in general, and DeepTech... will be the main driver of improved quality of life, social activity, performance and independence, and the extension of the healthy period of life” among older persons. Co-founder and managing partner at Deep Knowledge Ventures, Kaminskiy is co-director of the secretariat of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Longevity in the UK Parliament.
Despite that, currently only a small percentage of the overall healthcare and healthtech market goes to longevity technologies. Kaminskiy has witnessed “the rise of longevity as an industry over the past six years.” According to him, “AgeTech, and the full scope of IT and digital technologies capable of helping the silver generation remain active, functional and independent, is a rapidly growing industry and will be a dominant sector of the global longevity industry for the next few years.”
There are many areas of the silver economy where markets are only just developing, e.g., domestic robots, assisted living, smart transport, smart homes, healthcare monitoring. Many public and private initiatives promote innovation in this area, but the biggest impulse comes from the European Commission, whose program Horizon 2020 includes initiatives to support innovations for the silver economy. There are remarkable private innovation initiatives like one global network of entrepreneurs with local chapters around the world that accelerate innovation to address the biggest challenges and opportunities in aging.
Most often it does not take a highly sophisticated technology to help the elderly live with a better quality of life. A simple idea can make a big difference to people who want to maintain their independence and live at home. It is the case of Norwegian startup that developed a stair walker that allows people with mobility issues climb stairs safely. The idea came out of “engineering students at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology working in close cooperation with occupational and physiotherapists as well as users,” explained Simone Englert, marketing manager of Assitech, based in Trondheim (Norway).
The business that Guillermo de Barnola has started also targets the silver community, but in a very different way. De Barnola, a medical doctor from Barcelona that worked in high management positions for decades, became an entrepreneur 10 years ago—some would call him an olderpreneur—and since then he has founded three startups. His last project, an online marketplace that offers products and services to seniors as well as personalized content to this age group. “Senior customers have specific needs and they look for products and services suited to their particular needs. This is a huge market that is not well cared for. Spain is the second most aged country in the world just behind Japan. We need products adapted to the mentality and culture of the elderly,” said de Barnola. As well as offering personalized products to seniors, the company has built an engaged community that share tips on how to keep healthy, give leisure recommendations and keep up to date with news that affect them.
Technology is no longer a challenge for the elderly, but a great tool to enjoy life. Whilst de Barnola thinks that “people over 60 are no longer digitally illiterate as they have incorporated technology through mobile phones,” Kaminskiy believes that the middle-aged citizens of today will be very equipped mentally to adopt the full scope of technologies, tools and solutions for health over the course of extended periods of healthy longevity.
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Originally published April 8, 2020; updated August 17, 2020