Living Longer: Aging, Power, Living Happily & Entrepreneurship Abound

Entrepreneurs Posted Apr 17, 2019 by Jennifer Torode

Some of the world’s most successful and wise people say to live in the moment and capture full happiness and that is extremely valuable. One should remember to live in the present but always plan for the future.

Last Thursday, I ventured to Cambridge to attend the MIT Enterprise Forum Cambridge (MITEF) panel discussion with some of my CHEN PR cohorts. The topic: “The Longevity Revolution is Here: Exploring Entrepreneurial Opportunities.” For this panel, MITEF partnered with AGENCY, a co-working space for collective impact where innovators focused on aging and longevity can grow their companies.

The topic piqued my interest as aging is inevitable and being in my forties with parents in their seventies, one can’t help but to ponder what may lie ahead. I was also curious to learn about the different types of services and products that are being offered from rising entrepreneurial efforts and what kind of research and investments are being spent on this rapidly expanding 50+ demographic. Perhaps there is a side hustle opportunity?

While some people gravitate towards being grateful to have the opportunity to grow old (wrinkles and all)—given that they are in good health both mentally and physically and have set themselves up for financial freedom in their later years—the thought of aging usually conjures up negative thoughts in peoples’ minds. We are a culture obsessed with staying and looking young and sometimes we forget the positive effects of aging. I’m a sucker for inspirational quotes so “Don’t resent getting old, it’s a privilege denied to many” always puts things into perspective.

I like referring to the “elderly” as “seniors” as I think the word senior has more of a positive connotation to it. I was delighted that most of the panelists used this terminology as well. Just to clarify, the senior demographic is mostly categorized as 65 years and older.

Every so often, I observe how different cultures treat older generations and looking at Asian cultures, the younger generations emphasize taking good care of their seniors—parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, neighbors, etc.—and there is always a level of enormous gratitude, respect and patience. That is not to say that other cultures don’t respect their seniors, but in America, I think many people view older generations that may be failing in mental and physical health as somewhat of a burden and that just…sucks. We’ll all be older and fall into the senior demographic someday, so how will we all one day want to be referenced, treated and marketed to?

Currently in America, the 50+ demographic is more active and youthful, working longer and continually fueling the economy far longer than previous generations. According to research by Oxford Economics, this demographic currently contributes nearly $4.6 trillion a year to the economy by spending on consumer goods and services, including healthcare. In fact, experts say that 30 years has essentially been added to lifespans in the 20th century, which has greatly lengthened middle age.

Let’s downshift and change lanes as I walk through some highlights from the panel, which focused on the more mature seniors in this demographic. The discussion was enlightening and offered many positive aspects—meaning that the aging population has more power than in years past when it comes to deciding their journey, while entrepreneurs are realizing that there is huge market opportunity with seniors.

As part of this discussion, the panelists all agreed that most seniors want to reside in their homes and will do anything to avoid relocating into nursing homes. Like most adults, they want to stay independent for as long as possible. Many services are now catering to these seniors and their families who often take a more active role in the oversight of their daily lives and wellbeing.

One panelist, Moulay Elalamy at Benchmark Senior Living, runs information technology (IT) efforts at a large assisted living community. Assisted living communities allow residents the freedom to live independently but with the option of getting assistance by healthcare professionals and other services when and if they need it. He said that although many seniors today are more tech savvy, a majority still are not. He provided a great example. He said when seniors move into an assisted living community, they’re asked if they want Wi-Fi in their rooms/apartments. Many decline the Wi-Fi option and may not see the upside of having it.

Elalamy said you need to know your audience. Instead of asking seniors “Do you want to be able to use an iPad or the Internet?” ask them “Would you like to have the option of seeing your children and grandchildren when they are not here visiting or watch movies or programs?” Most said yes. Therefore, presenting the “value” rather than the technology helped them make a more informed decision that would bring them happiness. The same goes for those who are not as physically mobile. For example, if someone is not very mobile, but they have Wi-Fi, Amazon’s cloud-based voice service, Alexa, can tell her what time it is, answer questions or turn on a light. She can also turn on a smart TV and change channels just by talking into the remote.

Clinical Administration Director Kendra Seavey works at care.coach, a company offering virtual pets to seniors so they can have companionship, receive reminders to take their medications, ask healthcare questions, etc. The virtual pets comprise a mix of algorithms and real healthcare personnel. The service value is simple—it offers greater independence, connections to people, and brings happiness.

Phil Lambert, Life Biosciences senior vice president for Discovery and Labs, is focused on helping to extend a person’s life expectancy by spending more time and investment on finding cures for age-related illnesses. He said that Alzheimer’s impacts most seniors, and although there is research being conducted today, it needs to be continued, and perhaps expedited, especially with such a large aging population. He also embraced the fact that the cost of medication must be kept in check as prescriptions and services are astronomical today.

This discussion could have gone on far longer with many twists and turns, but the goal was to get us all thinking about entrepreneurial opportunities within this growing demographic. From 50 to 100, don’t take your foot of the gas pedal—there’s too much life to be experienced. From adventurous expeditions and enriched living services to product essentials, there are many entrepreneurs diving in.

Do you have an idea for a new or different service or product that could benefit this demographic where you could monetize your efforts?