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An Aging Population: Two Industries Destined For Disruption

An Aging Population: Two Industries Destined For Disruption

By Susan Williams

If you’ve been reading the media lately, it’s hard not to realize that the population of the world is aging.

With the largest demographic of baby boomers now aged between 55 and 75 and about 72 million strong in the US and around 9.6 million in Canada, one thing is for sure the way we currently support an aging population will need to change. The old support models will just not sustain themselves.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently shared;

“Between 2015 and 2050, the proportion of the world’s population over 60 years will nearly double from 12% to 22%.”

Now I am in no way a psychic but if I was to predict where I think we will see some significant changes and disruption, these are two areas that I would bet on.

# 1 Disruption: Healthcare

With age, comes an increase for healthcare services. It’s been reported that people age 55 and over account for over half of total health spending.  And it’s not just insurance that is paying the cost. In fact, Fidelity recently reported that “an average retired couple age 65 in 2019 may need approximately $285,000 saved (after tax) to cover health care expenses in retirement”. 

This is quite concerning as a study completed in 2018 by Northwestern Mutual found that 21% of Americans have no retirement savings while a third of Baby Boomers currently in, or approaching, retirement age have between nothing and $25,000 set aside.

So how our current healthcare systems are set up are just doomed to fail. Not only will there be an influx in demand, both the healthcare systems and people may not be able to support or afford it.

So bring on the disruption.

Focus On Prevention

The best way to avoid high healthcare bills is to avoid them all together.

As reported in Harvard School of Public Health, chronic diseases —including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer— account for some of the most common health problems in the United States, yet many of these chronic diseases are preventable. They are often linked to having a poor diet, lifestyle choices and lack of physical activity.

I expect that there will be more focus on programs and initiatives to help educate, manage and report on how well people are taking care of themselves and their health.

I imagine that similar to insurance companies now monitoring your driving habits, they will move into motivating and incenting individuals to enroll and report on their own personal healthy behaviours. Technologies will be put in place that will track and monitor someone’s progress.

As well, the demand for personal trainers, nutrition coaches, active stretching coaches and more will all see an increase. I can foresee customized food services that will cook and deliver healthy meals specifically based on personal health issues will find an increased demand.

I anticipate that virtual reality will begin to play a bigger role. I can see as the goggles and technology advance, people will be working out with virtual groups, learning how to cook nutritious meals, joining group support chats that discuss how to manage any health challenges in keeping up with their regimes.

Prevention will have to become a priority. Dealing with a disease once diagnosed becomes much more challenging and expensive.

Designer Drugs and Automated Delivery

I’ve suggested this before but I still think it needs to be reiterated. Once someone is diagnosed with a condition, maintaining their adherence of their medications becomes critical.

In a New York Times article, they shared that;

“Studies have consistently shown that 20 percent to 30 percent of medication prescriptions are never filled, and that approximately 50 percent of medications for chronic disease are not taken as prescribed…. This lack of adherence… is estimated to cause approximately 125,000 deaths and at least 10 percent of hospitalizations, and to cost the American health care system between $100 billion and $289 billion a year.”

We must find better ways to ensure people adhere to taking their medications. The best way to do this is make it easy. This means something that someone can’t forget to do.

I project that some type of implant or automated delivery system will be developed that will coordinate someone’s specific medications and automatically deliver this to the individual the appropriate dose(s) without any human need to remember to take their medication. The medications will be managed and monitored by some type of technology with oversight from a healthcare practitioner.

Personal Health Hubs

I think that the accountability and responsibility of health management will make a major shift to the individual given the demands that will be placed on the healthcare system. But to do this, more tools and technology will be needed. I predict that we will see an expansion of health diagnostics that will be able to be conducted from someone’s home with oversight from a healthcare professional. Blood tests, blood pressure, weight management, vision tests and even possibly dentistry would all be managed from a home based personal health hub.

Focus on Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia

Here’s a few facts from the Alzheimer’s Society that you may not be aware of;

  • Between 2000 and 2017, deaths from heart disease have decreased by 9% while deaths from Alzheimer’s have increased by 145%
  • 5.8 million Americans are living with Alzehimer’s and by 2050 this number is expected to rise to nearly 14 million

Without a cure in sight, how are we expecting to support all these people?

Until we can get a cure, prevention again is probably the best remedy. Lifestyle, diet, keeping active and sleep all can play a part in delaying the disease.

I can envision Alzheimer / Dementia Specialists emerging to help people modify their lives to try and stave off this devastating disease. Apps will be designed to track, report and manage the risks associated with Alzheimer’s. Using artificial intelligence, tools will be developed for early diagnosis. And hopefully a vaccine or cure will be found and end this disease altogether.

#2 Disruption: Housing

Let’s be honest, no one wants to be forced out of their home and go live in some strange place with people they don’t know. Which means that the number of people planning to remain in their own homes is going to skyrocket.

Research conducted by Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University has predicted that “By 2035, more than one in five people in the US will be aged 65 and older and one in three households will be headed by someone in that age group.”

But we all know that there are risks in older individuals living in home settings. Loneliness, isolation, injury, falls all can cause personal challenges. Never mind the upkeep and management of maintaining a home.

Here’s where I think we may see some new services and offerings to help.

Monthly Home Maintenance Fees

Snow removal, lawn maintenance, window cleaning, picture hanging, furniture moving, minor repairs – and more. All of these are things that are needed to manage and maintain a house.

Similar to maintenance fees for a condominium, I think there will be organizations that will offer a single fee service on a monthly basis to support people aging in place. Technology will keep track of what services are required when, ordering of services and will let the home owners decide when they would like to schedule them.

Personal Concierge Services

Think of this service almost like a personal task rabbit. Whatever you need done, just ask and someone will be available to help. Whether it’s accompanying someone to an appointment to take notes as to what the doctor says to joining someone in going to a movie, these personal assistants will fill in the space where the family cannot be available.

Customized Aging In Place Housing Options

How should a home be constructed so that someone can safely age in place? An aging in place expert will know as we see the emergence of silver architecture and renovations.

As reported by the Smithsonian, experts need to build spaces that allow for independent living as someone ages. Well lit, large hallways to accommodate walkers and wheelchairs, floors that aren’t slippery, handles placed in the correct spots, correct counter top heights and low shelving plus future accommodations for caregivers are just some of the things that need to all be considered. It’s becoming such a growing field, the National Association of Home Builders now has courses not specific to become an aging in place specialist.

Intergenerational Housing and Renovations

There is already a rise in the requirement for intergenerational housing. This will allow family’s to care for each other more effectively. Governments will need to support new housing developments and renovations being requested along with allowing for “granny pods” to help support families in living together.

Also Read: Multi-Generational Living – Is It For You?

Increase in Co-Housing

This is already starting to happen. Younger people living with older people. Older “communes” of people living together. Older people renting rooms of their large homes so they can stay in their homes. Whatever co-housing model it is, I anticipate that this will continue to grow. Especially with the shortage of home care workers, caring for each other is going to have to become paramount.

Here is some more information about how some of these options are working now;

There’s my list of some areas that I think are just primed for change and disruption. There are many others – for instance the business of dying – that also needs an overhauled but before we reach that point, my hope is that we try and make sure that the journey to get there is as enjoyable and stress free as possible.

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Susan Williams is the Founder of Booming Encore. Being a Boomer herself, Susan loves to discover and share ways to live life to the fullest. She shares her experiences, observations and opinions on living life after 50 and tries to embrace Booming Encore's philosophy of making sure every day matters.
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