America’s Aging Opportunity

Feb 4, 2016 by

Tom Watkins –

“The grey hairs are coming!  The grey hairs are coming!”  America is getting old.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), by 2050 the number of Americans over age 65 is projected to more than double from 40.2 million in 2010 to 88.5 million in 2050: “The estimated increase in those aged 85 and over is projected to almost triple, from 6.3 million in 2015 to 17.9 million in 2050, accounting for 4.5% of the total US population.”  Nationwide, “recent projections estimate that over two-thirds of individuals who reach age 65 will need long-term care services during their lifetime,” and, “recent estimates for the amount spent annually on paid, long-term care services are between $210.9 billion and $306 billion.”


Houston, we have a problem! 

It will come as no surprise that Florida has a huge number of retirees followed by the slow-growing Northeast and Midwest.  Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Rochester, Providence, Hartford, St. Louis and Detroit all have bulging senior populations.  Coming along rapidly is Atlanta, Raleigh, N.C, Austin, Texas, San Jose, Calif., and Los Angeles.

Forbes Magazine provides a list of “Cities That Are Going Gray The Fastest”

Clearly there are burdens that come with aging.  According to a Pew Survey, “About one-in-four adults ages 65 and older report experiencing memory loss.  About one-in-five say they have a serious illness, are not sexually active, or often feel sad or depressed.  About one-in-six report they are lonely or have trouble paying bills.  One-in-seven cannot drive.  One-in-ten say they feel they aren’t needed or are a burden to others.”

Ben Casselman, of FiveThirtyEight, sums up America’s age problem succinctly, “In 2012, U.S. had 22 people 65 and older for every 100 working-age people.  In 2030, there will be 35.”  This is called the dependency ratio.


The reality of this demographic will overwhelm our existing social constructs if we don’t get smart quickly and find creative, innovative ways to enable people to age in place, live with dignity, have fulfilling lives after a life time of work, seek self-determination and not stuff people into 21st century, backward institutions out of sight and out of mind.

We know that as the population ages we will need to find new living arrangements that go beyond regimented nursing homes.  I served as Executive Producer for an Emmy-nominated documentary, “Support At Home,” which depicts how seniors and people with other disabilities can thrive in their communities with support.

With an aging population growing at the rate of some 1.7 million seniors each year, we are going to need to explore other non-traditional living arrangements to address the senior housing shortage.


Stick Granny out Back

Some call them nothing more than, “storage containers for the elderly”, the new portable, self-contained medical cottages are popping up in backyards across America.  Dubbed “Granny Pods,” these pre-fabricated and pre-equipped medical cottages can be installed in a backyard behind a caregiver’s home—zoning laws permitting—and hooked up to the existing sewer, water and power lines for approximately $125,000.

“These Increasingly sophisticated medical cottages have become viewed as viable alternatives to expensive long-term care facilities, one that keeps aging seniors close to families while offering supervision and care when needed, along with the independence seniors’ desire.” 



“I have fallen and I can’t get up.”  The use of technology is going to be a growing field as the 21st century unfolds.  Medical alert systems are wearable devices that can be a literal lifeline in a medical emergency.  A senior looking for extra security, a family member concerned about an elder or an adult with a disability living alone, or a chronically ill individual wishing to give your family some peace of mind can benefit from a personal emergency response system.  See some if the top 2016 models to choose from.

But, beyond the simple electronic lifelines, we need to be incentivizing Silicon Valley app designers to develop apps for seniors and care givers to better navigate the aging environment.

There are entrepreneurs and techies seeing opportunities.


91-year-old Barbara Beskind is full of ideas to help the elderly.  Ms. Beskind has been designing products since the Great Depression, and owns several patents to make life easier.

Laurie M. Orlov, a technology industry veteran and elder care advocate, is the founder of Aging in Place Technology Watch, a market research firm that provides thought leadership, analysis and guidance about technologies and related services that enable boomers and seniors to remain longer in their home of choice.  She outlined some of her products here:

There is an Aging 2.0 Global Innovation Summit.  It is an annual, invitation-only conference that brings together a select group of senior care executives, consumer technology leaders, investors and top entrepreneurs from around the world to discuss emerging trends and new care models.

From Technology To Simplicity

What lessons can we adapt from other cultures or periods in time to better enable seniors to age safely in their homes and neighborhoods with their family and other support networks.

Ideas I witness as I travel in China include:

  • Adult exercise/playground lie equipment in city streets
  • Seniors with boom boxes in parks doing ball room dancing, line dancing and square dancing
  • Parks as gathering spaces for badminton, sword dancing, tai chi and striking up a band with fellow musicians

Michigan and other states need to be examining their laws and regulations regarding how they support seniors without breaking the bank.


My Dad, 88 and Partner, RitaNever has a group of people lived so long or so well.  Aging in America will present great challenges and opportunists for those of us that are greying, and those that love, help and support us.

Source: America’s Aging Opportunity

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