Aging in place is a term used to describe the act of living in the residence of your choice as you age, while securing the necessary support & services you need for your changing personal needs. It sounds simple enough, but for the millions of people who have (or will) choose to age in place, the reality can sometimes be anything but simple. Every person’s situation is different and the number of obstacles they might encounter can be daunting. This presents a unique opportunity for businesses at the local level that provide services directly to older consumers (or along with their caregivers or family members).
What you may not know is how big the opportunity will be. Now, we’re using the word “opportunity” here, because for businesses focusing on seniors, it is. However, it is also a dilemma; for individuals, families, businesses and communities. Which, makes your role in your community that much more important.
Aging in place is a product of the Age Boom
In the year 2000, there were somewhere in the neighborhood of 35 million people in the U.S. age 65 or older. Fast-forward to the year 2030 when over 20% of the U.S. population will be in that age bracket, twice the number of people estimated in 2000. (71.5 million people – U.S. Census Bureau). Let that sink in for a minute.
With 71.5 million people over the age of 65, our communities are going to struggle at so many levels. There is quite honestly not enough infrastructure, mechanisms, service providers, medical personnel, living facilities, home care providers, elder law attorneys, geriatric care managers or any other person, service or thing to meet the need. It’s huge.
Do not make the assumption that it isn’t going to affect you or your community. And, do not think that it won’t be a problem until 2030. This age wave has been coming a long time and communities are already feeling it. Our country is (and will continue to be) in a tight spot… it’s going to take all of us to make it through.
How is it really going to affect my community?
As previously stated, communities do not have the infrastructure to support the needs of this group. There are going to be a growing number of older people in your city. In many cases, they will have family or friends around to help them; in some cases not. For many of those (in both groups), some of the assistance they receive will come from community based services. (Note, though, that most communities do not have the ability to provide help to all that will require it.) If communities are going to successfully come through the age boom, they are going to have to change. New organizations, transportation options, medical services, personalized business-to-consumer services and assistance to help them with day-to-day tasks.
This isn’t even taking into consideration the impact this is going to have on the families in your community. More and more people are having their elderly loved ones live with them. This means homes that may need modified, in-home care, geriatric care partners; the list goes on. Not to mention all of those who will be trying to care for someone at a distance. (Did I mention it was huge?)
What about local businesses?
What if the number of seniors doubled in your city? Would it change the way you do business? Would you start providing delivery, shopping services, home consultations or other concierge service?
What if you are a senior-focused business? Could you successfully serve the needs of your clients when you were coordinating your services with a family member 1,000 miles away? Can you handle the increased workload?
Aging in place is a choice … sometimes
Many people will make a plan and preparations for their later years; but many others will not. (As the old saying goes, people don’t plan to fail, they fail to plan). And, for others, planning will not come into play due to some unforeseen issue or situation. However, even the best plans cannot prepare for every situation; there is just no preparing for some things.
All that is said to say that many of the older people in your community will not want to be in the situation they are in. No one wants financial distress, decreased abilities, disease or other negative things that will be happening to them.
So, for these reasons (and others), staying in their home may not really be a choice; it will be a necessity.
But, there is hope. We believe a lot of that hope rests in the hands of local business people like you.
Your knowledge. Your connections. Your expertise.
This is going to be an opportunity for you to blend the two goals of building a local business and having a positive impact in your community.