December 17, 2020 5 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
The US is aging rapidly. By 2040, about one in five Americans will be over 65. This is a dramatic increase from the approximately one in eight (36 million) who were 65+ in 2000. Even more alarming is the fact that this number will more than double over the next 40 years, with the 65+ population estimated to be around 80 million in 2040.
The Impact of Aging on Business
You may not realize it yet, but this population shift may already be hurting your business. Every day in the United States, some 40 million people, most full-time employees, are providing some form of care for adults over 50. According to a 2018 AARP Public Policy Institute report about a quarter of these caregivers are millennials. This means over 10 million people, most of whom would normally be focusing on their work and careers at this point in their lives are currently spending large amounts of time worried about and/or caring for their loved one(s).
In the most extreme cases, some may be forced to leave the workforce altogether. According to the AARP report, on average, millennial caregivers spent 21 hours a week on care duties, and about one-fifth spending over 40 hours per week. The cumulative impact of this loss of human creativity, energy, and time to the overall economy is incalculable and given the numbers, potentially devastating.
COVID, Caregiving, and Work
COVID has forced many to rethink how we live, but no group has been impacted more than seniors. Growing data shows the virus’ increased risk for older adults, more specifically those living in senior communities. This has led to forced separations and along with it increased worry, stress, and loneliness.
As the world anxiously awaits the approval and distribution of a vaccine, millions of Americans are looking towards the future and how they will protect their families. These decisions, incredibly difficult during normal times, are now even more high stakes, particularly for millennials. Researchers found that even if they were able to work full time while providing the care they were more likely than their older counterparts to receive warnings about their performance or attendance, to be turned down for promotions, or even fired.
Limiting contact with others while potentially lifesaving may have other health consequences. Since COVID many people have skipped medical visits, delaying potentially urgent care and treatment. While others, self-isolating in an effort to stay safe, are beginning to experience the health-related consequences of loneliness. Experts have likened its impact to the equivalent of smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
New entrants to the health technology market have started to address these gaps. At Aidar Health they created MouthLab, an easy-to-use diagnostic tool, specifically designed for early detection and reducing family concerns. In fact, the company’s founder, Sathya Elumalai created it for just that purpose. Far from home, he worried about his mother’s health and wanted to be able to monitor her condition. The small handheld device is as simple to use as a toothbrush and yet, provides a fairly comprehensive daily snapshot of the user’s health, making early detection of potentially serious conditions or diseases and interventions more likely.
Though often not as visible, loneliness has been shown to have a significant, negative impact on health and overall wellbeing. Over the last few years a number of platforms have been developed to address this growing health hazard, many specifically focused on connecting seniors both in and out of the home. The technology gives them the opportunity to interact with others and continue to experience the things that bring them joy in their lives.
Element3 Health is one of the companies leading the way in addressing social isolation and loneliness. Their rapidly growing digital platform offers over 100 activities, helping older adults connect and engage around the things they’re passionate about, increasing their physical, social, and mental activity – all critical components for healthy aging.
A recent Cedars-Sinai study conducted before the COVID-19 pandemic showed that exercise classes can significantly reduce loneliness and social isolation in older adults. These same benefits continued even as the classes moved to an online format with COVID. The physical and emotional benefits from platforms like Element3 Health, which provides such services cannot be over-stated for both seniors and the caregivers who worry about them.
For many who are providing care for their loved ones, there’s just never enough time in their days for the support required. The team at Papa has developed a platform to help Papa connects older adults with safe and friendly in-person or virtual companionship and assistance with everyday tasks when family and friends can’t be there. The “Papa Pals” as they call their network of vetted caregivers, helps alleviate the difficulty and concerns people often face juggling their daily life and their senior family member’s needs
Related: 9 Senior Business to Start
Aging safely and happily matters. The ability to meet this challenge and provide individuals with greater peace of mind so they can focus on their own lives and work has very real consequences for all our futures. It also demonstrates why the value of entrepreneurship and the people who help make it happen has never been greater.