Insider No. 68: Caring for an Aging Nation

While self-care has become synonymous with the booming wellness economy, senior care has become a crisis in the making.

An Aging Nation

  • The fastest-growing segment of the US population is between the ages of 85 and 94.
  • By 2034, for the first time ever, people 65+ will outnumber those under 18.

How we got here: For most of human history, life expectancy was about 27 years. By 1900, that number jumped to 47 years. Today, we’re living 79 years and longer. Meanwhile, our societal norms and institutions have not adapted to accommodate this shift.

As a result, no one—not families, caregivers, insurance providers, or government programs—is prepared to take care of this aging population.

The big picture: Aging adults tend to live at home, with family, or in some version of senior housing. Each scenario requires a varying level of care and comes with its own set of challenges. Which begs the question, as we age, who’s going to take care of us and where will we live? 

The Unofficial Senior Care System

Aging in place. 76% of adults 50 and above want to stay in their homes as they age. But doing so often requires some level of assistance. The expectation, then, is that the children—known as the sandwich generation—work full time while raising their own children and caring for an older family member or elderly parent(s).

Of course, that’s assuming there’s someone there to help out. In reality, seniors suffer from loneliness, depression, and social isolation at alarming rates — exacerbating other health ailments and costing Medicare an additional $6.7B a year.

Unpaid labor. According to AARP, about 41M family caregivers in the US provided an estimated 34B hours of care to an adult in 2017. The estimated economic value of their unpaid contributions was approximately $470B.

Among this group, nearly half of family caregivers suffer from depression and 45% do not have time to book or attend their own medical appointments. Worse, one study found that 40% of Alzheimer’s and dementia caregivers die from stress-related ailments before the individual they’re caring for.

Low-wage jobs. Low wages, poor benefits, and a high-stress environment have created an industry that’s currently incapable of addressing the need. By 2020, 117M adults will require some kind of assistance, but there will only be 45M professional caregivers.

Among current home care workers, 87% are women, 60% are persons of color, 52% have a high school diploma or less, and 51% get some form of public assistance. In the US, the median annual salary for a home care job is ~$25K.

The myth of assisted living. Nursing home. Assisted living. Retirement community. Call it what you will, neither families nor the elderly actually want to end up here. But increasingly, it has become a necessity.

By the numbers:

  • Between half and two-thirds of older Americans are expected to need some degree of long-term care.
  • By 2029, 54% of middle-income seniors will not have sufficient resources to pay for senior housing, plus the much-needed care provided.
  • The national average for a one-bedroom apartment in assisted living is $4,120/month, but geographic variations range from $3,700 in New Orleans to $6,000+ in Boston.

Cost aside, assisted living as we know it might not be a viable solution. Writing for the New York Times, Geeta Anand points out that most assisted care facilities only provide a low degree of actual assistance. And in some cases, the residents outnumber the staff such that monitoring, let alone assisting, proves difficult.

Now What?

According to Andrew Carle, founding director of the program in senior housing administration at George Mason University, to prevent social and economic collapse, we must deploy a two-pronged approach to caring for aging populations.

First, Carle recommends developing technology aimed at helping seniors live independently longer. Then, we’ll need to convince them to congregate. That way, we can care for them more effectively — with humans, robots, or both.

On the technology front, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian has been quick to identify opportunities in elder tech. As co-founder and managing partner of Initialized Capital, an early-stage venture capital firm, Ohanian has backed a few startups focused on senior services and care, including autonomous car company Voyage ($51M in funding), “grandkids on demand” startup Papa ($13M), and secure banking service True Link Financial ($15M).

Similarly, companies including at-home caregiving platform Honor ($115M), senior software developer K4Connect ($21M), and senior insurer Devoted Health ($326M) are seeking to disrupt what’s fast becoming a trillion-dollar market.

Looking ahead: Technology is just one piece of the aging population puzzle. From housing to healthcare and pharmaceuticals to biotech, the aging global population will have a profound impact on individuals, businesses, and governments.

Punchline: As lifespans continue to increase, it’s imperative we begin to rethink aging. Because, as Andrew Carle sees it, failing to do so isn’t an option:

“The rapidly aging worldwide population will affect us more than global warming, I think. It’s the seminal event of the 21st century.”

🥊 How NYC Lost Boxing

An interesting read, the NYT explored the rise of boutique boxing from the perspective of a professional fighter trying to make it big in New York City.

Back in the day, boxing was a way of life and a career path. Free gyms, weekly fights, cash prizes, sponsorships, and promoters made it possible for fighters to follow in the footsteps of native sons like Sugar Ray Robinson and Mike Tyson.

But steep overhead and high insurance rates drove professional fighting from New York to markets like Las Vegas.

Enter boutique studios: From Rumble to Shadowbox, expensive boutique gyms have replaced the city’s gritty training grounds. As celebrities flocked to Instagram-friendly studios, the crowd became whiter and more affluent.

  • At Rumble, a package of 30 group classes costs $900.
  • Between 2013 and 2017, membership at traditional gyms grew by 15% while boutique studios grew by 121%.
  • The US market for boxing gyms and clubs is an estimated $1.2B.

Zooming out: While boutique studios boom, boxing is at a crossroads: “After decades as a blue-collar pastime, boxing has been repurposed for the fitness-obsessed young professional.”

🎉 Pop Right Up

A highly-curated, customer-focused shopping experience, Pop Up Grocer is quickly emerging as a platform for discovering (and distributing) better-for-you brands.

How it works: This traveling, pop-up shop brings innovative products, from food and beverage to home, pet, and body care brands, into different cities for a month-long stint.

Why it matters: More than another just a “store”, Pop Up Grocer is an event. As founder Emily Schildt explains, it’s a “platform for exposure and visibility.”

According to a recent Instagram post, a recent pop-up featured products that were: “99% Vegetarian, 93% Gluten-Free, 81% Vegan, 75% Refined Sugar-Free, 59% Nut-Free, 49% Allergen-Friendly, and 65% Women-Owned.”

From social media and podcasts to billboards and snail mail, direct-to-consumer brands have taken an any-means-necessary approach to customer acquisition. Meanwhile, younger generations have signaled a strong preference for experiences.

Takeaway: In the retail sector, concepts like Neighborhood Goods and b8ta are curating shopping experiences. Now, Pop Up Grocer is bringing some much-needed innovation to the food and beverage space.

📰 News & Notes

💰 Money Moves

  • ClassPass acquired MuvPass, one of Chile’s top fitness platforms, and Clickypass, a leading fitness network in Argentina. More from Fitt Insider: Is ClassPass Crushing Boutique Fitness?
  • Tempo, a connected fitness company, raised $17.5M in funding from Founders Fund, DCM, and Khosla Ventures. The company, formerly known as Pivot, offers live and on-demand strength and HIIT classes combined with AI to make home workouts feel more like personal training sessions. More from Fitt Insider: The Connected Fitness Wars  
  • Artisanal ice cream maker Van Leeuwen secured an $18.7M private equity investment from NextWorld Capital. The company is known for its cashew- and oat milk-based vegan varieties.
  • K Health, an AI-powered primary care platform, raised a $48M Series C round. More from Fitt Insider: The Rise of DTC Healthcare
  • Brooklinen, sellers of bedding and home goods, raised $50M in new funding from growth equity firm Summit Partners. More from Fitt InsiderThe Future of Sleep  
  • vitruvi, makers of essential oils and diffusers, closed a $4.5M investment.
  • Hodo, a plant-based food brand, closed a Series B funding round from Renewal Funds.
  • Flow Alkaline Spring Water acquired BOONS+ Collagen Water. Flow plans to launch a new collagen-infused water line using BOONS’ proprietary formula.
  • Rosy, a women’s health and sexual wellness company, raised $1M in seed funding. More from Fitt InsiderThe Women’s Health Revolution
  • Cera, a home care coordination platform, raised £54M in funding.
  • Tough Mudder has sold in bankruptcy to rival obstacle race organizer Spartan Race.
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