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Ageing Households: Challenges and Opportunities

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Pavel Marceux Bio

The world’s households are ageing rapidly, as higher life expectancy, better healthcare and improved living standards drive the median age of household heads upwards. This shift is the most prevalent demographic trend among the world’s homes – and brands and governments must be ready to address the mounting challenges, as well as take advantage of the potential opportunities. This article is part of a series that will highlight key trends from Euromonitor’s Households in 2030 strategy briefing.

Over-50s to dominate household landscape

Ageing is not a new phenomenon. This demographic swing has been accelerating for decades in developed markets, and is now being felt in emerging markets as living standards rise. Yet governments and companies are today in a much better position to address ageing due to the evolution of new technologies and stronger awareness of the impact of an older populace.

In 2000, some 23.1% of the world’s household heads (primary earners in the household) were aged 60+. By 2030, this proportion will rise to 35.4%, with the over-50s bracket amounting to over half of global household heads. This means that household income and expenditure decisions will be largely in the hands of the elderly, creating highly specific conditions for consumption behaviour.

The challenges: mobility, home alone, and unemployment

Aside from the wider macroeconomic consequences (such as a decline in labour productivity and pressure on the welfare state), older populations pose distinct household-focused challenges. These include:

  • The elderly have unique housing needs. Most homes are not adequately prepared to assist inhabitants with mobility, disabilities and any other physical limitations. Staircases, bathrooms and exit points can become hazardous bottlenecks;
  • The proportion of elderly household heads globally is rising because many single-person households are made up of widowed or divorced pensioners. In the UK, for example, in 2015 the largest group of single-person homes was represented by the 65+ age bracket, according to national statistics. The elderly alone at home can face significant issues, such as depression, neglect and poverty;
  • A large number of elderly household heads find themselves in unwanted unemployment once they reach their retirement age. Finding a productive occupation for them is a challenge for the government. One solution is encouraging retired people to get into voluntary work in their community, or to become self-employed by starting a small business.

The opportunities: smart tech, home development, and online services

Although the rising number of elderly people presents significant challenges to society, there are also a growing number of spin-off segments taking advantage of this growing demographic:

  • The “grey” sector is set to be one of the primary benefactors from the growing presence of smart technology in the household. Products aimed at elderly consumers include smart beds that monitor pulse and respiration, fall detectors that hang on ceilings, smart kitchen goods that minimise the food cooking process, and video monitoring that lets family members or health specialists track an elderly person in poor health. Almost half of al households in the world had a broadband internet connection in 2016;
  • Changes in housing needs for the elderly provide opportunities for developers and the construction segment to innovate on new types of housing provision, with easier access routes and in-built assistance technology, such as mobility lifts;
  • Online services catered to elderly users, who are typically late adopters and with limited IT literacy, provide an invaluable source of easily accessible tasks. For example, e-government portals that allow the payment of bills, grocery delivery services, and even remote healthcare assistance via webcam or additional body sensors.

Household products targeting the elderly market

A number of companies have made inroads into the seniors market, here are some examples:

  • US online retailer Amazon provides a “50+” store, where goods are focused on a variety of healthy living needs, including vitamins, wellness and personal care;
  • CareLinx is an online marketplace that connects people who need to find in-home care with nursing assistants, medical assistants, nurses and others;
  • ElliQ is a home assistant hub (similar to Amazon Echo) designed for elderly people, helping them to video chat with their family or reminding them to take their medication;
  • Basic products helping with everyday tasks have also entered the market. For example, Easy Button is a clothing button designed to help dress faster for those that have insensitivity and numbness in their hands, while Liftware is a smart spoon that helps those with body tremors or any form of balancing problem eat their food.
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