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Business ideas for 2020: Smart tech to help the elderly

Elder care has been a growing space for years, and smart tech too. Interested in branching out into a new business? A combination of these two trends may be the right choice for you...

The UK’s steadily ageing population is creating a problem for families. It can be difficult to ensure the wellbeing of elderly relatives without infringing on their independence.

Care homes are an option, but they’re not ideal for everyone. Many older people would prefer not to go, and family members would prefer having their elderly relatives comfortable in their own homes.

In recent years, tech companies have created a range of smart tech solutions that help elderly people retain their independence for longer.

Some would say that the first introduction of smart tech to the home came in the form of home appliances, any device that automated normal tasks and allowed them to be done at home – think about laundry before we had washing machines.

Today, technology is moving fast, with new devices released every week that work ‘smart’. From smart boilers to smart watches, the industry is growing exponentially. At the same time, the UK and worldwide aging population is on the increase.

Smart tech provides a unique solution, with devices, apps and services available today that could not have existed twenty years ago. Not only that, but entrepreneurs starting up in this space have the opportunity to provide genuine, much needed assistance to people in need of support.

Is it Coronavirus-proof?

We all know it’s the elderly who are most at risk from coronavirus, and with families unable to visit in case they carry the virus, the support networks many elderly people rely on have crumbled.

Smart tech could be a literal lifesaver at this time, whether it’s to ensure the elderly are safe and secure, or just to keep them company in what is sure to be a lonely period.


Why is smart tech for the elderly a good idea?

Businesses combining smart tech and elderly care are tapping into two growing markets. According to YouGov, almost a quarter of Britons now own one or more smart home devices, with around one in ten having two or more.

At the same time, the percentage of the UK population over the age of 65 is increasing year on year, according to the ONS. In 2016 there were 11.8 million UK residents over 65, around 18% of the total population – 25 years before there were 9.1 million, or 15.8% of the total population. As healthcare continues to improve, there are no signs of this trend reversing in the coming decades.

If you look at Instagram, you can see the trend in public too, with over 120k posts about #smarttechnology and #smarttech. Search engine giant Google also shows an increase in searches for terms like Smart Home since 2004, with numbers increasing year on year since 2013.

smart tech for the elderly - trends

Is it Brexit-proof?

In a word: yes. On both the tech front and the aging population statistics, there’s no sign of a slow-down. No matter what happens with Brexit, there’s unlikely to be changes in the rate of global technological advancement, or in the rate of growth in the aging population.

Brexit may even cause an uplift in opportunity, with some healthcare services potentially being replaced or supplemented by commercial organisations.


Smart tech for the elderly: Business opportunities

Like with any business opportunity, it’s important to consider what your own skill-set is and how it might be applied to this trend, or combination of trends. If you do work in the tech world, or have knowledge of it, then now might be the perfect time to turn your attention to products that specifically suit elderly people in need of care. Likewise, if you work in the care industry, it might be time to think about how tech solutions could increase your offering, as well as the lifestyles or comfort of those that you work with.

From general comfort and safety, to automated entertainment, there are a number of unique products that can help the elderly. Changing the thermostat or setting a cooking timer may not seem like huge tasks for a younger generation, but it can be an obstacle once you’ve grown old. Apps and tools exist right now, or are well within reach, to be put into homes to help with this, and with the other things that can make tough in old age.

Security too, is becoming increasingly ‘smart’, with cameras and doorbells hooking up to apps that simplify any number of manual tasks.

You can also think about the recent rise in apps designed to connect doctors with patients remotely. There are a number of applications for this kind of product that can be tailored specifically to older people, whether it’s taking regular check-ups online or using an online prescription delivery service to remove the need for unnecessary, and possibly difficult, journeys.

Also consider the rise in smart solutions to age-old problems. If you have an elderly relative that you want to take care of, companies like PPP Taking Care and CanaryCare use a combination of tech and expert staff to make sure that elderly people get the help they need, whenever they need it.

Take a look at the list below for a few ideas of businesses that you might want to get into; you don’t need to be a tech whizz for all of them, and you may be surprised at how accessible some of them could be.

  • Smart-home designer or creator
  • Smart-home installation service
  • Online care services
  • Home monitoring business

This list is by no means exhaustive, so have a think about your skills and qualifications and see what might be applicable for you.

Is it sustainable?

Sustainability is one of the driving forces behind the smart tech movement. Countless companies are using their new software and hardware to limit the amount of energy needed to complete simple or complex, tasks or processes. Take energy providers, today there are several companies operating in this market who use smart technology specifically to limit wasted electricity and gas.

This isn’t only good for the environment, it’s good for people’s wallets too.


Smart tech for the elderly: Insider opinion

Max Parmentier is CEO of agetech startup Birdie, a care platform that empowers older adults to live at home independently for longer. He commented on the growth in this space, “The home care market is growing fast (6% per year, conservative assumption) while the care home market duration is decreasing.”

Parementier went on to discuss trends he and his business have noticed. “The first is more coordinated, tailored, pro-active care instead of the generic, reactive, uncoordinated care happening today. Infections have gone too many times unnoticed, and there are too many instances where the wrong medication is administered. Mental health deterioration is often also left for too long before intervention. With technology, we can better coordinate the whole care community and ensure they are notified in real-time of the health and wellbeing of their patients.

“The second trend we see is home connected devices. Today, we have old fashioned technologies such as the pendant button connected to a telecare centre. It's marginalizing and often does not work well. There is a lot of hardware being developed to detect issues in a passive, non-intrusive way, such as ultra-wide sensors, high-sensitivity motion sensors or sound recognition devices. Alexa-like device also help older adults to communicate with the external world and manage their house from their sofa. These devices are bound to grow in the homes of our elders.

“The third trend is a growing attention for families and next-of-kin. 5 million loving, brave people in the UK. New solutions emerge to support them in a more tailored way, with emotional support, guidance and access to vetted services. We have tailored the technology we’re pioneering to address these issues and trends, to provide a holistic care companion platform.

“Birdie allows care providers to ‘go paperless’ by digitising admin and reporting; it facilitates communications and the sharing of information of an older adult's care between care professionals, families and other health practitioners. We’re also developing health analytics, leveraging the data captured by care professionals and the remote sensors. Its algorithms track health conditions, predicts issues at risk of worsening and alerts the right people at the right time.”

Bryn Glover
Bryn Glover

Editor

As Editor of Startups, Bryn runs content strategy and our annual campaigns. A lover of small business, you can find him writing about exciting entrepreneurs and UK industry trends.