Seniors: The next big market for startups?

By Editor January 15, 2014

AARP logoBy Brian Kovalesky, StartUp Beat Editor

The AARP has sent the call for applications for its third annual AARP Health Innovation@50 + LivePitch. The event is relatively unique because of its focus on the 50-plus market, one that is generally underserved by startups, especially technology startups. The organization is trying to capitalize on the fact that although healthcare is currently one of the hottest sectors in terms of innovation and venture capital, there is considerable opportunity in serving seniors more specifically, both in terms of health and in terms of quality-of-life.

Last year’s AARP Health Innovation LivePitch included startups innovating in various ways; everything from ‘smart’ pill bottles, to remote physical therapy software that utilizes Microsoft Kinect for more accurate results, to better hearing aid solutions. AARP has also been making the rounds at technology startup conferences, demonstrating a concerted effort to accelerate interest and investment in the sector.

The market opportunity for startups that cater to seniors is clear. In the U.S. alone, according to the U.S. federal government’s Administration on Aging, by 2030 there will be about 72.1 million Americans over the age of 65; more than twice their number in 2000. By that time the agency says they will represent more than 19 percent of the population, compared to 12.4 percent in 2000.

It’s no wonder that healthcare in particular has begun to pique the interest of investors. In 2012, 180 VCs invested in healthtech startups, with VC giants like Kleiner Perkins and Khosla Ventures making definite moves into the space.

But as people live longer and have access to more-and-more technology that makes healthcare more accessible and efficient, there are doubtless other, non-healthcare related opportunities in the seniors market.

Anecdotally, my parents, who are well into their sixties, both have iPhones, and adoption of mobile technology among seniors seems to be increasing rapidly. It’s a compelling market that should see some serious growth in the coming years.