Key Takeaways:

One of the best strategies for tech companies that want to serve the older adult market is to focus your value proposition on empowering older adults.

This group of people has been overlooked and underserved by our industry, and it doesn’t have to be that way; older adults are too important to be left behind by technology.

By Lawrence Kosick - originally published in TechCrunch

The technology industry is often thought of as being the domain of the young and the new. We see an emphasis on young founders (“40 Under 40”), innovative ideas and disruptive challenges to legacy brands, incumbent companies and “old” ways of thinking.

But one of the things I’ve learned on my journey in co-founding my latest startup is that technology should be enabling and accessible to all, and nowhere is this more critical than for empowering our older adults.

Older adults are one of the most underrepresented audiences for new technology products and platforms. There is a massive opportunity to provide products and services that will make life better for today’s seniors and future generations of older adults to come. Founders in every space, from edtech to healthcare, from financial services to robotics, can make a bigger impact if we recognize the opportunity of being of service to older adults.

One of the best strategies for tech companies that want to serve the older adult market is to focus your value proposition on empowering older adults.

Don’t make a product “for old people”

Older adults often get overlooked by tech companies. In fairness, it can be hard (and insensitive and uninspiring) to market products and services as being “for old people,” because people in this group don’t tend to think of themselves as “old.”

One of the best strategies for tech companies that want to serve the older adult market is to focus your value proposition on empowering older adults. Don’t make a product “for old people” — make a product that helps older adults lead a healthier, more active, more connected life.

Whether it’s the education tech space, financial services, health tech, consumer products or other innovative digital services for seniors, tech companies have big opportunities to empower older adults.

We are seeing some great examples, including:

Older adults have so much to offer. Instead of approaching this market as a “problem” to be solved, startups should engage with older adults as an active, curious, ready-to-learn group of people who are eager to be empowered.

Recognize the size of the opportunity of the older adult market

Older adult couple having fun shopping.

It often seems like so many consumer-facing apps today are created for younger people. But there’s a big disconnect between where so much of the tech industry’s attention and investment is going and the spending power and lifestyle preferences of today’s older adults.

Older adults are the most underserved demographic for the tech world. They’re also one of the fastest-growing age cohorts. The number of people worldwide who are 65 and older is expected to grow from 524 million in 2010 to 1.5 billion in 2050.

The “silver economy,” driven by the spending power of older adults, is expected to grow into the 2030s because the senior population is the wealthiest age group and their numbers are growing 3.2% per year (compared with 0.8% for the overall population).

Older adults have different expectations than previous generations for how they age. Today’s older adults have more money than millennials; they’re going to live longer than previous generations of seniors; and they’re determined to live active, meaningful lives that are rich in experience. There’s a big market of affluent older adults, and many solutions for this market can also be put into service for older adults of all income levels.

Does this sound like a good user base or target market for your next product or platform? It should!

Create a sense of mission

Be of service to seniors, think about the social impact of your company, and look for opportunities to build relationships with community organizations. Sometimes if you have a strong sense of mission and identifiable partnerships, new business opportunities can open up from there.

For example, GetSetUp is a mission-oriented company. We started this company to empower older adults and create opportunities for peer-to-peer learning. And because of that mission, we’ve been able to find great partners who are passionate about the same mission and who can help us build a sustainable business model.

Particularly in the older adult space, there’s a lot of need and a lot of public-sector agencies already established to serve this market, but they’re looking for partners. If you can provide a valuable, scalable service for the older adult market, there’s a lot of opportunity to drive growth through partnerships.

Listen to your market

Older adults too often have been invisible and unheard by the tech industry. If you want to customize a product for the older adult market, it’s crucial to listen to them! Products that are made for and by younger people might not always translate to an older audience. But if you have a team ready to listen to the concerns and feedback of your older adult users, you’ll be ready to identify and solve the problems.

Older adult lady learning on her computer.

At my company, we don’t just serve older adults — we employ older adults. We hire older adult “guides” who lead online classes on our platform, and having older adults on our team has been essential. Over 50% of our team is from the age cohort of our target customers (50+).

As part of your company’s diversity and inclusion efforts, be sure to include older adults. It’s so important to have a team that can give feedback that represents the concerns of your target audience.

Many tech companies don’t have a big representation of the older workforce on their team; be aware of this and work to solve it. If everyone on your team is under 40, you might be missing out on big insights and bigger opportunities.

Product-market fit: many ways to monetize

Most of the startups that have tried to focus on the aging space so far have been nonprofits. My co-founder Neil Dsouza and I believed early on that we could best be of service to this audience if we put a business model around the problem. Having a business model gives you a built-in incentive to spend more time solving the problem (taking action) and less time continually asking for grant and foundation money.

Neil Dsouza and Lawrence Kosick, co-founders of GetSetUp.

We’ve found this to be especially true for the older adult market: If you solve a meaningful problem and provide enough value, then there will be a payer. Finding the product-market fit gives you the focus to address a real problem in a scalable way. The aging space needs more startups that have this discipline that can solve real problems with real business models.

If you can create a great product and solve an important problem, you can figure out how to monetize it. The revenue for your company might not always come from the users of your product or platform; maybe you can do a freemium model, ad-supported, or make the product available to users via partnerships.

I’ve seen this happen with our own company: Sometimes your users will teach you how your platform can be most powerful.

At GetSetUp, we discovered that peer-to-peer education was so important to our users not just because of the skills that they learned in the classes, but because of the social aspects. And these social aspects that increase engagement and activity and reduce isolation and depression are leading to meaningful, valuable health benefits for our community. These insights are unlocking additional value for us as we move forward with new partnerships, new product launches and new revenue streams.

Even though I’m the co-founder of an edtech startup, I believe that I’ve learned the most from our users. Working in the older adult space has been an exciting journey and a privilege. I love to hear from our users and see how they’re learning and socializing and co-creating this platform with our team.

I believe that many other tech industry leaders can learn from the older adult market and build large, sustainable businesses. This group of people has been overlooked and underserved by our industry, and it doesn’t have to be that way. Older adults are too important to be left behind by technology. Let’s rededicate ourselves as an industry to finding big opportunities in the gray revolution ahead.

May 23, 2022
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