The topic for Day 43 of the Idea Machine Project is to come up with 10 business ideas to help the elderly. I decided to ignore issues of profitability and just focus on ideas that would accomplish one or more of three goals:
- Improve the health of elderly.
- Improve the quality of life of the elderly.
- Be accessible to the elderly who do not have access to top-notch retirement communities.
One big problem we face is the US is the divide between the economic haves and the economic have-nots. Many of the current elderly do have access to pension income from employment and/or some income from social security benefits or even VA benefits.
But many do not have nest eggs and Medicare co-pays and co-insurance is still expensive.
As I see it, one of the best ways to boost economic power of what the elderly do have is to reduce the need to incur medical care expenses, so many of my ideas are based on the premise that better health leads to fewer medical expenses and, therefore, more money to spend on things that are enjoyable.
I’m blogging my way through Claudia Altucher’s book, Become an Idea Machine. [Amazon Affiliate link] Here’s where I explain why I’m doing this and why I’m publishing most of these ideas on The Ben Franklin Follies.
Here are my 10 ideas to help the elderly:
1. Create a service that delivers affordable-and-healthy meals to elderly in their homes.
Some community nonprofits and churches offer “meals on wheels” services for home-bound elderly, but these aren’t available everywhere and may depend on financial need.
A variation would be to provide weekly deliveries of frozen meals with instruction on heating and how to supplement with fresh fruits and vegetables.
2. Teach the 40-somethings that successful aging depends on choices made now.
Financial planners promote this message about “saving for retirement” and the impact of compound interest, but I’m talking about the importance of eating and fitness choices. That fast food meal eaten for lunch every day has a compound interest effect on health, just like the economic impact of compound interest. The same is true for an extra 30-minutes of walking each day.
3. Provide in-home tech training so the equipment is the same.
Lots of community centers and libraries offer free instruction in using the internet, email, photo-sharing. But the equipment and software in those central facilities aren’t the same as the set-up the senior citizen may have at home.
This is a job for someone who is tech-proficient and older. In my experience, teens aren’t the best for this because they don’t understand how difficult it is for some seniors to understand technology. It has been my experience that those who retired without experiencing computer technology in the workplace have trouble understanding the conceptual structure of computer systems so the instructions have to be translated to concepts the elderly can understand. I’m not talking about every senior, but many have more difficulties using “the internet” than people realize.
Most of us take it for granted today that everyone can download a file, fill out a PDF form, then upload it and send via email or upload to a system. Many do not have Adobe Reader or other PDF software on their computers or, if they do, they don’t know where the file goes when it downloads onto the hard drive.
4. Teach etsy.
Many retirees have great crafts-and-art skills. They could easily bring in extra money through selling their crafts in an etsy store, but they have no idea how to set it up and run it.
5. Related to number 4, provide a shipping-assistance service.
A teen who wants to earn extra money, might take on the job of running packages to UPS or USPS for shipping the senior’s sales via etsy.
6. Provide senior party planning services.
Retirement communities have event planners to keep seniors busy. But seniors who live independently at home don’t have their own event planners. This is a service that someone could provide, to assist with organized trips to museums, plays, or hosting birthday parties or family gatherings.
By focusing specifically on retirees with a limited income, the event planner could specialize for efficiency.
7. Collect their stories for oral histories and library archives.
I think it would be cool to do an oral history project where you simply take a digital audio recorder into the senior’s home, turn it on (with permission) and record their memories. Use a voice transcription service to transcribe into text. And donate these to local museums or university libraries with archives.
8. 3D Printing Education
Teach the seniors how to use 3D printers and partner with younger designers who can program the AutoCAD to create products that elderly can use or products to sell.
9. Uber/Lyft-Style Car Service for Elderly
Many elderly no longer drive and need transportation. A transportation service that’s affordable, reliable and safe would enable seniors who are otherwise stuck at home to get out more.
This service would require some additional vetting because some elderly can be vulnerable to robbing and manipulation.
10. Provide in-neighborhood, lifelong learning opportunities
Rather than offering these through MOOCs for the elderly, doing something in a community-center or neighborhood classroom would provide both interaction with other humans and opportunities to explore new topics related to history, travel, ideas, etc.
Retirement communities offer these. So do more urban areas. But many communities don’t have organized senior-learning get-togethers, especially not at the neighborhood level. The challenges of transportation make it hard for rural seniors to “get into town” or larger cities where these are often held.
11. Start a neighborhood garden or even an ad-hoc CSA sharing system, so elderly can grow gardens and share their produce with others.
These are increasingly common in larger cities, especially as a way to boost access to fresh vegetables in food deserts, but I haven’t seen as many community-garden opportunities targeting specific neighborhoods or rural areas.
The produce-sharing system could be implemented without the need for a community garden. Many elderly enjoy gardening. An Eagle Scout or Girl Scout could take on a project of collecting and distributing excess produce based on a simple Facebook page where gardeners list what they have each day.
I hope someone finds these helpful. They aren’t particularly unique, but do provide some ideas.