Australia, in tandem with many other countries, has seen an unprecedented rise in the number of citizens reaching pensionable age and beyond. This has had an impact on the demographic make-up of the population and has led the government to remark on the need for a tailored approach to the needs of its older citizens as well as strategic planning for a significant reduction in per capita output. But what are the small business opportunities? Last year, the Abbot government produced their Concerns centre around the number of people actively engaged in work and, with an ever-growing number of retirees, whether their will be enough labour to support our economic infrastructure and, in turn, the services and income support that we now enjoy. Some argue that with a growing economy, society will be more well off in the future and that tax increases, as and when they are deemed essential, are the way forward. Others are concerned about the legacy this will leave for future generations. However, despite the wider economic implications, the expansion of the older community brings with it a rise in opportunities in certain sectors. And it’s fair to say all agree that one way to meet the costs of our ageing population is to boost the economy with entrepreneurialism and hard work. So just how can we cater to, and invest in our elderly citizens? Non-medical care options Although many elderly people are active and mobile, some may experience difficulties with certain aspects of their day-to-day living. Opportunities for businesses that supply various types of home-based care have increased along with the percentage of older citizens. Examples of in-home assistance could include such simple things as cleaning services, preparing meals or helping with personal hygiene. Even those senior citizens who can take good care of themselves in terms of household chores may be prepared to pay for companionship both in the home or for trips out. Many of these older people are likely to have pets, which they may not be able to exercise as much as they would like and a business that offered a dog-walking service or had the facility to come out and groom clients’ pets in the home could thrive. A global success story in this type of business is the ‘Home Instead Senior Care’ franchise. Founded in the US by husband and wife team, Paul and Lori Hogan, when Paul became frustrated at the care options available to his own mother – the network is now the largest of its type in the world with over 1000 franchises. Australia has its own thriving Home Instead franchise network, set up by another pair of spouses – Martin and Sarah Warner. This type of business is perfect for family investment, as it has those core values at it’s heart. Medical care Of course, for those who are suitably qualified, a number of medical care business options are also open to expansion. Part- or full-time nursing care in the home is likely to be a growth industry as the elderly usually prefer to remain in familiar surroundings for as long as possible, as opposed to entering designated care facilities. Of course, the demand for care homes and care home staff has also increased, presenting opportunities for both the medically trained, those with care experience and entrepreneurs who can open and fund such premises. As well as providing a much-needed service, the prospects for building a successful business with the capacity to employ a large number of people are very promising. One such example is the Just Better Care franchise, which offers in-home nursing along with it’s many other care options. Founded in 2005 by Trish Noakes, it is Australia’s largest home and healthcare franchise group. Retail While there is obviously a large crossover in terms of items bought by the young and the old, there are certain things that are more frequently used by the elderly. Mobility aids, for example, will become more prevalent as the population lives longer; the market for walking sticks and frames, ergonomic household accessories – such as easy-use scissors – and larger items like stair and bath lifts and handrails for around the home has already experienced a boom and is likely to continue to do so. Smaller or medium-sized businesses, such as equipment brokers or delivery firms, can benefit from this increase in demand, as well as large manufacturing concerns. Clothing styles that hold more appeal for older people, including shoes, are selling in greater numbers and there is a ready-made market for those who might want to set up specialist shops or websites to cater for it. Take at look at thriving online businesses such as Black Pepper clothing who cater to the over 50s market, Scooters Australia who have a successful, nationwide reach and Daily Living Products who are just one in a growing crowd of ecommerce sites providing practical aids for the home. Leisure activities There is a growing need for leisure provision that is aimed at or suitable for older people. As well as traditional options (such as bingo sessions!) exercise, dance and sports clubs that are responsive to the potential limitations of the elderly are becoming popular; these are recommended by health professionals because of the benefits of remaining active. Indeed, the personal training world is latching to the until recently untapped senior market. The Sage Institute of Fitness, for example, offers training and qualifications in fitness coaching and actively endorses the earning potential of catering to the older, but equally health conscious, sector of society. Additionally, the holiday market will experience a boost from senior citizens seeking to maximise what is likely to be a fixed income, but which also allows for a more flexible timetable as the holiday-makers don’t need to plan around limited free time. And, on the flipside of catering to the older population, there is the opportunity to make the most of their life skills and expertise. Most older Australians are in pretty good health compared to their counterparts in previous generations (thanks to improved healthcare and better lifestyles) and they can still play a vital part in our communities and the growing economy. In an article for The Age.com, senior lecturer in Economics at Monash University, Dr Rebecca Valenzuela, commented: ‘To find our niche growth areas requires sustained investments in scientific and technological research, and investment in our independent thinkers, such would include those in academia but not only. There are many others in the wider community, whose life experiences and technical expertise can be tapped or solicited or consulted for the purpose. And the 65-plus group will be a rich pool of talent to draw on for this.’ As well as the many business opportunities opening up because of the increase in the number of older members of Australian society, there are other positive factors – people are getting to spend longer with their parents and grandparents, who can be both a comfort and a practical help within the family and society as a whole. Although this changing demographic brings challenges, with an open-minded and creative approach, there are far more positive aspects than negative ones and many small businesses will be on the front line when it comes to reaping the rewards. 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