Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, at least 23% of all COVID deaths happened in long-term care facilities. Nursing home residents’ experiences during the pandemic were stark enough to encourage a widespread reappraisal of elder care in the United States. That grim track record has now triggered a heightened interest in the concept of aging in place, which describes efforts to allow seniors to remain at home longer.
The money is beginning to follow as more investors target companies focused on aging in place services and technology. These investments also provide a boost to social benefits that can help close equity gaps on many levels, from the digital divide to global access to medicine.
COVID-19 Accelerates Trends for Seniors
Even before the pandemic, trends in aging pointed to the need for aging in place solutions. By 2050, 16% of people globally will be over age 65 compared with 9% in 2019. In addition, over the past decade, studies have shown that most adults over the age of 50 prefer to stay in their homes as they age. There’s also the issue of cost: assisted living facilities charge $3,000 to $6,000 a month on average, putting them out of reach for many seniors.
Those patterns have only accelerated amid the pandemic. For example, long-term care facility occupancy levels are at a 15-year-low as more people opt to age in place. At the same time, telemedicine for seniors skyrocketed 300%.
New Efforts Support Aging in Place
A variety of tech, business, and policy innovations support the widespread adoption of aging in place. Consider recent changes in regulation—the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services introduced a supplemental benefit in 2020 allowing Medicare Advantage plans to cover any services that have “a reasonable expectation of improving or maintaining the health or overall function” for patients with at least one chronic disease. That makes it easier for beneficiaries to receive coverage for in-home services, transportation, and other areas important to aging in place successfully.
There’s also been a recent wave of so-called “silver tech” products and services designed to help seniors live on their own. For example, state-of-the-art personal emergency response devices with sensors can alert caregivers to potential emergencies such as a stove that’s been left on for too long. Other silver tech products for aging in place include a robotic cart with a retractable tray system, a smart lightbulb that can take health readings, and apps for TVs meant to host telemedicine appointments.
Aging in Place Opens Investment Opportunities
These silver tech companies are also attracting venture capital interest. Startup The Helper Bees is an insurance technology company focused on aging in place. Its platform allows seniors and caregivers to access a marketplace of services aimed at helping older adults live independently. In January, it raised $12.8 million in a Series B round led by Trust Ventures. Tech startup ConcertoCare likewise has a platform that deploys interdisciplinary teams to manage care for medically and socially complex patients and help them stay in their homes. In February, it closed a $105 million Series B led by Wells Fargo Strategic Capital.
For impact investors, the future of elderly care presents multiple options on the horizon to consider and investigate. For example, longevity funds invest in companies likely to benefit from such trends as aging in place. Another area of opportunities may be in real estate and healthy technology innovation, including medical devices that are covered by health insurance reimbursement.
The demand for services and products that support aging in place is positioned to grow over time, giving investors a wide range of ways to support the trend. It also offers another way to make an impact on equity in a range of issues within healthcare and beyond.