As families come together this Thanksgiving, more and more siblings are facing an all too familiar situation. In fact, 1 out of 4 Americans are now part of the “sandwich generation”, caught between caring for their children and their parents.

Image courtesy of Pew Research Center

Older adults (86% according to one study) are very clear about wanting to remain in their homes and communities as they age. However, caregivers of these older adults increasingly live farther from their parents, and declining birth rates have led to fewer caregivers in general to tend to mom and/or dad.

Add to this, the fact that many senior adults tend to move to rural destinations where the nearest hospital is further away. Rural Americans live an average of 10.5 miles from the nearest hospital.

There is a silver lining. Never before have we seen so much opportunity to help aging Americans live healthy, independent lives and to support loved ones in caring for them. These are three areas that we have been watching.

Image courtesy of Healthy Longevity Challenge

SLEEP. Our sleep changes as we age. Specifically, one tends to sleep less at night and nap more frequently during the day. Research shows that these new patterns set in around 60 years of age in healthy older adults.

One factor contributing to these changes is a deficiency in serotonin, a compound in the brain which promotes a relaxed feeling. If levels dip too low, this can lead to depression and insomnia. It should therefore come as no surprise that, amongst older sleep sufferers, roughly 23% use a prescription sleep aid to stay asleep, according to one study.

Not all innovations are brand new. Tuned lighting systems have been around since 2014. However, there is now proof that mimicking natural light during a 24-hour day helps cut sleep disturbances for the elderly.

Cooler temperatures also help with sleep. One of this year’s Healthy Longevity Challenge finalists focuses on regulating the temperature of the user’s head and neck to promote a better, deeper sleep.

Another reason why seniors, in particular, are not sleeping through the night is pain. This impacts one out of four seniors. The mattress industry has embraced this opportunity and is now offering mattresses for spinal alignment (Nolah Evolution 15) and pressure relief (Birch Mattress) to name a few. The Sleep Foundation suggests WinkBed as the best all around mattress for seniors experiencing pain while sleeping. The brand offers multiple firmness levels and adaptive foam layers to provide that right level of stability, support and cooling throughout the night.

Image courtesy of Rippl

MENTAL HEALTH. According to the World Health Organization, 1 in 5 adults aged 60+ is experiencing mental health concerns, with depression and anxiety disorders being the most prevalent. Contributing factors are often social isolation, medical conditions and/or significant life events.

Recognizing the importance of this issue is the Canadian-based Centre for Aging + Brain Health Innovation who sponsors SPARK which offers up to $50,000 CAD to the winner. One of the Innovation Themes for 2022 is “Improving the brain/ cognitive health for aging adults”.

One of the few startups to address this growing sector is Rippl which has already received $32 million in seed funding as it strives to offer a new care model. Promising to fix the “broken” mental health care system, the technology platform will provide 24/7 access to experienced clinicians–on phone, online or in person. The aim is to make the overall experience work better for all those involved.

Image courtesy of SHWI

MENOPAUSE. More often than not, the caretaker for aging parents is the oldest daughter, who herself is nearing a life transition-menopause. The median age of menopause is 51. About 1.3 million women become menopausal each year. During this period, women may experience up to 48 different symptoms, including mood changes and sleep issues. 63% of women experiencing menopause state that it negatively impacts their work life, while 25% end up taking sick leave.

The supplements industry recognized this opportunity years ago and has a solution for every symptom in the form factor of your choice. Now even aging celebrities, like Naomi Watts and Gwyneth Paltrow, are offering their version of the solution, Stripes and Madame Ovary respectively.

Moving beyond supplements, innovation in this sector is now shifting to FemTech solutions. Embr Wave provides hot flash relief with a bracelet that manages the symptoms of menopause with cooling or warming sensations for on-demand relief. MAS Holding’s Become clothing brand offers apparel with Anti-Flush Technology™ that absorbs heat from the skin surface and releases it later during the chill that follows.

Image courtesy of Embr Wave

UK-based is an app that works in conjunction with your Fitbit data as well as manual inputs to help you better figure out why some workout days are better than others. This is particularly important as a woman reaches menopause, since hormone levels greatly impact performance.

Caring for an aging parent while simultaneously caring for the family and oneself is a life stage ripe for innovation. We applaud those entrepreneurs, researchers and dreamers tackling this weighty topic. Much like they, we believe that it will be possible in the near future to age on your own terms and we are excited to be on the forefront of this journey. Get in touch if you want to hear more and talk about how your business or brand might lead the change.

Annette Herz

Annette is skilled at identifying growth opportunities and successfully guiding products from concept to launch. At Compass, she advises leading brands and category disruptors in the health & wellness, personal care and digital health sectors.

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