The Big Opportunities For Business – Part I, The Elderly

老人怕死,女人怕醜,男人好色,孩子貪玩 / 怕笨.
This translates to “The old are scared of death, the women are afraid of being ugly, the men are lustful, the children are playful / scared of being stupid. This 4 denotes the 4 big markets which businesses like to tap on. From the big corporations all the way down to the small e-commerce shop, this 4 markets are a good source of income. Why did I specifically choose this 4? Because these are the legal markets which the common man can join. Obviously the pharmaceutical and weapons industry are where the real big monies are, but they are not markets which we can enter.

The Old
I do not know about the Western culture, but in Asian context, we often have those middle age uncles who like to act cool and say things like: “I am not afraid of death! If the time comes to take my life then so be it!” But what we do know is that as people get near their expiry date, the ultimate end that comes to us all commonly triggered one standard response: “I want to live longer.” From starting to exercise more to eating a healthier diet, from chomping down on health supplements to finding God, many old people cast away their ‘heroic’ younger behaviours of challenging death right in the face, be it in terms of empty talk or actual actions. They learn to fear death and take steps to delay the inevitable. It will happen to you and me one day.

The most straightforward way to prolong your own life is to take good care of your health. While there are many ways to do that as mentioned earlier, for now we will look at one of the many aspects which can be capitalised on – the health supplement industry. In very layman terms, the health supplement supports your diet with the objective to maintain, enhance and improve the healthy functions of your body. From vitamins to minerals, amino acids to enzymes, probiotics to fatty acids, these health supplements contain ingredients which are helpful to your body. While they are by no means medicine, eating them to maintain a healthy body is certainly a preventive measure to slow down the deterioration of the body. Note that I am referring specifically to the segment of old people, not young children or the adults.

There are a lot of other statistics which the report detailed down, but one which I will not go too deep into. The summary is clear: This industry will only grow bigger.

Furthermore, it may be quite clear to everyone now that the global population is heading that towards an ageing one. What this means is that the cake size for this market will only expand, giving more room for businesses to tap on.

Now that we have got the statistics down, the big questions are: how does this applies to me? What can I do to capitalise on this market? Is only the health supplement market available for us to tap on?

Setting Up A Shop
For the commoners like us, I always advise starting an online shop first and not a physical retail shop. Reason being that it is a low cost starting venture which caps your loss to the minimum, especially if you are doing dropshipping. Your specific market could be targeted at only the elderly. But note that while I gave the example of health supplements above, do not limit yourself to that. The whole of elderly care industry is a cake you can have a part in. For example, you can consider elderly care products such as the oximeter and the wheelchair. The dietary aspects need not be limited to health supplements but can also include things like milk powder or manuka honey. Even basic daily necessities like an anti-slip mat to be put into the toilet or the walking stick could be put into your shop.

Of course, what exactly to put into your shop depends on how you market it. If you market it as an all-range elderly care shop, you can put anything into it as long as it is related. For example, everyone wears slippers, but if you put a slipper into your shop and market it as a tool to keep the feet from getting cold, then even though people may not go into your shop with the intention to buy slippers, they may buy it as an after-thought after looking through your other products. If you market it as only an elderly health supplement shop, then perhaps putting in as many choices of different health supplements as possible is something you may wish to do. How you position your shop is dependent on the supply chain network, sales channel and the unique situation you are in. Everybody is different and hence everybody sells different things.

Some may say the elderly do not shop online. Yes that may be true, but the elderly products are often not bought by the old people themselves, but by their children. At least in our generation, the elderly are usually not tech-savvy enough to go online to buy whatever they need. So as of this moment, targeting the adult population and marketing it to them is sufficient. However, if you wish to take a step further, then you will need to go where the elderly community are. In many places of the world, there are gathering spots of the elderly for their activities. If you have a parent willing to help, or know an elderly smart enough, you may also work with them to promote your wares. Afterall, nothing is more convincing than an elderly in need seeing another healthy and trusted elderly saying he or she is fighting fit due to a particular product which he or she has eaten.

Planning Activities
What if you do not want to set up shop? You can instead plan activities and have the elderly come. For example, one common activity seen in countries with a significant number of Chinese (eg Singapore, China) is the parade square dance, or what they called the 廣場舞 in Chinese. People from these countries would have seen a bunch of elderly coming together in the mornings or evenings to dance. In essence, they are exercising in the form of dance, and through these sessions they have firstly something to do, secondly exercising to keep healthy and thirdly to have social interactions with people.

You may not know it, but some of these activities are not free. The elderly has to pay a low fee to join, which turns it into a form of business too. In some close knitted communities, they even have a ‘uniform’ which they wear to the activity, which is basically a standardised t-shirt denoting their clubs. Activities for the elderly occur all over the world, and if you are interested, you can also set up your own. The best thing is, their energy is limited, hence they cannot do too many things in a fixed time period. Your planning should be easier as you need not have too many activities. In fact, routine activities like the dance I mentioned earlier is one of the best forms of activity planning. Plan once and enjoy for the rest of time, with minor tweaks here and there so things do not get too boring over time.

In certain countries like China, there are also the ‘elderly tour group’ where they conduct tours to other provinces in China, catered specifically to the elderly. They do not eat much, they do not travel much and those who are rich enough to join tours commonly have a decent level of spending power.

Elderly As Cheap Labour
This may not sound exciting or even right for some, but the elderly are indeed a source of cheap labour, which you certainly can consider for your business. If you are paying them a fair wage in accordance to the market rate, then you are not squeezing them dry nor are you doing anything immoral. In fact, you are providing jobs for the elderly who need it and benefiting the society as a larger whole. Yes the main concern for the elderly are that they are slow, they cannot do over time, they may get sick some times, they are not ambitious enough for your carrot of promotion to have a hold over them. But manage your expectations and choose carefully (as you should when recruiting all kinds of staff), and you will be able to get yourself a good worker. It is a fact that the market rate for their salary is lower than the general population.

The above pictures showed both the median income of the elderly and that of the general population, both for the year 2019 in Singapore (click links for original full report). It is a bit technical to explain, but to get a more accurate figure, you can deduct 17% off the numbers you see in the second picture. For example the median income of an employee in 2019 will be $4563 x 0.83 = $3787.29. From this we can see that the general salary is indeed lower for the elderly.

Not all the staff in your company need to overclock like your gaming CPU. In every organisation or company there is always the need for people to do the menial or the mundane jobs, such as the security guard or cleaning job. Tasks that do not require much productivity but still needs a human to do can be easily done by a cheaper elderly, be it a blue-collar or white-collar job. I know of a company which hire an elderly accountant to do simple book-keeping. You just need to scope your hiring process well. There are still fit and healthy old people who are clear headed enough to do work. If you hire an elderly worker, they are more likely to stay with you. For one, not many places want to hire them and they appreciate the job. Secondly, they usually do not like change. Thirdly, while they appreciate some form of pay raise, they generally have no interests in fighting for promotion. You just need to hire the right person (eg someone fit enough not to throw sick leave every now and then), understand what they need (eg letting them go home on time) and take care of them (eg do not slave drive them like how you push the fresh graduate), and you will see that they can actually be good workers despite their low salaries.

Elderly workers can be generally categorised into 2 groups – the first group work because they have no choice, probably due to a lack of retirement savings. The second group has the money but wishes to work to keep themselves mentally occupied and more importantly, these elderly derives a sense of satisfaction not from the salary (although it is still important) but from the fact that despite their old age they still have value, that they are not just some useless human waiting for death. It is a bit like middle age women still do things to make themselves look pretty and in turn derive satisfaction knowing that they still have market value despite being past their prime. More of that will be discussed in the next article.

As mentioned in my title, the main scope for this topic is geared towards the business aspect. How to tap on the market is up to your creativity, foresight and resources. Do not limit yourself just to selling things to the elderly. This pool is a gold mine which few bothered to look at.

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