Increasing older population creates new business opportunities

by Sheri Kell

Out of 300 million people in the U.S., one of out every eight — nearly 13 percent — is older than 65, according to U.S. Census projections. By the year 2030, that number is expected to rise to 72 million, nearly 20 percent of the population.

Entrepreneurs have long recognized this market segment has a host of unique needs for elder care goods and services. Additionally, as medicine improves and Americans continue to live longer, this market segment is expected to grow.

One such entrepreneur is Lithia Springs resident Tara Bailey, a former financial and retirement consultant who left her job at the age of 33 to start her own business providing in-home senior care services. To finance her endeavor, she used $41,000 from her 401k fund to purchase a Right at Home services franchise.

“If something happened, (my husband and I) feel like we are still young enough to put the pieces back together,” Bailey said. “It was a risk to walk away.” 

Due to her family’s own experience in caring for her grandparents’ cancer and dementia, the in-home senior personal care concept appealed to her. Through a franchise broker, Bailey found Right At Home, which has 270 locations nationwide. For the franchise fee, Bailey received a territory that includes most of Cobb County. 

Right at Home also provided Bailey with two weeks of training and on-going administrative help for licensing, billing and regulatory procedures. 

“I wanted to step out, but wanted some kind of support,” Bailey said. “I didn’t feel confident running a business on my own.”

Bailey recently opened her office on Veterans Memorial Highway in Austell. She has one employee in the office and 20 licensed certified nursing assistant caregivers in the field. The caregivers are required to have first aid and CPR training and go through background checks, but they do not provide medical care. 

Eric Little, senior vice president of franchise development at Omaha, Neb.-based Right at Home, says most people don’t realize the full impact the baby boomers have always had on the economy.

“The baby boomers have just started turning 65,” Little said. “We’ve had $1 billion in sales and have helped over 7,500 clients, and we haven’t even started taking care of the baby boomers yet.”

Little points out that the baby boomer generation grew up with an average of four siblings per family. As adults, though, they produced only half as many children per couple, leaving fewer people to care for them. 

He adds that with most of the boomer’s children having their own children later in life, a “sandwich generation” has been created — people caring for and supporting children and aging parents at the same time.

Little said the aging population is prompting other industries to change their business practices — including builders that are designing houses for multi-generation families.

“There are not enough hospital beds and nursing homes to take care of everyone,” Little said. “There are not enough government and private resources right now.” 

Said Bailey: “We have to make money to live, but more importantly we can go home at the end of the day and feel good about what we do.”