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For seniors stranded by geography, improve service and technology

The census highlights difficulty for family caregivers and the 80+.  Last week we posted an analysis of US Census data revealing those locations in the US with low Caregiver Support Ratios (CSR) – in other words, seniors aged 80+ stranded with limited care availability. CSR (discussed in this landmark AARP report) represents the population aged 45-64 who could (though they may not be) able to help seniors aged 80+ and includes both family and professional caregivers.  The AARP report indicated a current nationwide average of 7 people available to help care for 1 person aged 80+.  The report warned about those future years when baby boomers turn 80 and the ratio drops to 4:1 and lower. However, further analysis reveals a current potential problem in locations such as:


Care Ratio

80+ Population

Palm Beach, FL



Ocean County, NJ



Sarasota County, FL



Collier County, FL



Barnstable County, MA



Highlands County, FL



Moore County, NC



Kerr County, TX




What are the service market implications of a county with low CSRs?  Seniors may drive much longer because transportation options are spotty or non-existent. Consider Palm Beach County – with its 103,120 seniors aged 80+, an area that comprises almost 2000 square miles. Seniors will likely be driving as long as they can, perhaps even to sites where they can eat meals with other people. Perhaps they will drive beyond the point of being able to do so -- see PBC's Fitness to Drive test -- because their other options are limited. For the 80+ person who no longer drives their own car, background-vetted services may be needed at minimum for shopping, meal delivery, home companion care, home health care, home cleaning, and transportation to medical appointments. Low CSRs can be the backdrop for creation of one-to-many services, in congregate settings like community, senior centers or faith-based organizations that may appear to forget about the elderly.

What are the technology market implications for these counties? The gap yawns ever wider between technology solutions available to help care for the very old and what could be needed and offered.  And identity thieves and scammers – including tech support scams in Palm Beach County – keep many elderly from using the online tools that could locate the services they need. Imagine you are on the wrong side of that tech gap, that is, with no tech background, exposure or experience beyond a cell phone and an out-of-date PC/MAC -- how usable is that iPad or Android tablet, how simple is a smart phone (of any type) without prior exposure and/or that rare carrier-provided training.  Is there a patient support person guaranteed to be available by phone for questions? Forget about it. Okay, let's assume that technology access and learning curve, the cost of broadband, finding a wireless network at a coffee shop are not an issue for the 80+ population living in places like Boca Raton and other low CSR populations. How easy is it for anyone to separate the search-optimized technobabble and rampant scams on the Internet from useful sources? Do those organizations serving the congregate meals also help with protecting identity, finding quality services, getting immediate help, or vetting prospective caregivers that may be needed in the future?  There must be a business opportunity to streamline fragmented aging services and provide online meaningful aggregation.


Thanks to Laurie for sharing these statistics. While the problem is more localized at this time, it will only become more pronounced as the population continues to age. We need to develop innovative solutions that will mitigate the effects of the shortage going forward. Lack of available caregivers will create not only a care crisis, but it will also create an economic crisis. Available caregivers will only become more expensive as the shortage becomes more acute. Effective and affordable use of technology needs to be a focus of all stakeholders.

Steve Wittman

Director of Operations at Link-age

Thank you for this insightful and thoughtful look at some of the issues already facing seniors. It's helped us look at new avenues to help seniors and those in need of care. 


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