Healthcare Entrepreneurs: What's Your 50+ Strategy?

Entrepreneurs have an opportunity to cater to the growing marketplace of aging Americans, particularly in healthcare.

Tom Paul, Chief Consumer Officer, UnitedHealthcare

November 5, 2014

4 Min Read

Imagine you're an entrepreneur with access to a vast, largely untapped market worth billions of dollars that will continue to expand for years to come.

This market is at your doorstep. It is Americans aged 50 and older, and it represents more than 100 million people responsible for $7 trillion in economic activity each year. If this market were a country, its gross national product would be exceeded only by the United States ($16.2 trillion) and China ($9.1 trillion), according to a study from market research firm Parks Associates.

If it is not already, this "Longevity Economy," defined as the market involving Americans 50 and older, should be a priority for every entrepreneur, venture capitalist, and innovator in Silicon Valley and across the nation. It offers the prospect of generating enormous business opportunities, as well as new innovations for Americans 50 and older to help meet the needs and desires of a substantial and influential population.

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For the more than 12,000 Americans turning 50 each day, one of the biggest opportunities is healthcare innovation.

How much opportunity is there for healthcare innovation for the 50+ market? At least $30 billion in additional revenue over the next five years from breakthrough health technologies, services, and disruptive business models that serve Americans 50 and older, according to Parks Associates.

Within 17 years, productive older workers, people pursuing second careers, and retirees will account for more than half of the US gross domestic product. In fact, older Americans will soon outnumber children, due not only to demographic changes but also to the fact that Americans are living longer. This growing market of Americans 50 and older also accounts for $3.1 trillion in consumer spending and $1.6 trillion in healthcare spending. They control 80% of net worth and dominate categories such as financial services, travel, and leisure, according to economic consulting firm Oxford Economics.

Yet for all those powerful proof points, this huge market is untapped in many ways, and the priorities of this growing population remain unfulfilled by entrepreneurs. Why? Potential barriers may include a lack of awareness among innovators and entrepreneurs of this market's potential as well as challenges in connecting innovators, consumers, and entrepreneurs.

To help change that, AARP and UnitedHealthcare -- two leading consumer advocacy and healthcare organizations -- recently introduced a digital platform,, to spark healthcare innovations aimed at helping people 50 and older live happier, healthier lives. The Longevity Network is a central hub where entrepreneurs, advocates, and consumers can share information and access ideas, press, and other media, social feeds, and event information about healthcare innovation for the 50+ market.

The Longevity Network focuses on nine innovation "frontiers" that offer frameworks for distinct product pipelines, enabling entrepreneurs to focus their attention on the most in-demand and therefore lucrative areas. The frontiers include behavioral and emotional health, medication management, and emergency detection and response. Each frontier is estimated to yield between $1.4 billion and $8.5 billion in revenue potential over the next five years.

The Longevity Network is just a starting point in fostering healthcare innovation that serves Americans 50 and older. Encouraging thoughtful discussion and providing resources to help innovators and entrepreneurs succeed can help ensure everyone driving innovation in this country is asking themselves: What is our 50+ strategy?

The owners of electronic health records aren't necessarily the patients. How much control should they have? Get the new Who Owns Patient Data? issue of InformationWeek Healthcare today.

Jody Holtzman has more than two decades of experience helping companies develop and implement competitive strategies and achieve their strategic market goals. At AARP, he leads the Thought Leadership group, where his focus is to stimulate innovation in the market that benefits people over 50. This involves areas such as the future of technology and the 50+, technology design for all, and 50+ entrepreneurship. It also involves developing partnerships with non-traditional players for AARP, such as the venture capital community, and the consumer electronics and technology industries. Previously, Jody led AARP's Research and Strategic Analysis group.

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About the Author(s)

Tom Paul

Chief Consumer Officer, UnitedHealthcare

Tom Paul serves as the Chief Consumer Officer for UnitedHealthcare. Previously, he served as CEO of UnitedHealthcare's Medicare and Retirement division. He directed the company's business units and portfolio of Medicare solutions as well as its overall growth and innovation agenda. He also provided executive oversight for UnitedHealth Group's multifaceted relationship with AARP, its Supplemental Health Insurance Program, and its Health Transformation agenda. 

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