As seniors age, they may experience a range of health issues that can impact their life quality: from chronic conditions to mobility limitations. These challenges can make it difficult for seniors to manage daily tasks and take care of themselves.
Health products can offer solutions for seniors. For example, seniors may seek out food and nutrition products to help themselves manage specific dietary needs, while smart health and assistive devices can assist seniors in monitoring their health and recovering from injury or illness. Although it's highly competitive for these products targeting young customers, they may not be optimized for seniors.
This is the second article of our Silver Economy Series. In this article, Double V. Consulting will focus on the senior customers aged 60-75, and explore the food and nutrition, smart healthcare and assistive technology industries. By improving the design of these products to be more senior-oriented, companies can tap into the lucrative senior market. We hope the information we provide can inspire businesses to seize this opportunity.
Check out the first article of Silver Economy Series:
Silver Economy - Education, Matchmaking & Tourism for Seniors aged 50-60
FOOD & NUTRITION
The food industry targeting young customers is highly competitive, forcing companies to be innovative and launch new products constantly. But when you search for food for the seniors on e-commerce platforms, the results popped up are usually traditional food, such as milk powder, rice porridge, pastries, cereals, etc. Seniors can't find options targeting their tastes, specific health concerns, and social isolation, as if they live in a food desert.
▲ Image via @Taobao
Top 10 best-selling food for seniors on Taobao including milk powder, rice porridge, pastries, etc.
Seniors can suffer from a deteriorating sense of taste. An interesting phenomenon in the author's family is that the seniors barely pay attention to the traditional food I bought for them. They gripe about how unhealthy young people's snacks are, but they can't resist trying them, whether it's European bread, bubbly yogurt, matcha chocolate, mulberry juice, or spicy strips. They're always seeking out new flavors and trying to inject a little excitement into their lives.
However, it isn't easy to create food that is both tasty and healthy.
For example, some pastries contain nourishing ingredients but are oily and sugary, which is a nutrient deficiency for seniors with chronic diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
▲ Image via @Xiaohongshu
A user asked for recommendations of snacks for seniors
Seniors are also easily misguided by false advertising, especially in functional supplements industry. In China, due to the lack of a well-established regulatory framework, the functional supplement industry in China is facing problems such as substandard quality and misleading advertising. Some unscrupulous individuals use lectures, health consultations, and free medical consultations to induce seniors to spend an unreasonably high price to purchase vitamins, and imply the supplements have medical function. This has led to a low level of customer trust in supplements for seniors.
▲ Image via @Google
The news about seniors falling victim to health supplement scams is frequent
In addition to processed foods, seniors also need to obtain nutrients from fresh food. However, in China, most seniors are empty-nesters living alone. The loneliness by social isolation can cause them to lose the motivation to cook and eat. They are at a higher risk of malnutrition as a result.
Double V. Consulting suggests that food and supplements brands could differentiate product offerings for seniors based on seniors' taste preferences, health demands, and social habits. To provide more suitable products for seniors, brands can conduct market research to better understand seniors' specific needs and desires.
Additionally, brands can provide more information and knowledge about healthy eating for seniors and their children to increase awareness on the importance of a balanced diet and healthy habits. This could be done through various channels such as social media, educational programs, or collaboration with healthcare providers.
Food brands should increase transparency and the product quality to build trust with customers and alleviate concerns over false advertising and substandard quality. This could be accomplished through better product labeling, clearer ingredient information, and adherence to strict quality control standards. By implementing these solutions, food brands can better serve the nutritional needs of seniors and enhance their overall health and well-being.
In China, the government advocates for the "9073 senior care model", in which 90% of the seniors are taking home-based care, 7% are taking community-based care, and 3% are taking nursing home-based care.
However, each care model has its own challenges:
I. Nursing homes in China have low-profit margins, even facing labor shortages and financial pressures.
II. Although funded by the government, community-based care faces similar challenges to nursing homes.
III. Home-based care can reduce the use of social care resources, but a significant proportion of seniors in China are empty-nesters. They prefer to live alone to maintain their independency but risk sudden death or falls due to chronic diseases, vision or hearing impairments, or cognitive impairment.
Smart healthcare devices are products primarily sold to individual customers (B2C) to provide seniors with care and solve the problems caused by the shortage of social care resources. However, this kind of products is not yet widely accepted. Below we will talk about the reasons and how brands can improve.
▲ Image of smart bracelets and cameras via @Taobao
Smart healthcare products are highly similar in the low-end market, priced between 300-500 yuan, and mainly include smart bracelets and cameras that feature fall detection and one-click emergency call functions. Some seniors may find it inconvenient to use smart bracelets because smart devices require charging, and those who use these devices may encounter problems with inaccurate reporting. In addition, relying solely on a button to call for help ignores the social factors where some seniors may be too unconscious to press the button, and strangers around may not assist them due to suspicions of a scam. Smart cameras have higher accuracy in detection, but they face privacy concerns and potential hacking attacks. Moreover, some seniors may not want their every move monitored, and cameras can only be installed in fixed locations, leaving some activity areas uncovered.
▲ Image via @Taobao
A Taobao user asked about the accuracy of fall detection of the smart bracelet and got responded: "It is very sensitive. Even if the user just pats their thigh, it will sound the alarm"
In the high-end market, nursing robots, multi-functional nursing beds, and other smart healthcare products that cost over 100,000 yuan can be too expensive for most senior customers. Additionally, many seniors may have limited mobility or cognitive impairment, and don't know how to use this type of devices. The complex operating methods of such devices leave seniors unsure of how to use them, and some even consider them impractical and useless, discouraging them from purchasing the smart healthcare products.
▲ Image of High-end hardware solution via @医家通
It includes smart bracelet, nursing beds, sleep monitoring mattress, etc.
Smart healthcare companies should consider social and practical factors when designing their products, especially for the seniors' market. To improve accessibility and usability, companies should design smart devices with large screens, voice-activated, and simple & user-friendly interfaces. It's also important to provide offline experiences, such as showcasing the products at exhibitions and community centers, to increase awareness and familiarity among seniors.
Furthermore, companies should focus on improving the quality of after-sale customer support and user training to ensure seniors can effectively utilize the devices. This will improve customer satisfaction and promote a positive brand image in the seniors' community.
Brands can also explore partnerships with senior care facilities or organizations to promote their products and services. By working with these entities, smart healthcare companies can develop tailored solutions that address specific needs and challenges faced by seniors.
▲ Image via @腾讯网
At the assistive device museum, dozens of high-tech assistive devices for people with disabilities were on display
Smart healthcare and assistive technology are two related but distinct areas of healthcare technology. Smart healthcare mainly provides products and services to individual consumers, while assistive technology refers to large, precision instrument products that are primarily rented out to businesses (B2B), governments, or enterprises because of their high cost.
In developed countries, government funding is typically available to cover the cost of rehabilitation assistive devices, including insurance-based, insurance-welfare-based, and welfare-based options. However, most assistive technology in China is self-funded, with no coverage from special medical insurance or social welfare programs. This creates a financial burden for individuals who require assistive technology. As a result, the rental and sharing of such devices are becoming increasingly popular to make them more accessible.
In contrast, Japan has already established a complete rental market for assistive technology, with manufacturers producing the devices, maintenance factories providing repairs and upkeep, and rental businesses offering the devices to the public.
In China, the rental market for assistive technology is still in early stages, with four primary modes of operation, including independent platforms like 健租宝, e-commerce, e-commerce plus pharmacy, and government welfare. However, high costs have limited the rental of assistive technology to mainly B2B business, making it hard for brands to reach the individual customers. Brands are also facing challenges in the disinfection, assembly, and testing devices.
▲ Image via @健康互联 (Zhihu)
In a nursing home, the seniors were amazed by the robots
As China's rental market for assistive technology continues to develop, it presents an opportunity for overseas companies to expand reach and distribution channels. The top 23 assistive technology companies are concentrated in the US, Europe, and Japan, indicating the potential for overseas companies to establish a foothold in China. Brands may consider establishing factories or trading companies in China or partnering with established Chinese e-commerce platforms.
Suppose your company is interested in exploring potential opportunities in the Chinese market. In that case, Double V. Consulting's team of experienced consultants can provide comprehensive market research, strategic planning, and tailored marketing solutions to help your company succeed. Please don't hesitate to contact us for more information!