Founder and CEO of ERG Enterprises. Nationally recognized thought leader on entrepreneurship, investing and leadership.
Choosing to start your own business is a supercharged decision.
Before I started my first, I faced a seemingly endless number of opportunities. Healthcare. Hospitality. Technology. I chose to buy an existing business in a world with which I was very familiar—a move that first-time founders should seriously consider.
I acquired Omega Hospital with the intention of turning the free-standing specialty surgical center into a destination for personalized care, service and support. I sought to bring a new approach to the sterile, bureaucratic and corporate model of healthcare—delivering a high-end experience by leveraging the techniques and design principles of New Orleans’ leading hotels.
Fast-forward to today, I’ve encountered this career-defining question multiple times. Our time is scarce, and our opportunities are limited. Which business and industry warrants my focus, energy and capital for the next three, five or 10 years? This is the indelible question facing all who call themselves entrepreneurs or investors. We face a fork-in-the-road decision, and what we decide sets us on an enduring journey.
Over the last few years, I’ve grown less apprehensive and more confident in this decision. The stakes aren’t less important, but the likelihood of success has dulled my fears of failure. I see senior living as a massive opportunity for aspiring and experienced entrepreneurs, not to mention investors. This belief isn’t rooted in intuition but in hard data that suggests we are facing one of the most underestimated and impactful crises of our time.
If you’re among the many aspiring founders or investors looking to get your start, then you should consider a career in senior living. Here are the three most fundamental reasons why—which explain why my investment firm has taken an ownership stake in senior living communities across the country, with our sights set on getting more involved.
1. Demand in senior living is outpacing supply.
I’ve written about senior living extensively, especially with respect to one key area: Housing is a crisis that threatens to leave many seniors without a home. Estimates show that by 2029, more than 14.4 million seniors will be unable to afford senior housing that provides the crucial services they need.
Contributing to this problem is the rising costs of assisted living, which are forecast to double by 2047 to $5.6 trillion. Driving this problem is the phenomenon known as the “Silver Tsunami,” as 83 million Americans are projected to be 65 years old or older by 2050. It promises to overwhelm our ability to house and care for seniors.
Add the projected shortage of professionals to care for seniors—which is estimated to reach 355,000 by 2040—and you have an exceptional crisis of significant demand and scarce supply. This offers entrepreneurs the perfect set of conditions to build a business.
2. Technology is set to disrupt the industry.
In 2021, I wrote about the potential for smart technologies and artificial intelligence (AI) to solve many of the imminent challenges of the Silver Tsunami. Considering the accelerating rate of innovation in these areas, I’m more confident than ever in this prediction.
Home technologies have proved they can augment the in-person assistance that seniors require in assisted living facilities or at home. From smart stoves to pill dispensers to entertainment and more, technology can make existing staff more productive and perform tasks that previously required the human touch.
That’s all without recognizing the potential contributions of AI. The technology, which has captured global attention with coverage of innovations like ChatGPT and DALL-E, has already proved its value in this space. For several years, AI has helped predict and prevent seniors from falling—the leading cause of injury and death for this vulnerable demographic. Yet this represents just one of a vast number of use cases for AI. Think memory care. Companionship. Healthcare. The potential appears limitless.
3. The opportunities are diverse and plentiful.
It’s not only tech entrepreneurs that stand to benefit from getting involved. Senior living needs hospitality, healthcare, construction, professional services and more. Many different types of businesses and disciplines are needed in this space, whether B2C, B2B or B2B2C.
This lowers the barriers to entry by allowing entrepreneurs to bring their talents, experience and expertise to a new vertical. Senior living is an industry of incredible importance with no shortage of problems or needs. It also means that senior living doesn’t offer a zero-sum proposition. We all benefit when more entrepreneurs and investors get involved.
As a serial entrepreneur and long-time investor, that gets me excited—not only for the potential financial reward of starting a business in senior living but also for the chance to make a meaningful difference. That’s why when aspiring entrepreneurs ask me for career advice, I encourage them to do their homework on senior living. After all, there couldn’t be a more worthwhile use of our time, energy and capital.
Now is your fork-in-the-road moment. Choose your path wisely.
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