As Europe goes gray, business must tackle taboos about aging

Wed Dec 3, 2014 8:46am EST
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Stephen Brown

BERLIN (Reuters) - A boom in the number of older Europeans could spell big business for companies that cater to their changing needs - if they can tackle taboos and overcome outdated views of what "old age" looks like.

One in three Europeans will be 65 or over by 2060. They are not just living longer, but are also staying active and independent, only to find a dearth of products to fit their different lifestyles.

After her "fiercely independent" mother became malnourished because she could not cook or chew the products in her well-stocked larder, Elizabeth Jones realized there was a need for meals in small but nutritious portions that are easy to open, heat and eat.

She now sells 2,000 a week in Co-op supermarkets, mostly "meat, potatoes and gravy" fare - avoiding things like rice that can get snagged in dentures - and fruit-based desserts.

"If you look at the statistics, the percentage increase here over next 20-30 years is far greater than any other demographic in the market," said Jones, founder of On the Menu, a British firm making meals for elderly people living at home.

"Life expectancy is rising and we have customers driving to the Co-op who are 95," said Jones. "So the barrier of old age is being pushed back."

Overcoming awkwardness about the requirements of older bodies in that big chunk of the demographic will mean tackling more, and bigger, taboos.

That's a familiar task for Margareta Lehmann, president of incontinence care in Europe for Swedish firm SCA which sells products for incontinence.   Continued...

Coffin maker Michael Jagdt (CEO of lignotech Massivholz GmbH) watches a robot arm moving a coffin in Berlin, December 1, 2014. REUTERS/Axel Schmidt