Meet the innovative New Zealand businesses fighting to keep our elderly fit

As businesses forge gimmicky new innovations such as Lime Scooters, our most fragile demographic – the elderly – is often neglected. It’s been noted that our cities and urban spaces, particularly Auckland, are insensitive towards older generations, and many developments in technology only exemplify the focus on youth and the negligence for older generations. But ironically, it is predicted New Zealand will have 1.2 million pensioners by 2038 and just 10 years later they will outnumber children for the first time in the country's history. The older generation could also be a strong market for new businesses. According to research via Trend Watching, 86 percent of marketers overestimate how much consumers under the age of 35 spend, whilst 72 percent underestimate how much consumers 55 and older spend. In light of these gleanings, we flip the coin and look at three local innovations that support our older generations. 

Pure Food Co makes pureed food for those unable to eat solid foods. The business, forged in 2014, modifies the texture of food for those with eating difficulties caused by illness, injury or age. Not being able to eat regular food is an impediment on many, mostly our elderly, who struggle with weight maintenance and insufficient nutrients, as well as miss out on the mental health benefits attached to traditional food. Strikingly, the company reports that “47 percent of older people entering hospital or aged care were malnourished and another 43 percent were at risk of malnutrition”.  However, Pure Food Co has devised a solution, to fortify fresh food into tasteful and nutritious meals. Now, the company has begun using moulds to make its pureed food resemble its original state.  

In 2015 a Tauranga doctor went on a crusade to help elderly people live with more freedom without the hassle of outdated medical bracelets and restrictive alarms. The result saw the advent of Q watch, a ‘smart watch’ that features apps such as fall sensoring, geo-fencing, voice recognition, GPS, video calling, and more. Additionally, the Q Watch notifies family members when an elderly relative has used the watch to call an ambulance, allowing them to video call their loved one and reassure them until the ambulance arrives.

International architecture firm, Marchese Partners, has long pedalled for improved design integrated into our retirement villages. The firm expanded to Auckland in 2015, before it opened a new office in Christchurch to assist in the rebuild, with a focus on aged care and living options. In 2017, its principle Simon Johnson told Idealog, with the design of retirement living, a balance between independence and a sense of community is key. And further aims to create spaces to aid social interaction between residents and their children and grandchildren. The firm has pioneered a new wave of senior living villages, notably the Mark Moran Vaucluse project in Sydney and the Aveo Clayfield project in Brisbane – and is currently set to revitalise Christchurch.

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