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Entrepreneurs ace the elder-care market

Global entrepreneurs are swarming into the ground-floor elevator of the fastest-rising business opportunity in history. Baby boomers account for a quarter of the population in the U.S., and they are living longer and needing more care. However, with a shortage of caregivers and nurses comes the demand for technological innovations.

Asia, particularly Japan, is a big stakeholder in elder-care entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs are already exploiting Japan's cheerful familiarity with robots in healthcare settings as exercise assistants and in group homes as elder concierge resources. Some double as a fluffy animal companion that responds to touch, environmental cues and voice sounds. Facilities also utilize bladder sensors that can alert staff when a patient needs a bathroom break and wired beds that warn nurses when a fall-risk patient leaves the bed.

Elder-care home devices take off

Entrepreneurs have never had a better opportunity to create designs to make independent living a reality. From smart desktop pill dispensers to Tree, a robot that rehabilitates elders' walking skills, homes are the new entrepreneurial frontier.

A big hit is Rendever, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology startup that offers comfort and mental activity through virtual reality. Seniors can use the MIT devices alone or interface with a shared group activity. They can even use the eyewear sets to virtually view a granddaughter's wedding in another country.

An entrepreneur in San Francisco designed a plastic eating set to help elders with dementia or arthritis. A waist belt called Active Protect has sensors that deploy an airbag when an elder begins to fall, protecting their fragile hip bones. It also messages the elder's caregiver for assistance.

How to get a product into the market

Nothing is stopping the next big success story for an entrepreneur who seizes the new demand for elder-care products except lack of experience in the global arena. Different countries have their own regulations that can hurt unprepared businesses. Owners must do proper research and have professional assistance in navigating the international business scene to avoid or manage disputes and unintentional illegal activity.

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