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STARTUPS FOR ELDERLY CARE ARE BOOMING IN SOUTH KOREA



With an increasing number of lonely elderly people, Korea is facing many challenges of a super-aged society.  This is also a opportunity for many startups.

South Korea stands at the second place just behind countries like Japan and Germany in terms of an aging population (called the super old society) where people aged 65 and over account more than 20% of the population.

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With an increasing number of lonely elderly people, Korea is facing many challenges of a super-aged society.  This is also a opportunity for many startups.

South Korea stands at the second place just behind countries like Japan and Germany in terms of an aging population (called the super old society) where people aged 65 and over account more than 20% of the population.

Startups for elderly care are booming in KoreaStartups for elderly care are booming in South Korea / ph: pexels 

Major players like Naver and SK Telecom, as well as startups, are catching up on the trend with products and services in a sector that the Korea Health Industry Development Institute (KHIDI) estimates to be worth 72.8 trillion won ($59.7 billion) in 2020. However, companies’ awareness of social responsibility and necessary to provide services that fit the pocket of pensioners is a hindrance to profitability.

In 2020, SK Telecom, the country's largest wireless carrier, introduced the NUGU, an AI type with voice recognition that acts as a 24-hour at-home digital caregiver.

Services are available for 2,200 won/month include brain training, exercise, medication reminders and other alerts.  With a fee of 4,500 won/month, a 24-hour security service will be added for emergency assistance.

South Korea, with population about 51 million people, is on track to reach the milestone of a super-aged society by 2025. According to Statistics Korea, the nation's population will likely start to decline over a long period of time. The total population is forecast to decrease to about 37 million people by 2070.

The agency also said that of the country's 9 million elderly people today, 1.76 million live alone.  Data from the Korean Ministry of Health shows that, starting in 2018, 1 in 10 elderly people have no contact with family members, while 1.5% do not participate in social activities.

While nursing homes are the first choice for families with loved ones suffering from dementia and other chronic illnesses, problems arising from cases of being abandoned and violence has led to developing of carer services in the home for seniors.

Ariacare Korea, a startup founded in 2016, is one of them.  The monthly fee that the company offers is 2.5 million won, similar to the fee of nursing homes.  Clients can schedule a time for carers come home to work.  Many customers are families with elderly people but is not available at home 24/24.

Another company that offers premium services to the elderly is Pulmuone Foods, which focuses on improving diets.  The company has been developing ready-to-eat or prepared premium food items, including vegetables and minced meat.

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The company is also developing products for specific needs such as pre-meal drinks that hydrate and not affect the digestive system, and also offer protein drinks for the elderly.

According to KHIDI, the food sector is worth 1.76 trillion won in 2020 which accounts for 24.2% of the total age-friendly industry.  And along with medicine and rehabilitation products, food is considered the top demand.  However, 66.4% of 40-to 69-year-olds said they had never heard of elderly-friendly foods.

The last reason is said because elderly people cannot afford such services and are therefore passive or inactive consumers.  According to a 2020 report by the Korea Institute of Health and Social Affairs, the average elderly person earns only 15.58 million won/year.

STARTUPS FOR ELDERLY CARE ARE BOOMING IN SOUTH KOREA

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