Singaporean entrepreneur Serene Tan first noticed a gaping hole in Asia's senior care market when she was a college student. The developer of GlydeSafe - an intuitive walking aid for the elderly - observed that firms who provided goods and services for the elderly were lacking a personalized, customer-based approach.
"The silver market is underserved because the local landscape of health care and retail is dominated by a few large players who operate a traditional business model of importing from overseas. This inhibits creativity," Tan, director of Sorgen, which develops GlydeSafe, told CNBC. "If we want to improve the standard of living, we have to identify problems instead of using rehashed solutions."
With funding of $150,000 from private and public enterprise agencies, Tan's elderly-friendly mobility devices were launched across Singapore in 2013 after being tested out in hospitals. The business has sold around 150 devices in the past year and is currently working on plans to expand elsewhere in the region.
As governments across the region grapple with a rapidly aging population, inspired entrepreneurs like Tan are rushing to tap an expanding market.
The number of Asians over the age of 60 is expected to hit 1.2 billion by 2050, compared to 450 million in 2012, according to the Pew Research Center. Out of 55 countries, Singapore, China, Hong Kong, and Korea are expected to experience the largest declines in working-age population over the next decade, a Moody's report noted last year. A working-age population typically declines when the rate of people leaving the work force, generally the elderly, is faster than the number of people entering employment.
"Many firms believe that the under-fifty market is bigger than that (of) over-fifty. In fact not only is the market bigger for those over-fifty for almost all goods and services, but this is particularly true in health care and luxury purchases," noted William Haseline, president of global think tank ACCESS Health.
Singapore is perhaps the best example of rising entrepreneurial interest in the silver market, with elderly care a key element of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's plan to make the country the world's first 'Smart Nation' by 2022. The city-state's low birth rates mean the number of senior citizens will triple to 900,000 by 2030, with only 2.1 working-age individuals for each citizen aged 65 and above compared to 6.3 presently, according to government statistics.
August will see the launch of an accelerator program called 'Modern Aging' by NUS Enterprise and ACCESS Health International that aims to help entrepreneurs create new products and services for the elderly.