'Waiting for Superman' -- The Caregiver Version

David Guggenheim, the Academy Award-winning director of "An Inconvenient Truth," has released his latest call-to-arms, "Waiting for Superman." The movie explores the state of public education in the United States and introduces the supermen/women who are trying to reform and innovate in the education system.

The synopsis for the film says, "When disaster strikes in America, heroes rush in. We've seen it time and again: when all seems lost real life supermen (and women) step in to save the day. But what if, right now, there is a hidden catastrophe spreading quietly and insidiously through our nations cities, towns and communities -- and yet we have the power to stop it? What if our children and their futures were in peril? Who will become a hero now?"

Now replace "children" with "elders" and consider these facts:

  • More than 65 million people, 29% of the U.S. population, provide care for a chronically ill, disabled or aged family member or friend during any given year and spend an average of 20 hours per week providing care for their loved one.
  • The value of unpaid, informal caregiving is estimated at $375 billion per year.
  • The impact on employers of caregivers is $33.6 billion in lost productivity annually, or an average of $2,111 per employed caregiver.



This Engage: Boomers post is a very personal one. For the past five years, I have been engaged in caregiving for three family members. It has been a true collision of my work with older consumers and my personal life. And with all the knowledge and experts that my career has brought me, it is the most difficult lifestage I have ever navigated. So with all the debate this last year about health care, we are left to wonder, where is caregiving's superman/woman?

This isn't asked facetiously. As longevity increases, the boomer generation could be engaged in caregiving for elders and/or their spouse for 20 years of their lives. The information, products and services to assist caregivers remains fragmented and is often contradictory. This is an enormous opportunity for brand heroes to address what may be the biggest pain point for boomers (other than financing their retirement.)

When entrepreneurs ask where to engage in the "boomer market opportunity," my first response is: "caregiving." The analogy is, who will own caregiving the way Johnson & Johnson's BabyCenter owns the motherhood lifestage? The potential cast of characters is broad: publishers, aging-in-place tech companies, pharma, health plans, health care providers, housing developers, contractors, care/case managers, authors, the government.

There are strong players in this space, like There is a lack of understanding that the needs and issues for caregivers are broad, and their time is precious. There is a need to aggregate services and provide complete solutions for caregivers.

At the end of the day, few companies really understand the emotions of this lifestage so the products and communication do not resonate or even reach the target. Brands, there are few consumer pain points that are stronger than love, guilt, time and money. Superman, where are you?

5 comments about "'Waiting for Superman' -- The Caregiver Version ".
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  1. Mark Bradbury from AARP Media Sales, October 11, 2010 at 10:42 a.m.

    Many thanks for a necessary call to action on a critical issue that is only going to become more so as millions of Baby Boomers age.

  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, October 11, 2010 at 11:17 a.m.

    You are so absolutely on target beyond the bullseye. Assistant living = $4500+/mo. Nursing home = $9000/mo. (Better to visit the state run facilities before you need it to know that these costs for a clean place are real.) Every dollar my working class parents saved and scrimped has gone to my father's care. My mother worked as clerk for the federal government - NOTE TO ALL - and was medically covered by their great socialized medical plan. So unless the boomers are looking forward to changing their parents' and spouses diapers along with other 24 hour care they will need, the need for comprehensive health coverage is more important than ever and will overtake boomer lives without it.

  3. Linda Taubenreuther, October 11, 2010 at 11:44 a.m.

    As my husband's MS became worse and I began searching for help and support, I was stunned by the endless lineup of brick walls. Just once, I found a tiny chink: a $300/mo. grant from a city program that paid for someone to come in and bathe and dress my husband just two mornings a week. It transformed my life for six months. Then the program was cut. No sign of any chinks in the wall since.

  4. Michelle Rogers, October 15, 2010 at 1:20 p.m.

    The wave is coming and let's face it we are not prepared. Providing home care to our clients, we observe that there a need to educate our communities to get us ready for what can land on our door step tomorrow without any notice.

  5. Jeff Bach from Quietwater Media, October 18, 2010 at 12:04 p.m.

    With parents in their early 70's and starting to fade, this is a segment I have been paying attention to for a few years now. As fate would have it, I did a video a year or so back for a "Comfort Keepers" franchise in the Milwaukee area<br> (link at btm).

    I was very surprised at the services they offer and the flexibility of what they will do. Just doing the video in their offices, showed me more than enough to realize that options are available for flexible in-home adult care. It was also a great way to recognize that there are people in our economy that are very good at recognizing the next opportunity. And this is a big one.<br>

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