Thursday, April 12, 2007

Clinical Innovations - Lengthening Life Spans Creates Innovative Opportunities

Getting Older Means Getting Bolder with Your Body

The April 10 issue of the New York Times contains a special retirement section. The lead article, “Training to be Old,” says the aging population forces a shift in perspective. Inside the section is another piece “Shuffleboard Gets Pushed to the Closet,” The second piece notes the new elders don’t seek shuffleboard, ping pong, and bowling anymore. Instead, the new age wave wants fitness and wellness centers with Nautilus and like machines.

A 2006 survey conducted by the International Council on Active Aging indicates 45% of managers of retirement communities are building or expanding facilities with air-pressured machines. The elderly have learned the best way to slow the aging process to exercise, and get plenty of it.

A friend of mine, Dr. Lucien Wilkins, who I feature in Innovation-Driven Health Care, is deep in the process of building fitness centers in retirement centers in North Carolina. He is having no trouble in finding interested real estate developers.

Lucien’s success brings to mind this piece from The Daily Drucker (HarperBusiness 2004)

Exploiting Innovative Ideas

Creative is sexy, but the real problem is the shockingly high mortality rate of health new products or services

There usually are more good ideas in even the stodgiest organizations than can possibly be exploited. The real problem is the shockingly high mortality rates of healthy new products or services. And like yesterday’s infant mortality rate, the mortality rate of new products and services is totally unnecessary. It can reduced fairly fast and without spending a great deal of money. Much of it is simply the result of ignorance of the entrepreneurial strategies. The right entrepreneurial strategy has a very high chance of success.

There are four specifically entrepreneurial strategies aiming at market leadership: being “Fustest with the Mostest,”; “Hitting Them Where They Ain’t:”; finding and occupying a specialized ecological niche; and changing the economic characteristics of a product, a market, or an industry.

These four strategies are not mutually exclusive. One and the same entrepreneur often combines two, sometimes even three elements, in one strategy. Still, each of these four has its prerequisites. Each fits certain kinds of innovation and does not fit others. Each requires specific behavior on the part of the entrepreneur. Finally, each has its own limitations and carries its own risks.

Be systematic in exploiting innovative ideas, remember these four strategies for success.


I would argue installing fitness centers for older people featuring aerobics, heavy lifting, running tracks, and exercise machines has a high chance of success. I am not the first to recognize this. YMCAs, senior centers, and Silver Sneaker programs for the elderly are blossoming across the land. But making these centers are integral pieces of newly built retirement communities relatively new. Its builders know the newly old see hard exercise as the best way to stay young. It’s the new perception. The rocking chair days of yore are fading fast.

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