Minnesota can be a research hub for aging

  • Article by: EDITORIAL BOARD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 10, 2013 - 5:50 AM

Minnesota should be a center for pioneering products for seniors.

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Carmakers from around the world come to the state’s cold, rugged terrain near Baudette to test new technology and equipment. If these enhancements can handle the worst of a Minnesota winter, they’re ready for the real-world challenges vehicles will face.

Two entrepreneurial-minded Twin Cities residents have smartly realized that Minnesota isn’t just the ideal testing ground for cars. It also has all the elements to become a world-class proving ground for the new products needed by a fast-growing demographic group — those 60 and up.

The state already ranks second in the nation for longevity, meaning it’s home to potential customers. It also has a top research university, world-renowned health care providers, respected senior foundations, and state officials open to innovative policies to help seniors age in their homes. There’s also a thriving ecosystem of start-up companies and investors, as well as established firms whose future sales will depend on serving seniors.

The potential of this idea becomes quickly apparent when listening to Eric Schubert, an Ecumen senior housing executive, and Ernest W. Grumbles, an attorney who cofounded the MOJO Minnesota entrepreneurship collaborative. The duo astutely points out the explosive potential of delivering innovative services and products for seniors.

Louisville, Ky., is already positioning itself to become this kind of research hub. But Minnesota has the resources to become a true global leader. Leadership from Gov. Mark Dayton and policymakers is needed to move forward.

A good first step would be attending the launch of the AgePower Tech Search, a collaborative that Schubert and Grumbles’ organizations have teamed up on. That event, held next Tuesday from 4:30 to 6 p.m. at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, could well be the start of an economic engine that powers the state far into the future.

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