Whatever Cannabis products your company makes, if you are not including the Seniors market in your strategic planning, and if you are not developing the specific messages, products and support mechanisms needed to reach and penetrate the Seniors market, you are not only missing a great opportunity – you are ceding an enormous part of the market to your competition.
It is natural for Cannabis entrepreneurs to concentrate on the markets they know best – which in many cases means mainly other young people, because a lot of Cannabis entrepreneurs are themselves on the healthy side of 65.
But just because their bodies are old, and their capabilities not what they once were, doesn’t mean that old people cannot become excited, loyal customers for any company that makes the effort to identify and address their special needs and desires.
Because Cannabis and Cannabis products are so relevant to the needs and desires of older people, and because older people are too-often simply being ignored as the Cannabis market is being developed, largely by younger people, those businesses who create quality Cannabis products tailored specifically to the needs and desires of Seniors will not only rake in a large share of the profits to be made in their sector, they will give themselves staying power that will last for decades.
There is a simple reason for this. A person in their 30’s today is going to be a person in their 60’s in the blink of an eye. (Believe me – it happens precisely that fast.) Just as young people create new opportunities for businesses, people growing old creates an equally powerful set of opportunities.
Seniors Need Cannabis & Cannabis Companies Need Seniors
Humanitarian arguments concerning the positive moral value of providing Seniors with loving, caring treatment with Cannabis may not seem relevant to people in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s who are busy building a Cannabis business. They are rightfully focused on their bottom line and so they are, for the most part, consumed with going after what they see as low-hanging fruit – the tens of millions of young existing Cannabis consumers lusting for new experiences, new products, and new ways to get high.
But that good old bottom line is exactly why smart young businesspeople need to pay attention to the sheer size of the potential Cannabis market for Seniors. Because numbers matter on the bottom line, and even if compassion isn’t part of the formal calculations, its influence is either there or it is not. And it does make a difference – in the case of the Cannabis market for Seniors, it can make a huge difference. Here are some things to consider.
Why Caregiver Demographics Matter
In Fall, 2015 the National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC) and AARP published extensive data that among other things showed that 34 million Americans had provided unpaid care to an adult age 50 or older in the prior 12 months. Using a 1:1 ratio that means a cohort of 68 Million people.
Research also consistently shows that more than 50% of people over 50 have a favorable view of medical Cannabis. However, since there are only @ 4 – 5 Million current Cannabis users over age 55, there are a lot more people who could benefit from medical use of Cannabis than are currently using it.
Given the numbers, it is reasonable to project that @ 50% of Senior Caregivers and 50% of the Seniors they are caring for probably have a favorable view of Cannabis as a natural medicine, EVEN THOUGH only a relatively small percentage of those with favorable views are currently using Cannabis.
Don’t you wonder why this is the case? If you have anything to do with the Cannabis industry, you should be thinking about this.
The data tells anyone who cares to look that 30-40 million people who have excellent reasons to be interested in Cannabis as a natural medicine have not yet tried it. Why not? Could it be as simple as this – they might simply need to have more information presented to them in relevant terms, or they may have serious fears that nobody has addressed effectively.
The NAC/AARP 2015 study also shows that: “The majority of caregivers are female (60%), but 40 percent are male. Eight in 10 are taking care of one person (82%). They are 49 years of age, on average. A large majority of caregivers provide care for a relative (85%), with 49 percent caring for a parent or parent-in-law. One in 10 provides care for a spouse. Higher-hour caregivers are almost four times as likely to be caring for a spouse/partner.”
So, a typical caregiver is a woman in their middle age caring full-time for a parent or elderly relative at home, unpaid and largely unappreciated, and subject to their own challenges of boredom, stress, fatigue and declining health. Many of these people are seeking, or would be open to, any solution that will make their job easier and the lives of those they love and care for better.
So, bottom line (there it is again), Cannabis companies, no matter what their products or markets, have an opportunity to expand their vision to address a whole new market of 30—40 million potential customers.
It’s simple to ignore that little fact – because you’re already making tons of money. But then the smart people who are your competitors will eat your lunch. That is the challenge to any business that wants to be a part of the Cannabis community.
There Are Seniors Markets Beyond Caregiver/Patient
There are over 75 Million independent seniors in the US, many with medical issues identical to those of seniors living under care, that can potentially be addressed effectively by Cannabis.
Let’s look at Sleep as an example – a health issue for which the right Cannabis strains are a well-established treatment.
Between 50-70 million Americans, over half of them over 65, have chronic moderate to severe sleep problems, and over 80% of them say they are extremely dissatisfied with the sleeping “medicines” they use. Over 70% of the Google searches for the “sleep aid” category in 2016 were for “natural sleep aid”. Clearly there are a lot of people who need help sleeping, a huge number of them over 65, and they are out there searching for help sleeping, which means they haven’t found anything that works yet, and their searches say clearly that they want natural medicines, not pharmacological poisons.
Properly used, the right Cannabis strains can reduce or eliminate sleep issues for many if not most of those 50-70 million people with moderate to severe sleep problems, both those seniors being cared for and those who are independent.
It may be unnecessary to say this, but that is a whole hell of a lot of people looking for a single type of product – an effective natural sleep aid. Hello?
I Know This Subject Intimately
I have been a caregiver for long periods in my life, first as a single father for 5 years with an infant son, and then later, along with my wife, we cared first for my mother and then for her mother for another 20 years.
Let’s just say that I am quite familiar with every kind of diaper, infant and adult, and I have lost more than my share of arguments over who was going to finish their dinner before getting dessert.
I have also been a Cannabis grower, writer and researcher for over 50 years. I wrote the first book on Marijuana growing in 1969 as well as the first book on making and cooking with healing Cannabis extracts in 1982.
So as I write this blog post I have the benefit of many years of experience both as a caregiver and also with the use of Cannabis Flowers as a natural medicine, a source of pleasure and healing, and a tool for insight and creativity.
What Many If Not Most Seniors Need
Seniors who need supportive care because of poor health or just plain age, as well as many completely independent seniors, share important quality of life issues including poor sleep, poor appetite, chronic pain, diminished memory, and loss of interest.
All of these conditions of old age, especially when combined with poor health, can be treated and in some instances healed with informed use of the right Cannabis strains.
Whether Cannabis Flowers are smoked using a traditional pipe, a fancy bong or as a classic joint, or whether they are used as a strawberry-flavored vapor oil extract or as a nice herbal tonic or tea, there are a lot of choices ofs pleasant and beneficial way for any senior to use Cannabis and there are many good reasons for them to consider the already well-established benefits and proven safety of this natural medicine.
If you are in the Cannabis business, you need to be asking yourself how your products can help make life better for all these people.
Good, relevant information is critically important for caregivers, and seniors who are being cared for, as well as for independent seniors, and for families to come to terms with any issues that seniors in the family have that are preventing them from benefitting from this powerful, safe and effective natural medicine.
Caregivers should seek out “voices of experience” either among their personal networks or on the internet who can offer insights and practical tips for reluctant family members who should be, but are not contemplating the use of Cannabis as a natural medicine.
Among the important questions that Cannabis companies need to be ready to answer are:
Which Cannabis strains are best for helping with sleep, appetite, pain and discomfort, physical relaxation and mental alertness?
How can alternative Cannabis preparations be used to meet special physical needs and personal preferences?
What are some small but important ways that Cannabis can help recapture fading or lost pleasures – enjoying memories, socializing with others, listening to music, eating and drinking, watching movies and reading.
Caregivers deal every day with all the details that it takes to help keep the Cared-For person’s life running as smoothly as possible. It is truly remarkably most of them somehow marshal the energy needed to give the person they are caring for far more than just maintenance – they somehow manage to provide close human contact, trust, warmth and caring.
Intelligent and sensitive use of Cannabis Flowers as a natural medicine can enable even more of that positive energy and spirit to flow between Caregiver and the person they are caring for, just as those same Cannabis Flowers also help treat pressing physical and emotional issues including sleep, appetite, pain and memory.
Every one of us needs tender, loving care more than anything else when we’re badly hurt, or severely sick, or grieving deeply, or very old, or caught in any of life’s other painful, terrifying traps. While we all need loving care at some time in our lives, unfortunately caring for others seems to be a rare natural resource, a quality of the heart, mind and soul possessed by relatively few people. And yet tens of millions of us are growing older and will inevitably need care. Whether that “care” is institutional, custodial care that is little more than prison, or it is loving, attentive care from a Caregiver who is giving freely, is really a matter of economic opportunity as much as it is motivation. Our society desperately needs to invent ways for Caregivers to be able to stay home and care for those who need their constant care. I believe that the natural Cannabis medicine revolution and the accompanying regulatory structures may finally offer Caregivers such an economic opportunity.
Not Our Job!
The problem with getting love and care when you need them most is they aren’t actually a part of the job description of the so-called caring professions – medicine, nursing, rehabilitation etc. For the most past we are only truly cared for when an individual chooses to give it to us out of their heart’s kindness, not because it’s part of their job.
Of course there are professionals with large personal reserves of caring in the medical industry, but most people who have dealt with hospitals, clinics, nursing homes and the like would probably agree that caring is generally absent at most levels in these places most of the time. This is critically unfortunate, because without caring all the medical skills and technology in the world give small, cold comfort at best to people living their days in pain, fear and sickness, or who are confused and feeble, or those who have been broken and disabled.
It’s All Yours! Long Hours, No Pay.
Throughout history in all cultures giving love and care has been the role of women and slaves, which all societies have considered a domestic duty with little economic value, rather than being treated as a valuable resource. This deliberate pretense has robbed those with immense stores of love and care of their economic birthright, because the truth is that they possess what is ultimately most valuable, and most needed by almost every person on earth no matter how rich and powerful or poor and impotent.
Interestingly enough, a quick look at any group of health care industry messages reveals that most of them compete on the basis of caring about you personally – yet who actually delivers that caring if it gets delivered at all? The objective answer is that when caring is given in medical settings it is given disproportionately by women. It’s a tragic continuation of history’s irony that the people who own and control this most critical factor in competitiveness in the health care industry tend to be the lowest paid and most exploited workers in that industry.
Who You Gonna Call?
Increasing numbers of people have to face the rest of their life with severe illness and disability, dependent only upon whatever insurance and social services payments may provide and whatever network of family, friends and social services they may have available. There are 43 million homes in America where someone, usually an older person, is being cared for by someone who loves them and has taken on the responsibility – usually a daughter but increasingly, a loving son. People in this situation often have no other financial income resources than insurance and social security payments, and normally can’t work in any way to supplement their income. If the person is institutionalized the institution typically gathers in all available income and other assets in return for the care and treatment being provided – too often a cruel joke. If the person lives independently the health care services provided at home typically eat up all available cash flow leaving little left for quality of life support.
Any one of us not in need of loving care at this moment could, before the sun rises again, find our entire life changed with our independence and abilities gone forever. It happens every day to thousands of people worldwide. It comes as a diagnosis like cancer or AIDS, or it comes as an event like a stroke or an accident, or it comes on gradually as we simply age until one day we’re on our back or our backside forever. Yet when such a terrible thing happens most of us behave like animals struck dumb with terror by a nameless shadow dropping from the sky. We are paralyzed with fear, praying that the dark shadow isn’t heading straight for us but we know that it is. When it strikes, we are helpless, and for far too many people that moment is only the beginning of helplessness.
A Tale Of Two Worlds
During Wiley Johnson’s final life experience the only other people he saw regularly, other than his family and a few friends, were two hospital staff people named Ernest and Betty. Ernest was an orderly and Betty was a nurse’s assistant, and both were in their fifties. Betty was an African-American woman from Oak Cliff, and Ernest was a Latin American man originally from Sonora, now from East Dallas. They became Wiley’s friends, saw him every day, fussed over him, joked with him, and listened to him. They cared for Wiley physically and personally, cleaning and grooming him, doing small kindnesses for him, and most of all, treating him like a person.
In the month he spent in the hospital Wiley was attended to by a steady stream of high priced specialists. Although many of them were professionally pleasant and “caring”, they were each very busy, and they never listened very well as Wiley kept complaining of a pain in his stomach. Both Ernest and Betty took Wiley seriously enough to express concern to the family, and we made inquiries to the doctors as they zipped in and out. Finally, to deal with Wiley’s complaints and the family’s concerns a “heart man” was brought in and, sure enough, he announced that Wiley had a heart problem. But he’s never had a heart problem, we protested, and received the standard “doctor knows best” routine. Despite our objections Wiley was started on an intravenous blood thinner drip. Within 24 hours a massive undiagnosed clotted ulcer deep in his bowel let go, and after nearly six weeks of suffering and loss of dignity and nearly a hundred thousand dollars worth of professional medical “care”, Wiley quickly died of his stomach pains.
As my wife, her mother and I left the hospital garage after Wiley’s death, we noticed the expensive foreign car ahead of us being driven by Wiley’s heart specialist and remarked on the irony of his life-style and our situation at this moment. Then as we pulled out into the early evening streets, we saw another person, standing at the bus stop, holding a lunchbox. It was Betty, waiting for the bus to Oak Cliff, which pulled up just as we came around the corner so she never saw us. So one small family went home without its husband and father, the heart man went home in his expensive foreign car, and Betty and, no doubt Ernest, took the bus home to whatever home they could afford on their meager salaries.
Value In Use & Value In Exchange
This story may seem to be about hospitals, and doctors who sometimes heal and who sometimes kill – but it isn’t, it’s about a system of care-giving turned upside-down, where people who give the thing of greatest value, who give care, attention, friendship and sometimes love to lonely, frightened people in pain, rarely benefit in economic terms from their personal expenditure of this precious human capital, although it is exploited to their enormous benefit by institutional employers. Those who because of character, nature and culture possess the two principal forms of human capital – care and love – are rarely in a position to benefit from the exploitation of those rich sources of economic benefit.
Adam Smith wrote in “Wealth Of Nations”:
“The word value, it is to be observed, has two different meanings, and sometimes expresses the utility of some particular object, and sometimes the power of purchasing other goods which the possession of that object conveys. The one may be called “value in use”; the other, “value in exchange”. The things which have the greatest value in use have frequently little or no value in exchange; and, on the contrary, those which have the greatest value in exchange have frequently little or no value in use.”
He goes on to point out that salt is essential for health, and water is essential for survival, but that they have little value in exchange – except, of course, in arid regions of places like the American west where water rights are a distinct separate form of property rights.
Ladies! Get To Work!
For many generations, love and caring have been little valued and poorly rewarded, and at the same time they have been both demanded and coerced from those who possess these resources in greatest concentration. There has been no “value in exchange” for love and care, and instead there has been a vast pretension that these two resources are worthless. There has been very little “value in use” because love and caring were treated largely as domestic, wifely, or household tasks rather than core economic activities in the public domain.
For endless generations what little love and care there was in the world was delivered primarily by women in their roles as mother, wife, big sister, nursemaid, nanny, teacher, nurse, laborer, prostitute, and slave to their children, men, and family, and to their exploiters, owners, and employers. In return for this love and caring women have historically been paid little or nothing, and for most of history it has simply been expected of women by males and their institutions, and women have had no choice but to go along with this elaborate, degrading, and ultimately destructive pretense.
It’s About Time
However, the wheels of history turn, and circumstances are now right for millions of naturally gifted caregivers, primarily women but increasing also caring men, to take advantage of a revolution in need that is coming rapidly and predictably. Quite simply, the revolution is coming because there is a rapidly growing acute demand for the human capital resources of love and care in our society.
The medical Cannabis laws in increasing numbers of states offer independent Caregivers not only the opportunity to grow a small crop of medical Cannabis for the person who they are caring for, and for themselves if they also have the right paperwork, but in many states a Caregiver can grow medical Cannabis for a limited number of other patients who qualify for medical Cannabis. This offers a tremendous opportunity for Caregivers to generate welcome additional income from legal sale of medical Cannabis to patients in addition to the person they are caring for.
This is also an area where the huge numbers of Caregivers & Patients can have a dramatic impact on Cannabis laws. Caregivers who are sacrificing their ability to earn an income in order to take care of a loved one should be able to have a license to cultivate as much Medical Cannabis as they can grow, and the freedom to give or sell that Cannabis to any other legal patient and also to medical Cannabis dispensaries. With over 40 million Caregivers in the US caring for over 40 million patients, none of whom have the ability to earn an income because of the 24/7 nature of Caregiving, legalized home cultivation of Cannabis could be a powerful source of economic liberation for a huge number of Americans who have no other possibility of earning a decent income.
Hey! What About The Guys?
It’s not news to anyone that it is almost exclusively men, and male-dominated institutions in every culture which make war, exploit people, create suffering and pain, rape, desecrate, pollute and destroy, and promote anger, vengeance, hatred and cruelty. While there is little room in this tough, mean male world for men who express love and caring, it is expected, demanded, and coerced with little or no compensation from all women. In every major world culture deeply ingrained male institutions assure that the benefits of love and caring are available essentially for free to men from childhood onwards – on demand, so to speak.
It’s All Changing
I believe that we are entering a period in the early 21st Century when this can change in ways that can also revolutionize the harsh, male-dominated society that now rules, and Cannabis consciousness can be a key breakthrough factor in this revolution. And I believe that women and their enlightened male counterparts who are caregivers to the sick and elderly can lead the way forward.
I believe that for the first time in history it is possible to design workable ways for people who have an abundance of the human capital resources of love and caring to organize and put these resources to work for their own economic and social benefit. Medical Cannabis can be the center of a new home-based economic revolution.
I believe that groups of Caregivers working within religious and non-profit institutions, will be able to leverage the medical Cannabis laws to enable them to compete effectively with the so-called health care industry for the Trillion-dollar residential long term care market about to be created by the aging baby boomers and their parents.
And I believe that the economic opportunities offered by legal medical Cannabis are going to be the foundation of a new, home-centered, patient-centered, natural medicine revolution in how old, sick and damaged people can be cared for by those who love them.