Aging as an Engine of Innovation, Business Development, and Job Creation in North Carolina

Friday October 27, 2017
  • Research Brief


North Carolina is one of the nation’s most rapidly growing states. Since 2000, the state’s population has increased 25% or by nearly 2 million. Older adults—both long term residents who are aging in place and recent newcomer retirees—have played a major role in the state’s growth. Over the past 15 years, the older adult population (65 and older) has increased 45% or by close to a half million, accounting for one fifth of state’s total growth (Table 1). By 2015, North Carolina’s elderly population had reached 1.4 million or 14% the total population, up from 969,000 or 12% in 2000.

In this research brief, we assert that aging can and should be a major engine of innovation, business development, and job creation in North Carolina. Everything in both the person-centered (i.e., residential) and the built environment (i.e., all public, private, and commercial spaces) must change to accommodate an aging population. Safety retrofits are needed in many homes of seniors, on the sidewalks of many cities, and in many retail spaces. Consequently, new ideas and innovations, including assistive technologies and the digital literacy training required to use them, are needed to support older adults as they strive to cope with their age-related difficulties while maintaining residence in their homes and their communities. In addition, new models of care are required to address the needs of the oldest old (85+ population).

We begin by providing an overview of aging in North Carolina, focusing specifically on the geography and demography as well as the housing characteristics of the older adult population.1 Next, we focus on the diverse living arrangements of the state’s most vulnerable older adults—the group most in need of assistance with the types of long term services and supports that will enable them to live out their lives in their homes and communities. We then identify specific domains in the aging space where there are unique opportunities to innovate, facilitate business development, and create jobs. We conclude by discussing necessary policy interventions to foster and facilitate successful age-focused, entrepreneurially driven economic development in North Carolina.


Johnson, Jr.,  J. H., Parnell, A. M., & Lian, H. (2017 October). Aging as an engine of innovation, business development, and job creation in North Carolina. (Research Brief #3 Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise). Retrieved from