Recognizing the purchasing power of aging Baby Boomers, entrepreneurs are developing new technological answers to some of the common challenges of aging. Katy Fike and Stephen Johnston, cofounders of Aging 2.0, are fueling this energy and excitement by building a network to connect innovators and developers with needed investors and potential users.
“We feel that we haven’t really seen as much innovation in the aging sector as we’ve seen in other industries,” says Fike, who left a career in engineering to pursue a PhD in gerontology. “So we are trying to create a bridge between the startup community and the more traditional long-term care community.”
Recently, Aging 2.0 got a shot in the arm from a capital investment firm, which has allowed the organization to help fund a number of promising, scalable, startups that are offering creative innovations for the long-term care marketplace.
Smart homes. One example is a sophisticated yet simple smart home approach called Lively, which helps seniors safely age in place. The subscription service ($39.99 one-time fee, plus $24.95 a month) provides sensors that are placed on various objects around the home (for example, on pill boxes, on the refrigerator door). Lively then shares the resident’s activity patterns with a loved one via secure email or text notifications.
“It provides family members with a real, easy way to understand what’s happening. Is their loved one active, has she taken her pills?” says Johnston. “Lively has brought a great design sensibility to this arena. The designer responsible for Lively is from Apple and created a user-friendly experience that has helped seniors embrace the technology rather than resent it.”
Smart homes are the wave of the future, believes Fike. “In five years, if not sooner, we will look back and think that the idea of a mobility-compromised, 95-year-old woman living alone without sensors sounds like neglect.”
Wearables, virtual visits, and more. Aging 2.0 is also funding a number of other startup technologies, including a telemonitor on wheels that allows for virtual visits, a platform that helps connect families to caregivers, and a debit card that uses an algorithm to prevent fraud against seniors.
Johnston points to a number of other promising technologies still in development, including wearables. “What we’re moving toward is a sort of smart, embedded technology that can’t even be detected by the user,” says Johnston. “For instance, there’s a smart shirt that has all these sensors all over it to take your body measurements. Then you throw it in the washing machine and it recharges by tumbling.”
Both Johnston and Fike urge healthcare stakeholders to jump in and test innovative products, and to mentor entrepreneurs. “We have a bunch of entrepreneurs who are excited about this space, but we need an environment that is innovation friendly, which involves the big guys talking to the small guys, conducting pilots, giving feedback, mentoring, and advising startups,” says Fike. “These are the things that help get the great ideas out into the world.”
Maggie Van Dyke is managing editor of HFMA's Leadership publication.
Interviewed for this article: Katy Fike is cofounder, Aging 2.0, San Francisco. Stephen Johnston is cofounder, Aging 2.0.
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