Whether we’re talking about Snapchat, Twitter, or Uber, most start-ups focus on technologies for young folks. But Katy Fike, a 35-year-old former investment banker who holds a Ph.D. in gerontology (aka, the study of aging), thought an important opportunity to offer innovative services for the elderly was being missed.
So she, along with Stephen Johnston, who once worked in the mobile phone industry, she started Aging2.0, a start-up incubator that supports businesses working on solutions to the challenges facing the elderly. Fike told Cat Wise of the PBS NewsHour, “The past products for seniors have been what we call big, beige and boring.” The inventors and start-ups working with Aging2.0 aim to change that.
Lively is one such company, offering technology that lets family members unobtrusively check on elderly relatives who live independently. Users place sensors throughout the house that indicate when the elderly person is engaging in his or her regular routine — walking the dog, going to exercise class, and taking medications, for example. If the user misses one of the regular portions of his or her routine, the Lively website will indicate this so a remote family member can check in to see if everything is okay.
Other new technology products targeted toward the elderly include BrainAid, a web-based application that offers memory exercises, and Sabi, a company designing walking canes, pill boxes and pill splitters to be more attractive and user-friendly. Through Lift Hero, elderly people can arrange for rides from off-duty EMTs and medical professional drivers so they know they’ll arrive at their destination safely.
Aging2.0 is based in San Francisco at The Institute on Aging, a nonprofit senior center, so entrepreneurs can learn from the people they’re designing for, and get advice from seniors such as 81-year-old June Fisher, a product design lecturer at Stanford and Aging 2.0’s Chief Elder Executive. “We see real potential to bring in the technology folks, bring in the investors, bring in the designers, because I think the more smart brains we have thinking about and looking for new solutions, the better we will all be,” Fike said. Now that’s putting our elders’ wisdom to good use.