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Tech for aging needs innovation from young people
Young people and seniors -- a non-obvious formula. A few years ago Scientific American published a study asserting that socialization between young and elderly improves the health and well-being of seniors (yeah, so the study was about fruit flies -- never mind that). This week a few other news items caught my eye:
1) A new business to surf the web on behalf of tech-phobic seniors. Netcrossers was started by Morey Wright, a 26-year-old in South Florida who saw this as a business opportunity. For $199/year, seniors can call Netcrossers up and ask agents to do a search for information -- or support them in their use of computers if they have one.
2) A nationwide high school enrichment program in Canada produced a clever wheelchair braking system. Complete with a working prototype and a 30-page business plan, these kids designed an chair arm extension that would automatically brake when leaned on, avoiding the risk of falling.
3) UCLA undergrads raise awareness of issues of aging. Members of UGADA (Universal Gerontology & Alzheimer's Disease Awareness) held a forum this spring as part of the 'largest undergraduate symposium on Alzheimer's Disease and Aging in the US.'
Synthesize to produce value now and for our aging future. Today's tech for aging is, too often, comprised of unintegrated point products (GPS over here, fall detection over there, helpful social connectivity software someplace else). Over time, these point technologies will be integrated into solutions as a logical, if slow, next evolutionary step. But perhaps basic technology innovation is not all that's needed. Given awareness of a need (1 and 3), offering a challenge to young people might result in integrating a new element to an existing solution (2).
Challenge and grow your network: If you have any connection to the aging services industry, sponsor a contest. Start by arranging a combination meeting -- perhaps with a high school enrichment program sponsor, a college student community outreach program, and perhaps backing it with an investment angel organization or foundation that is seeking product ideas. Explain the demographic changes underway. Don't suggest unmet needs -- bring them where seniors live to observe and even volunteer for a period of time. Then see what ideas emerge. Something truly remarkable could happen!