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Road trip -- possibilities for seniors beyond transportation

No kidding -- it rained for five days in San Francisco. I just returned from a whirlwind and very windy visit to this beautiful city on the Bay. Despite wind, hail, rain, and lightening (!), I was fortunate to meet with so many inspired and inspiring people! There were pre-launch (stealth) caregiver technology startups, just-launched entrants like Wellcore and post-launch top execs from moving-right-along SilverRide, Caring.com, Presto, Care2, and Jitterbug, as well as leaders from ASA, Menlo Ventures, Physic Ventures and Home Instead -- many of these great connections spearheaded by Mary Furlong, the founder of the Boomer What's Next conference, soon to be held during the upcoming 2010 Aging in America conference in Chicago.  It was a great week and thanks to all who took the time and battled the incessant rain to discuss this exciting market and opportunity with me!

After the thought-provoking 'SilverRide.'  SilverRide execs Susan Steiner Saal and Jeff Maltz looked out at the pelting hail and kindly sent me back to my hotel in a SilverRide 'luxury' cruiser, complete with candy in the front seat, a charming former high-tech veteran as the driver, and door-to-door umbrella service. Great ride, great conversation. And as we rode up and down hills, I couldn't shake the thought of how much better than a taxi this must be for an older person who lives alone -- and doesn't or can't drive these streets. When you factor in the possible trips to events where attendees can meet others who also want to go to a noontime concert, now we're really getting somewhere!

Let's do more about transportation -- physical... So I know that much of the technology described on this site deals with communication, health, and safety -- which is very important. This trip confirmed what I knew -- that startups are thinking about how to connect caregivers and their recipients through a variety of methods, including phone, sensing devices, smart software, comprehensive website. All good. But taking an isolated older adult to a concert or museum, providing interesting conversation on the way and when you arrive, enabling them to meet like-minded peers -- now that's a real road to somewhere, mitigating loneliness and its resulting depression and subsequent self-neglect. 

...When there's no trip possible -- visits, in person.  Here's another Bay area startup -- Engage as You Age -- which is focused on providing personable home companions for older people -- even helping them gain needed computer skills. We know that studies show how much Internet use cuts depression among older adults. But maybe an older person isn't so lucky as to live in the Bay area with these great services.

When there's no personal visit -- still a "whole new world." More possibilities: Remember the calls to Philips Lifeline just to 'check in' and talk with someone or learn to use a computer through SeniorNet. Next, how about joining an online community, which would enable visiting with others at relatively low cost but high touch -- maybe even transcending today's apparent growing fondness for Facebook. Maybe this access could enable an older person to apply for benefits online or consult with a doctor. But if you have a chance to introduce the online world to an older person, maybe it's not for your own family member. Instead, click on this 25-second video at your next board meeting.* Who knows? Maybe it will open up a 'whole new world' about direction for your product road map.

*Courtesy of It's Never Too Late (IN2L.com)

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When my mother was alive she absolutely loved to go "junk store shoping". She loved it even more when several of her friends at the assisted living facility could go along. They would find old items, discuss what they were, who had one when they were young or how much they loved them. Each would spend about $5.00 just to make the owner happy. This trip would keep them activly entertained at meals for days. They could not wait to go again. Always remember to ask your loved ones if they would like to bring a friend to the casino, the store or just for a drive. You may be amazed how much you learn and how much you enjoy it yourself. I am a firm believer in getting the biggest bang for your buck. If your car is going there anyway, why not make a few new friends on the way. Remember, seniors feel like they ask for help all the time. They are shy about asking if they can go. Don't make a big deal out of it. But tell them they are "welcome".


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