Dr. Eleanor Barbera

Perhaps, like me, you’ve heard of Aging2.0 but hadn’t had the opportunity to attend one of their events. When I discovered that they were holding a pitch session a subway ride away from my home, I jumped at the chance to be there. I was curious to see if any of the startups were promoting products to benefit elders in long-term care.

Here’s what I learned:

What’s Aging2.0?

According to their website, “Aging2.0 is a global innovation network on a mission to accelerate innovation to improve the lives of older adults around the world.” Moving beyond the development of medical products for seniors, Aging2.0 seeks to facilitate collaborations between senior care providers and entrepreneurs to create products and services that can be integrated into their businesses.

The scene

The event was held at the modern, tech-oriented community space of SeniorPlanet.org in Manhattan. (The tagline for SeniorPlanet.org is “Aging with Attitude.” One of their recent articles is titled, “Is it time for #OscarsSoYoung?”)

The large, windowed, ground floor room on West 25th Street was filled with the animated clamor of innovators munching on crudité and discussing products to better the lives of elders. The youngest attendees appeared to be twenty-somethings and the oldest participant was octogenarian and aging activist Muriel Beach, Chief Elder Officer and a judge for the event.

The format

Each inventor had several minutes to pitch their product and take questions from the four judges, who also included the CEO of 1-800-Wheelchair Joseph Piekarski, HealthTech Angel Investor Sacha Levy, and AARP’s Director of Market Innovation Jeffrey Makowka.

Aging2.0’s host Crispin Baynes kept things moving along swiftly and explained that the winner of the event would receive cash, mentorship and an international spotlight, going on to pitch at Aging2.0’s inaugural Americas Summit in Toronto on June 21, 2017.

The inventions

Nine people pitched their products, which were designed to assist elders with a wide variety of challenges.

Several companies focused on reducing social isolation among seniors:

  • GreyMatters is a tablet-based storybook app designed to engage people with dementia, using their own recorded life stories to trigger memories.

  • Memory Lane (formerly Hacking Alzheimer’s) uses voice-activated technology to cue memories, record daily activity and connect elders with their loved ones.
  • A subscription to ShareMail.me automatically sends a weekly paper letter to a loved one with the photos and content already being shared on the subscriber’s Facebook account. This allows relatives not on Facebook to be included without any additional effort on the part of the subscriber.

Other firms focused on challenges associated with aging in place:

  • Concordia uses daily phone calls and other push notifications to track information such as blood pressure and blood sugar and to inform the care team.
  • LifeShareCare focuses on monitoring the care provided by home health aides.
  • AgeWell Biometrics assesses fall risk to improve prevention efforts.

One enterprise, Women Investing Now, offers a financial decision-making tool for middle-aged and older individuals, and another, Nebula Industries, invented a quick release medical tape for fragile skin.

The winner of the pitch event was the producer of a line of adaptive clothing, Undercare. CEO Susan Leary Shoemaker showed a short video demonstrating how those with physical disabilities can easily put on a pair of Velcro-enhanced underwear instead of having to step into the underpants one leg at a time, “the old-fashioned way,” which can be difficult, time-consuming and lead to falls. She’ll go on to pitch her products at the Americas Summit.

The takeaway

I was heartened to hear the passion and creativity with which the entrepreneurs approached the care of seniors. Many of these inventions can benefit long-term care residents and providers and some could reduce re-hospitalizations following discharge home.

The more interaction and collaboration long-term care providers have with inventors, entrepreneurs and investors, the more likely it is that we’ll find unique solutions to the problems we face in everyday care.

Eleanor Feldman Barbera, Ph.D., author of The Savvy Resident’s Guide, is an Award of Excellence winner in the Blog Content category of the APEX Awards for Publication Excellence program. She also is a Gold Medal blogger in the American Society of Business Publication Editors Midwest Regional competition. A speaker and consultant with more than 20 years of experience as a psychologist in long-term care, she maintains her own award-winning website at MyBetterNursingHome.com.