I spent two great days at the Aging 2.0 Optimize conference in San Francisco last week. It was a good conference for Phoenix, because our local Aging 2.0 Global Pitch Competition winner, Silvernest, came in as First Runner Up out of all the global Aging 2.0 chapters. Silvernest also got accepted into the Digital Health track of 500 Startups, and the head of that track, who happens to be a friend of mine, told me that Wendi Burkhardt, its founder, is a kickass CEO. We need to welcome her back to Phoenix after 500 Startups’ Demo Day.
Silvernest is a roommate matching service for seniors and Boomers who want to stay in their homes as along as they can. As a homeowner, you can sign up for the service and make some extra money by taking in a roommate. The roommates, needles to say, are screened carefully.
Because other members of the team are from Colorado, Silvernest has rolled out in Denver first. Once it perfects the model, it will come to Phoenix.
I saw many other interesting companies in the aging services space, including Senssassure, a notification system for managing incontinence. Sensassure’s Smartpatch attaches to the outside of any adult brief, giving caregivers insight into when a resident has or may have an episode of incontinence. It has already resulted in 73% less time in wet briefs for the residents of the three care homes in which it had been tested.
Sensassure had by far the best story of the show, having been founded by six 20-year-olds who actually moved into a senior facility and slept in its conference room for a year to get to know the residents and what their biggest pain points were. Incontinence proved to be the most important, so that’s what they attacked, going so far as to try their own product to see if it worked.
Another startup, Ekso Bionics, which has produced an exoskeleton to help stroke victims and spinal cord injury victims stand and get moving again.
And I personally pre-ordered Nuheara’s IQBuds, intelligent wireless headphones that take the place of hearing aids for those of us who destroyed our hearing listening to music. Apparently, we’re so unwilling to endure the stigma of hearing aids that it takes most people who have hearing loss ten years to give in. I’m somewhere in that decade, but since I also just received my iPhone 7 without a phone jack I’m going to have to spring for wireless earbuds anyway. These aren’t much more expensive than Apple’s Airpods. I’ll let you know:-)
Another highlight was Dr. Adam Gazzaley, head of Neuroscape, a lab that is testing the extent to which video games and virtual reality can help aging people regain “cognitive control,” by teaching the brain new skills that can be transferable. It’s almost like lighting up the brain again. His newest research, Body Brain Training, which integrates physical movement with cognitive training is probably one of the killer apps for virtual reality.
But far ahead of him in consumer deployment is a company called Rendever, which brings virtual reality headsets into care facilities so seniors can attend their grandchildren’s recitals virtually or tour a museum they always wanted to see.
Companies like Rendever focus on another common problem of aging, social isolation. I guess this is what I have to look forward to: either I’ll be in a care home with nobody to visit me, or I’ll be at home without my car keys.
Thank goodness the windup keynote was from Jennifer Haroon, Head of Business Operations for Google’s Self-Driving Car Team, who gave a demonstration of how autonomous vehicles will provide mobility solutions (one day) for seniors. Not quite yet, however.
In the meantime, we can all use GoGoGrandparent, which allows seniors without smartphones to call Uber, Postmates, and all those other on-demand services. Acting as a senior concierge, is another way for seniors to stay mobile and engaged, or at least to order food delivery.