Guest Blog written by: Andrew Smith, Director of Strategy and Innovation at Brookdale Senior Living
I am a millennial. I wear a Pebble Smartwatch, use a smartphone and a tablet, and prefer Snapchat and Instagram for keeping in touch with my friends around the country. I was in college when Facebook was limited to those with a university e-mail address. Each morning I wake up to natural light from my Philips Wakeup Light, my Nest Thermostat keeps my home at just the right temperature and my Nest Protect keeps my pregnant wife and me safe (answers to your questions: 22 weeks, not going to find out the sex, everyone’s healthy and excited). As part of an age group for whom technology is central, I am aware of how fast things change: My generation is the last one to spend its early years without the Internet. So yes, I can read a paper map, although it’s been a while.
One of the many amazing things about my position with Brookdale Senior Living is that it puts me in touch with people who have been “Internet-less” for most of their lives. Brookdale has over 1,100 senior living communities in 47 states. We care for more seniors than any other company, nearly 100,000 in fact. Every month, about 60 of our residents celebrate their 100th birthday. If you are 100 years old, you have lived without the web for 85% of your life. But I balk when people say seniors are resistant to technology because they are very the inventors and consumers who drove all this innovation in the first place. Think about it: television (1927), microwaves (1947), putting a man on the moon (1969), home video game consoles (1972), mobile phones (1973), Sony Walkman (1979), and on and on.
People 80 and above are the fastest growing population but for too long we’ve been designing products for everyone but this population. There’s a huge opportunity to enhance seniors’ lives with new technologies, services and products. As an innovator or entrepreneur, how do you connect with a person who at the age of 90 may be managing a number of physical, mental and social challenges? Where do you find them and how do you engage them in a meaningful dialogue to improve your product? To address these dilemmas, we launched Brookdale’s Entrepreneur in Residence program. It enables those seeking to innovate for the aging to live side-by-side with seniors by moving into a Brookdale community for five days, having fun with them, dining with them and building relationships. This allows innovators to better understand this population and gives it gives innovators a mechanism to design with seniors, not for seniors.
Taking inspiration from the long traditions of human-centered design at IDEO and from our partners and friends at Aging 2.0, we are excited to find ways we can help drive innovation in this space. Aging 2.0 has been an important part of this movement, raising awareness for the category and bringing together passionate people from all areas to collaborate and partner. We at Brookdale are only a piece, but with our nationwide platform and diverse set of products and services, we believe we can have an immense impact. Hopefully the Entrepreneur in Residence program can be a valuable resource for those brave, passionate and crazy entrepreneurs out there trying to help us achieve our goal of bringing new life to senior living.
If you’re looking to test or refine a concept, service or product for seniors, we invite you to participate in this free program. It’s open to startups as well as large, established companies. Already, developers of a senior-friendly clothing line (Narrative Apparel), a care management app (Carely), a body dryer (Haystack Dryers) and a producer of immersive 3D films (3Scape Systems) have taken part with short stays in Brookdale communities in Ohio, Washington State, North Carolina and Tennessee. They tell us their experience has been incredible, bringing them new knowledge, recommendations, friendships and lots of great insight on how to make what they’re doing best fit seniors’ needs.
Interested in taking part? Please contact me to find out more at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As Yoko Ono said, ‘Some people are old at 18 and some are young at 90…time is a concept that humans created.” Participating in Brookdale’s Entrepreneur in Residence program will be time very, very well spent.
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