‘Coffee & Clicks’ brings older adults and entrepreneurs together
By: Alisa Rodriguez
How does an entrepreneur who has little in common with their target market, best develop a successful product? Since the world of start-up companies is, generally speaking, a young person’s game, innovators of products for older adults may have a distinct age gap with their end user. Coffee and Clicks is part of Aging2.0’s response to this challenge.
Aging2.0 has been building up a consumer panel and organized focus groups with adults 50+ to help bridge the gap between entrepreneurs and older adults. On September 8, Aging2.0 had their first ‘Coffee and Clicks’ event in the Bay Area, a relatively informal gathering to get feedback about products for the aging population, but also to get new inventors and young marketers to see the bigger perspective of making things better for everybody, including the needs of older adults. The event provided a raft of useful information to the two participating startups, and helped the older adults make their voice heard about what they want.
These focus groups are particularly valuable because the innovators of these products know that to come up with the best solutions, they have to “walk in someone else’s shoes”. They have to understand the real needs of an often overlooked segment of the population. Not only do older adults have concerns that they may not regularly reveal to the younger population, but they have generational behavior that shows where their flexibilities and limitations for new products lie. The consumers at this first event gave insights that could change the direction of the products presented. “The feedback [from the consumer panel] is very valuable… and appreciated,” said J Connolly, the founder of Lift Hero, a transportation solution – ‘Uber for seniors’. It quickly became apparent that there is no substitute research for face-to-face feedback from someone who is actually in a body that is over 60 years old.
For example, Sabi is bringing products to the market for the bathroom, which are functional but don’t look like they’re turning the home into a hospital room. The consumers were ready to help the company understand what aspects of her product excited or concerned them. For instance, one aspect of the product gave the impression that it was slippery (and hence dangerous), even though it wasn’t in actual fact. Making things that look, and perform, both safely and stylishly is a challenge for designers, however the rewards for those that get it right are likely to be significant.
The next company was Lift Hero, which “brings the ridesharing revolution to seniors and their family members.” J Connolly, the founder, was given feedback that having drivers who were screened, qualified, and trained to deal with seniors was hugely important to the riders. He further learned that displaying driver qualifications and insurance information in the car would make the customer feel safer. The panel also expressed how they might want to know a little about their regular driver to prompt chat, or just for familiarity.
Stephen Johnston, co-founder of Aging 2.0, talked about creating a more “ageless design” mindset in innovation. “Two of the big things that are changing the world right now are exponential technology and the rapidly aging population,” he said. Making new products accessible to everyone, regardless of their age, was his key message. For example, the font on restaurant menus needs to be large enough for everyone to read, or basic seating designs could be comfortable (and high enough) for everyone, not just the agile bodied person. Technology and the aging community are two worlds that are dovetailing into “a fertile landscape for new ideas that will radically improve people’s lives.”
Some argue that user-centered design is time-consuming and not the most efficient – an alternative being the (somewhat ironic) concept of “genius design.” But this event suggested that a user centric approach can be both efficient and rapidly insightful. The interaction between the inventors and the consumers was important for both parties during this iteration process. Not only was the time well spent for the innovator, feelings of usefulness and validation were apparent from the consumers.
As Aging2.0 polled the group to get ideas for other ways to bring entrepreneurs and adults 50+ together, one woman piped up, “Forget the Coffee & Clicks, how about parties and wine? This is great!”
Aging2.0 continues to explore innovative ways to bridge the gap between entrepreneurs and older adults so that together they can collaborate and work to develop products that improve the lives of people as they age.