Seniors are the New Innovators!

by Frank Wippich

Seniors are the New Innovators!The promises and issues of existing technology

We live in a time of rapid change, thanks to vibrant developments in computer and mobile technology that offer great potential to connect people and access and disseminate tailored information. Smartphones for example are a versatile tool that can give users location info, remind them to do things like, connect with family and friends, help find local information—and of course make calls.

For an aging population – in the US alone, individuals 65 and older numbered 40.3M in 2010 and will grow to 72 million by 2030, according to the Administration on Aging’s “Aging Statistics 2011” – these developments promise to help people stay active and connected to friends, family and support network, as well as make healthcare more cost-effective.

Although the health and wellness sector is developing mobile applications to capitalize on this domain – the market size for mobile health (mHealth) applications is estimated to double in 2012 to $1.3 billion from $713 million in 2011, according to Research2Guidance 2011 report – very few real and viable solutions have arisen which are economically feasible while truly addressing the needs of the aging population.

Much of the technology is complicated to learn and use, and a simple interface is especially important in the case of older people who may be somewhat resistant to new products; and many people don’t want the stigma of being seen using a product designed to assist “old people.” In addition, a recent study by Blindsight found four areas of need: Information access, involvement and contribution to society, cost effectiveness and intergenerational connectivity.

The HelloAgain Challenge – revealing the unmet needs

One solution is the process of co-creation, which integrates users into the development process and continuously engages them in generating ideas, addressing problems and solving unmet needs.

The idea contest does exactly that by integrating users in the product creation process, asking seniors, caregivers and consumers for solutions for using the vast opportunities of mobile technology for the actively aging population.

The diversity of partners supporting this contest as sponsors or judges – with Blindsight, a California research company with funds from the National Institutes of Health and Emporia Telecom as sponsors, and AARP, Greatcall, Verizon and Citris as judges – highlights the importance of engaging older individuals in the development of innovative products and services that are relevant to their real needs.

The winners will even get a chance to present their idea at the AARP’s Life@50+ National Event in New Orleans in September 2012.

An engine for harnessing the innovation potential of seniors

In short, this type of co-creation provides the platform for engaging older individuals in the creation of services and products and will serve to foster a sense of purpose, enhance intergenerational interaction, increase independence and extend the ability to stay active in life – all by enabling seniors to build solutions for their needs themselves, stay involved, interact and innovate in order to fully turn the promise of mHealth into reality.

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Seniors are the New Innovators!Frank Wippich is is CEO of Blindsight Europe GmbH and Director of Products & Services at The Blindsight Corporation in the US.. He has designed, tested and managed consumer electronics products, embedded systems and web solutions – from initiation to market launch. Working in Europe, China, South East Asia and the United States, he specializes in open innovation management and Agile leadership, and leveraging the benefits of cross-cultural work and local differentiation.

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