ViVE Panel Discussion: Creating a Home for the AgeTech Ecosystem

By Mark Ogilbee posted 05-11-2022 12:00 AM


COVID-19 has disrupted our lives in countless ways, but it has also served as a unique and unexpected catalyst in the AgeTech space by shining a light onto the unique needs of our aging population.
Technologies that were once a “nice to have” have become everyday necessities for older adults seeking to find and maintain personal independence, robust health care and vibrant social connections. As a result, there is an immediate need to accelerate the creation and scaling of AgeTech products, services and experiences. 

But how exactly are we creating an ecosystem for AgeTech solutions, what shape is it taking, and what are some of the challenges? 

 In March, 2022, industry leaders gathered in Miami for ViVE, a conference focused on innovations in health information technologies and their intersections with the business of healthcare systems. At that event, Sasha Spellman, AARP Innovations Labs’ director of startup collaboration, hosted a panel discussion with three of the AgeTech Collaborative’s™ inaugural participants: 

  • Abby Levy, managing partner and founder of PrimeTime Partners, an early-stage venture capital fund that invests in companies that transform the quality of living for older adults 
  • Jillian Racoosin, executive deputy director of the Foundation for Social Connection, an organization dedicated to translating scientific research and evidence into real world policy and intervention development 
  • Janet DeFrino, partner at 1843 Capital, which invests in technology and consumer product companies, including technology for the aging 

    Each of these leaders discussed some top-of-mind problems they encounter in their work, and how they are helping to construct the AgeTech ecosystem by seeking out and nurturing innovative companies that address those concerns in fresh ways.  

    A primary concern the panelists expressed was loneliness and social isolation, and the associated negative health impacts these can have on older adults — along with the burdensome ripple effect on caregivers and the healthcare system. Jillian Racoosin shared how the Foundation for Social Connection addresses this issue by bringing together the organization’s scientific advisory council and innovation accelerator to use data to validate and iterate solutions, such as with a unique friend-making social media app already popular with older adults. 

    Another issue raised was the caregiving crisis — especially considering not enough caregivers exist to care for the 2 billion older adults who will be living on the planet by 2050. Pointing out that companies are losing billions of dollars a year from lost productivity because so many employees are also caregivers for elderly parents, Janet DeFrino outlined 1843 Capital’s investment in a solution directed toward corporate employers: a technology platform that matches caregivers with a care coach who offers guidance and specific care plans for both the care receiver and the caregivers themselves.  

    Abby Levy discussed PrimeTime Partners’ investment in businesses that aim to solve the caregiver crisis by directing unclaimed government benefits into efforts to identify, educate and compensate the 50 million unpaid, volunteer family caregivers in our country, to help them be the best caregivers they can be. 

    Finding ways to keep seniors independent and physically mobile in their communities was another topic the panelists considered. Janet DeFrino discussed an autonomous shuttle company in 1843 Capital’s portfolio that runs short, fixed routes in urban settings that is more cost effective than public transportation.  

    Abby Levy pointed out that while home-based remote monitoring technology promises to help seniors achieve more positive healthcare outcomes, seniors' desire to be independent poses a unique hurdle for telemedecine and remote monitoring companies — no one wants to be watched or monitored, which negatively affects adoption rates of promising new technologies. 

    Finally, all three shared their vision for the future of the AgeTech space they are helping to create and how it will impact the daily lives of older adults — including excitement about intergenerational programming and technology, such as mobility and speech recognition tech, to reduce social isolation and loneliness; improving the user-friendliness of AgeTech products and services; and unlocking the potential for cutting-edge branding to help the growing AgeTech ecosystem to flourish. 

    If you’d like to see the entire discussion, you can watch the video below.