AgeTech Collaborative™ startup participant Wareologie is on a mission to help people who are recovering from surgery or facing a degenerative illness regain self-confidence and dignity through a variety of innovative solutions.
Wareologie’s founder and CEO, Gina Adams, spent some time describing the company’s holistic approach to helping others, and how they faced the challenges of COVID-19.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
For some foundational information, can you tell us who you are and a little bit about the startup you founded?
My name is Gina Adams, and I'm the founder and CEO of Wareologie. We develop adaptive accessories and FDA-registered rehab devices to help people with physical challenges, including people who are recovering from surgery, so they can age in place.
What was your path to starting Wareologie?
Wareologie was really inspired after witnessing the effect of Parkinson's on my stepfather. I have a background in the apparel industry, and I lived in New York for a while. When I moved back to Michigan to raise my family, I witnessed the impact that Parkinson’s can have on even simple activities that most of us take for granted — like buttoning a shirt.
I looked around and was surprised by the lack of options that were out there for solving this problem, and I wanted to help alleviate the frustrations that come up over these simple activities. Life can be so overwhelming when you face these kinds of struggles, and it has a ripple effect on caregivers and loved ones, too. So we created Buttons 2 Button, which are magnetic adapters that fit over regular shirt buttons and close magnetically to help people get dressed independently.
But Wareologie offers more than just buttons.
I was very fortunate to go back to school to get my MBA while we were developing the company. I recruited some classmates to help with market canvassing. We also had some interns, and we were able to do a deep dive into the challenges experienced by people with physical disabilities — whether it's something degenerative or something else, like a catastrophic stroke. In our research, we discovered the numerous challenges people face with the activities of daily living, and we seized the opportunity to collaborate and develop proprietary assistive products. I hold one patent and have a second pending. We have new products under development, and I’ve also started importing some innovative adaptive products like magnetic front-closing bras, adaptive personal care products and other simple tools that are stylish — because as people age, they still want to look their best, and they appreciate things that make tasks easy.
And this past year we developed foldable Portable Parallel Bars™ for rehabilitation that people can use in their homes.
Going from buttons to portable parallel bars seems like a bit of a pivot.
It was a tremendous pivot! Our buttons predominantly fit men's button-up shirts for work. But when COVID came along, people were staying at home and not getting dressed up for work. So our timing was a bit off on that launch, you might say.
That’s why we developed the parallel bars. Though they definitely represent a pivot for us, we also see it as a natural progression from our Buttons 2 Button, because you have to get people up and moving around before they can get dressed to go to work.
Ninety million people miss physical therapy appointments annually, in part to lack of access. When we discovered seniors were suffering from quarantine, we designed our device so that it can be used at home: It folds up like a portable massage table and is lightweight, less than 65 pounds, which is 50 pounds lighter than the small set of stationary parallel bars that you can purchase. It's designed so that you can pull it up directly to the patient's bed, and they can stand more independently, and with confidence. In hospitals, early mobilization reduces length of stay and alleviates the number of staff required to help patients get out of bed. We will be conducting further studies to measure reductions in patient falls and injuries to hospital personnel. And home health care clinicians are excited about it, because there are limited options in a home setting for helping people get out of bed in a way that’s stable and safe.
What has your experience been working with the AgeTech Collaborative™?
At Wareologie, we design everything through user experience, research and development, so we really want direct input from consumers. The Collaborative has been great about providing us with resources for connecting with our end customers. And I’m especially grateful to the Collaborative for connecting us with over 200 people for a survey we ran, which reinforced our understanding that for some people, dressing is a problem, bras are a problem; and the simplest tasks take time and can be incredibly frustrating. For example, for someone with Parkinson’s, it can take half an hour to walk from a chair to a countertop to write a note. That’s why I love the Collaborative, because they help us identify all these opportunities and ensure product-market fit.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about Wareologie?
We’re proud that Wareologie is servicing an underserved demographic: people recovering from injury and people with disabilities. It’s very rewarding to launch as a certified woman-owned company, knowing we can help millions of people across the globe improve their quality of life. We design in collaboration with those we serve. Our products are made in Michigan, and we have partnered with a nonprofit that employs people with disabilities; they do all of our kitting and packaging of our Buttons 2 button. We aim to be holistic in our approach, from the end users we serve to the people we hire and employ, to ensure optimal product function and performance.
For more information about Wareologie, you can check out their website, which includes brief videos about Buttons 2 Button and Wareologie’s Portable Parallel Bars™.