Thrive Center: Showcasing and Supporting AgeTech Innovation

By Mark Ogilbee posted 10-13-2022 09:22 AM


Based in Louisville, Kentucky, AgeTech Collaborative™ testbed participant Thrive Center is a hands-on educational facility that promotes innovation in AgeTech by giving students, organizations and the general public the opportunity to interact with the newest AgeTech solutions. The Center also provides specialized programs for seniors. 

Sheri Rose, the Thrive Center’s CEO and executive director, sat down to give us a glimpse into the organization’s work. 

This interview has been edited for clarity and length. 


Please tell us something about the Thrive Center. 

We’re a nonprofit established in 2017 to showcase and display innovative AgeTech solutions, especially solutions that will help people age independently for as long as possible. We’re about educating the public on the possibilities that are out there. 

We also like to drive adoption of these technologies by taking the fear out of technology for older adults. We’ve started programs utilizing the tech we have here at the Center. For example, a local university here has a physical therapy school; their PT students come here and use VirtuSense technology to do a fall-risk assessment, then clients are able to enroll in a program we call Strive to Thrive. 

So the Center is all about a hands-on experience? 

We wanted the Center to be an immersive experience where people can walk in off the street and see what we’re doing here. They can feel and touch the technologies. They can listen, too: We have about 13 video displays. 

What we don’t talk about is how things connect to the cloud, and so on — we focus on telling the story of how these technologies are being used in the real world and are making a difference in the lives of individuals. 

Can you give us some concrete examples of what people will encounter when they visit the Center? 

The focal point of the Center is a smart home. We do a lot of virtual tours through that; just yesterday, I did a virtual tour with the state of Connecticut, which was exploring how some of these innovations might work with Medicaid. 

We have a fully functional kitchen that shows solutions to help prevent falls, and one that uses LIDAR technology: It recognizes when someone has left the room and turns off the stove. We even had an event with a blind chef, who came in and cooked in our kitchen, demonstrating how you can cook a meal even if your vision is impaired. 

Cool. What else? 

In the living room, we have a social companion robot that uses artificial intelligence to talk to the person in the home. It will say “He, let’s get up and exercise,” for example, or play trivia with them. There’s also a big TV with a device in the back that helps people who might struggle with the remote control by enabling someone else who is in another location to change the channel for them.  

And you know, we even have a smart bathroom! It features a smart toilet that's able to detect UTIs, colorectal cancer, dehydration, and spilling ketones. Because what they say is, “You can tell a lot about a person from their output.” 


Besides promoting these technologies, do you help startups validate their solutions in the early stages? 

We do work with a lot of startups whose devices are not commercially ready yet. What we find is that many of them don’t understand the market they’re selling into. I worked with one gentleman who thought skilled nursing would be his market, because they “have all the money.” We had to educate him that skilled nursing’s profit margin is so slim that they generally can’t afford products unless they will drive productivity or a revenue stream. 

The Thrive Alliance is associated with the Center. What is the Thrive Alliance? 

Early on, we started working with senior living organizations from across the U.S. — the majority of them were faith-based nonprofits — who wanted to be early adopters of technologies. But often, they don’t take calls from entrepreneurs because if they did, vendors would be beating down their doors. So these organizations will tell us, “Here’s a new product you should look at.” So we take a look and ask, “Where does this product fit? Is there some place that would be willing to take them on as a pilot and give them feedback?"


What's it been like to work with the AgeTech Collaborative™?  

It's been great to see a lot of companies that are coming into the market and seeing the opportunities for partnering with them. I like seeing these young startups that are really mission-minded, just like we are, and hope maybe we can help them formulate their business plan or give them some good advice. And if they’re going to be selling into senior living, we can introduce them to our Thrive Alliance partners and help give them a start.