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Startups are Shaping the Future of Aging

Bob Edwards takes a look at companies that are focusing their business strategy on older adults

Take on Today Podcast

AARP

Bob Edwards

Hello, I'm Bob Edwards, with an AARP Take On Today.

Bob Edwards

Americans age 50 years and older are driving $7.6 trillion of economic activity every year in what's known as the Longevity Economy. The growth of this age group is having a transformative impact, economically and socially. Right before our eyes, our aging population is unleashing exponential growth in every industry. And yet, the Boston Consulting Group has determined that less than 15% of companies have established any sort of business strategy focused on older adults.

Bob Edwards

That's where AARP Innovation Labs comes in. It's committed to engaging with the best and brightest startups to identify challenges and solve big issues facing all of us as we age. AARP Innovation Labs recently held its 2018 Grand Pitch Competition, a culmination of hundreds of startups competing in four events across the country, with the eight winning companies selected to compete in the national finale.

Bob Edwards

I caught up with AARP's Andy Miller to learn more about the competition and those who are leading the innovative companies pitching their ideas on digital health, financial technology, and personal fulfillment that will shape our future.

Bob Edwards

What have we got going on here?

Andy Miller

So today we are having our Grand Pitch event this evening, and what we wanted to do this morning is give the startups a chance to showcase what they're all about, to AARP employees and select guests. So we're doing little tabletop sort of trade show-style exhibits.

Bob Edwards

For whom?

Andy Miller

Today it's for AARP employees and it's for select guests in the media that are coming through. This evening will be a pitch event that's open to the public. We have sold over 400 tickets to it and expect a good turnout. And it'll be everyone from investors to other corporate innovation programs, to people just in the innovation ecosystem, or startup ecosystem that are interested in the DC sort of community around startups.

Bob Edwards

By and large, these are young entrepreneurs. Very high-tech stuff they've got.

Andy Miller

For the most part, I think you're going to see ... When people think of a problem or come up with a problem to solve for it, they tend to go right to technology. Because of the cost of technology and the lack of cost of technology and the ability to quickly build an app or a website, you tend to see a lot more tech entrepreneurs popping up, trying to create solutions. Interestingly enough today we have a mix, right. We have, they're all tech enabled but we have a mix between some products that are a little more simple, like a chat box to find out what technology I should be using as I'm caregiving for mom or dad all the way to virtual reality to sophisticated photo sharing hardware much like an iPad to a sunscreen application that's looking at whether I have skin damage or I have the appropriate amount of sunscreen to put on so it is all technology enabled but really interesting on how they deploy the technology to solve for very different problems.

Bob Edwards

New solutions to old problems.

Andy Miller

Very much so. It's interesting especially for our category, right? A lot of folks haven't really spent a lot of time outside of the clinical market, the medical world, trying to solve for these problems and so you're seeing as technology costs have come down as technology adoption in the older market, the 50 plus market has risen, you're seeing this new convergence of what used to be only focused on the millennials. Now you're seeing it - well no, now wait, we can build for the older adult, they are adopting technology and oh by the way, $7.6 trillion market so it's probably the largest market that exists.

Bob Edwards

It's nice that kids are thinking about us. I like that.

Andy Miller

It is, right? Someone has to.

Bob Edwards

So, it's great. AARP people guides this platform for a demonstration of what's out there and available.

Andy Miller

We do, we take it beyond that though. The Pitch Event is a mechanism for us to find the best startups in the world. Right? How do we find people that are solving for the problems we care about most as AARP. We bring them together in this format it's around a pitch event. We do it also through accelerator programs and we're trying to find startups we can work with, startups that we can start to co-create with, make sure that they have good product market fit. And it maybe us just helping them get better at what they do to serve our market. Or it may be us looking at them going, “Maybe we want to take an equity stake, maybe we want to actually co-create a product or service that AARP can bring or market on their behalf.” So this is just a stop in what hopes to be a longer journey we have with all these startups.

Bob Edwards

Well I've learned a lot here, thank you.

Andy Miller

Yeah, thanks for coming.

Bob Edwards

Visit AARP.org to learn more about this year's event and future pitch competitions. We also heard from Embodied Labs CEO and Founder Carrie Shaw, winner of the 2018 AARP Innovation Labs Grand Pitch Finale event, a virtual reality learning system, that provides insight for caregivers and professionals on how to provide care. Carrie became a caregiver when she was only 19 years old after her mother was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's Disease. Carrie and her team at Embodied Labs are now tackling a question inspired by her mother's illness: Would healthcare providers be more effective if they could see the world through the patient's eyes?

Carrie Shaw

Carrie Shaw. I'm the CEO and Founder.

Bob Edwards

Of what?

Carrie Shaw

Of Embodied Labs.

Bob Edwards

And what is that?

Carrie Shaw

It is an immersive platform for both professional and family caregivers that gives them the opportunity to train and improve their ability to provide care, and they do that by immersing themselves in their caregiver role and practicing scenarios before they encounter them in real life as well as embody the journeys of elders and see through their eyes what some of their experiences are.

Bob Edwards

How does one immerse?

Carrie Shaw

They use a virtual reality headset and we have a learning framework as well, so we're not just about what you do in the headset but we have a framework called Prepare, Embody, Reflect and Apply, and so caregivers are given a baseline pre-test and an introduction to what they're about to do in VR and then they put on the headset and then they go through a five to seven minute module that trains them up on something like: How to have a family care plan discussion, What it's like to have a difficult conversation for someone facing end of life issues, and then you go through these embodied journeys and you come out and you reflect and you take a post-test and apply that to your care practice, and repeat. So all that takes about 15 minutes and the way we like to see people engage with it is as kind of an ongoing tool where they use it for their professional caregiving duties or provide it to family care givers that they work with and serve.

Bob Edwards

Couldn't you do that just as well with a DVD, do you need virtual reality?

Carrie Shaw

Yes, so when we - in our platform you actually use your own hands projected as the person you're embodying and there's a theory called Embody Cognition that says that if you embody someone in an immersive environment, your brain actually feels like you're living that out. So you can do things like embody someone that's a different gender, age, race, culture than yourself.

Bob Edwards

That's spooky.

Carrie Shaw

It is, but you can literally expand your reality and do things that you otherwise couldn't do in real life.

Bob Edwards

So become the patient?

Carrie Shaw

Become, yeah. Embody the elder, embody someone facing Macular degeneration and hearing loss but situated in their story. So we use a live action film as part of the environment so it feels like a real experience but you're actually driving that story.

Bob Edwards

That's weird, it's like feel my pain.

Carrie Shaw

Yeah, it is. It's a really powerful way to learn and the research also shows this is the Y-Component as well that five minutes in VR, you can do more impactful - 75 - 90% more impactful training than you could with traditional methods. So you can do things faster and better in the immersive environment which as we all know in healthcare is critical right now because everyone's short on time, training is really important and we need tools that can really drive that efficacy forward.

Bob Edwards

So it has more impact because, what, it's more graphic?

Carrie Shaw

Because you're actually - you're doing that embodiment, and the other pieces that you're using your whole body as you learn, so you're using your motor system, your sensory system, and at the same time you're gaining knowledge about, say Alzheimer's Disease by being inside the brain and seeing the disease unfold in front of you. And then you're learning about Alzheimer's Disease by embodying someone's journey as they're experiencing changes through early, middle and late stages. And again the Y-factor is Alzheimer's disease as we know is 15 year sometime disease process but with VR you can saliently pick out where you want people to learn and give them these short modules across time.

Carrie Shaw

I was a family caregiver for my mom who got diagnosed at 49 with early on-set Alzheimer's and died at 61, and I've essentially created the tools I wished I had because I never knew what was coming next. I never knew what - I didn't know how to deal with her when she got agitated and was pacing and that lead to her falling down, I didn't know what to expect or how to practice for that. And so we're trying to create tools that both help people like me who wanted to be able to understand what she was going through, what she was actually seeing, what her disease process was and give them the opportunity to practice.

Bob Edwards

So there's Sandra Day O'Connor in the earliest phase right now.

Carrie Shaw

Yeah, which you seem kind of sad. I'm really hopeful that she will continue to speak out and I didn't know there were patient advocates or caregiver advocates when I was going through this and I felt very isolated and so I hope she will continue to share her journey and help people realize that in the earliest stages and really into middle stages and late, you can live a full life. And it's important for us to talk about that and not kind of hide behind fear because otherwise we're all going to lose quality of life as we age.

Bob Edwards

She knows, she went through this with her husband.

Carrie Shaw

Yeah

Bob Edwards

So how does it work? I gotta take a look.

Carrie Shaw

Yeah, so I told you about that prepare kind of part of the framework - I've actually cued up an experience about Alfred and he in this experience you would have learned in the prepare that he has central vision loss and high frequency hearing loss, so 1 in 3 adults over 65 are dealing with one or both of these and so you're going to embody Alfred as he goes through a five minute journey. You'll be starting out with your family, in your own home, then you'll be in a kind of daydream that he experiences and then you'll go on a doctors visit, and you can put on for yourself and stay in as long as you like.

Bob Edwards

Poor Alfred.

Carrie Shaw

In these experiences you actually use your own ... can you see that okay?

Bob Edwards

Yeah.

Carrie Shaw

And it feels alright? So extend your hands out in front on you.

Bob Edwards

Whoa.

Carrie Shaw

Give a thumbs up to start ... great.

Bob Edwards

So I have a big black spot in front of me.

Carrie Shaw

That is that central vision loss, Macular degeneration.

Bob Edwards

Macular degeneration, yeah.

Carrie Shaw

Do you know anyone that has Macular degeneration?

Bob Edwards

Yeah, my mother had it.

Carrie Shaw

So now try and reach out and pick one of those flowers.

Bob Edwards

Oh I have one and it got away from me. Oh my!

Carrie Shaw

So you would have gotten in the last scene your diagnoses, which is basically that you realize is in your family history, you have impairing vision, your mom had Macular degeneration and so you actually get a hearing aid from him and you get full hearing back. And then he says, "We're not going to diagnose you today because we need to evaluate your hearing and vision before we can do a cognitive status exam."

Bob Edwards

Alfred's a mess!

Carrie Shaw

Well you know, is he? I don't know.

Bob Edwards

Does this backfire on you and people say, “I don't want to get old, I'm checking out.”?

Carrie Shaw

We actually address that in a really neat way because my fear is that, that's what these things would drive and so the second part of what we call the Alfred Lab is something called At the Peripheral and we actually followed six people living with Alfred's impairment. It basically gives you this insight that your life is not over when you can't see or hear. And there's lots of people, one in three, living with some form of these two conditions so we can't say that one in three people's lives are a mess or lives are over, we have to be able to say, “How do we reframe this and live a full life every day?”

Bob Edwards

What kind of feedback do you get?

Carrie Shaw

We've now had this in operation for over a year and our earliest business partners, so our customers are Home Care Organizations and Senior Living communities. They've used it to on-board and continually train their staff as well as provide it as a service to the family members of the client's that they serve, so we've seen people have improved behavior in care practices, we track these with our platform. We see people gain knowledge about these different kinds of journeys and elder centric issues and then we also see that people are reporting more confidence in ability to provide care.

Carrie Shaw

And again we have this whole framework that gives them the opportunity to breakdown what they go through in VR and think about how to apply that into their care so that it's not just about putting on a headset and that's it, it's the so what and the application. We also have about 20 academic partners, we just started getting some peer review articles that they've published about how this plays a role in medical education. We've seen a huge impact on ageist and negative stereotyping per the elderly so that's actually through the what you just saw, Alfred, those two things together have shown an impacted decrease in ageism and negative stereotypes. Because we'll all be there, I like this because I can also imagine what I hope for when I'm facing these things in a couple of decades. It's all of our issue to solve together.

Bob Edwards

Good luck to you.

Carrie Shaw

Thank you.

Bob Edwards

Sorry about your mom.

Carrie Shaw

Yeah, thank you. This is a great ... this is the most beautiful outpouring of a pretty awful experience. I'm glad I get to do something like this and actually my co-founder is my sister, we've found some joy in what was a pretty hard 15 years with her.

Bob Edwards

Doing it in mom's memory. Thanks, good luck to you.

Bob Edwards

Learn more about Embodied Labs and Carrie Shaw at embodiedlabs.com or aarp.org/podcast

Bob Edwards

Here's what else you need to know. This week the nation thanked those who have served in America's Armed Forces and paid tribute to their tremendous sacrifices. While we mark this occasion every year on Veteran's Day, museums and monuments in communities across the country mark the legacy and service of our veterans every day. And a new museum in Ohio has captured our attention, what started as an Ohio homage to the Buckeye state's veterans opened last month in Columbus as something so much more. A national museum to honor veterans from all branches of the armed forces and in every conflict since the Revolutionary War. Visitors will be struck first by the National Veterans Memorial and Museum's dramatic circular design, cited by Architectural Digest as 1 of the 12 most anticipated buildings of 2018.

Bob Edwards

But even more inspiring is the way the museum honors the country's veterans service through a narrative journey that tells the stories of individual veterans and the universal experiences shared by men and women in the U.S. Armed Forces. The poignant exhibit takes many forms from photographs and video to audio and hands on displays. There's an audio booth where veterans can record their own experiences for posterity. A remembrance room honoring those who never returned home. Taps plays four times each hour. The center is a natural gathering place for those who served and their families to gather together to reminisce, reconnect and remember. For more visit aarp.org/podcast

Bob Edwards

Become a subscriber, be sure to rate our podcast on iTunes, Stitcher and other podcast apps. Thanks for listening, I'm Bob Edwards.

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Americans age 50 years and older drive trillions of dollars of economic activity every year. And yet, only few companies have established any sort of business strategy focused on older adults. Learn about innovative companies working to solve big issues facing us all as we age.

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