Why We Are Building A Product For Seniors
Written by Jaclyn Konzelmann
July 1, 2013
Eight months ago my Co-Founder and I decided to start working on Amulyte – an emergency response and activity tracking system for seniors. It started out as a side project designed for our grandmothers; now we are working on it full time in Mountain View, attending Y Combinator, have brought on a new team member, and are excited about making a difference in the way seniors live.
Perry and I started working on this project last November. Back then it was still known as Pulse, and we were working out of free office space in Markham, Ontario - but the general concept was the same. We wanted to make a help button for seniors that worked anywhere (later we learned that the proper term for this is an MPERS device – Mobile Personal Emergency Response System). Our desire to build this product stemmed from the fact that both Perry and I have grandmothers who are now living alone, and family members who worry about them. We decided to see what technology was available on the market for seniors and families, to help ease our worries and make sure that our grandmothers could continue living safely and independently in their own homes.
Seniors: Technology and Innovation…
It quickly became apparent that although we are used to seeing interesting, useful, and cool technology products continue to emerge (Jawbone UP, Misfit Shine, Myo, Pebble...) this isn't the case in the senior space.
The past couple of years have seen some incredible changes to the way we live our everyday lives. The number of interesting and cool products and services that have emerged is truly amazing – the internet of things and quantified self movements are incredibly interesting and exciting to me. But when I try to think about what new products I would get for my grandmother, I am at a loss.
So, What’s the Problem?
The number one concern in our lives right now when it comes to our grandmothers is that if they ever need help, our family has no way of knowing right away. Both Perry and I have grandmothers who live alone. My grandmother is an incredibly independent, and very socially active senior. Between bowling twice a week in a league, painting lessons, senior community group events and family trips, she is arguably more social than I am (working on a hardware start-up hasn’t helped my social life much either). Despite her high level of social activity, my family still worries that there may come a day where she will be alone and need help with something, but be unable to get it.
Statistically speaking, there is a 33% chance that a senior over the age of 65 will fall. When you look at the statistics for seniors over 75, that number increases to 50%. Falls amongst seniors result in hip fractures, spine fractures, traumatic brain injuries, and are the leading cause of injury related death. Almost half of these falls take place outside the home. After a senior has fallen, almost half will require assistance to get up again. Getting help right away is incredibly important; a senior who receives immediate assistance increases their chances of recovery by 80%.
Coming Up With A Solution
My grandmother is one of the last people I know to still have a landline, although most of the time we talk it is over Skype. Both of these are great for staying in touch, but they aren’t useful in a situation where she needs help and is unable to reach a phone or a computer. She also has a cellphone, although she rarely uses it and most times it is buried in the bottom of her purse. Although cellphone use is becoming more common for seniors, there is still a long list of reasons why they are not ideal (not always on the person, overly complicated to use...). We considered installing sensors in her home, but those seemed overly invasive to her, and to us. Not to mention that knowing she opened her closet door this morning doesn’t really provide me with any useful knowledge, or a sense of security at 2pm when I realize there hasn’t been much movement since. Next we started looking at PERS devices – but all the ones on the market were ugly, required a base stations with limited range, didn’t suit my grandmothers active lifestyle, and had no way for us to stay connected.
Both Perry and I, having graduated from Mechatronic Engineering, knew that what we were looking for wasn’t impossible to build – so why hadn’t anyone fixed this problem yet?
Running it by the Experts
After weeks of researching the senior technology space on our own, we decided to reach out to experts in the field and verify that the lack of innovation we felt we were seeing in this space wasn’t something that we were imagining. We talked with geriatric doctors, rehabilitation workers, researchers, retirement homes, executives at healthcare networks, and of course, seniors themselves. The conclusion was that this space was stagnant and riddled with antiquated technology that hadn't been improved upon in decades. In short, there was a lot of room for improvement, as the technology simply hadn’t caught up with the consumer market demand for the aging population.
Building A Solution – An Emergency Response System
It didn’t take long for Perry and I to commit to building this product full time and transition all our efforts towards ensuring we were making something people want. We are now a team of three working hard to create something great!
Our Belief
Growing old is part of life. Losing your independence shouldn’t be.
We believe in a world where seniors can keep their freedom and still feel safe. We know that one-day we will grow old, and that is the type of world we want to live in.
That’s why we created Amulyte; an emergency response system designed to allow seniors to stay connected to their family – providing them help when they need it, freedom when they don’t.