Health Innovation 50+ Live Pitch highlights startup tech for seniors

By Jennifer Dennard
08:19 AM

I don’t mean to sound jaded, but I think I’m suffering from healthcare IT contest fatigue, which, come to think of it, isn’t all that bad of an affliction. The weekly announcements of new contests and winners must mean that healthcare IT is here to stay, and finally finding its comfort zone among the masses and industry insiders alike. Though I must admit I tend to speed read through them with increasing frequency. Announcements around the government-sponsored Blue Button Video Challenge, and winners of the Blue Button app challenge have been most recent.

I did, however, pay particular attention to news of the AARP-sponsored Health Innovation 50+ Live Pitch event, held for the first time a few weeks ago in New Orleans. The event, held during the Life@50+ Expo, gave 10 startups the opportunity to compete for a grand prize (presumably financial in nature). Rather than letting my eyes glaze over, I dug around the event’s press release section for two reasons.

1. AARP is a huge organization, with more than 37 million members aged 50 and over – the very demographic that the healthcare industry is scrambling to accommodate in terms of staffing, and technologies to help them age in place, as well as avoid unnecessary hospital readmissions.

2. This is the first event I’ve come across specifically designed to highlight start up technologies for seniors.

To learn more about the event, and why AARP has decided to play in this space, I reached out to Jody Holtzman, AARP’s Senior Vice President of Thought Leadership, who spoke during the event keynote.

How did the event come about?
Over the last couple of years, we’ve created relationships that led us to reach out to the investment community, the VCs, the incubators and to the entrepreneurs themselves, directly. I created Innovation@50+ scholarships at DEMO, which has been around for about 20 years and is really kind of the granddaddy of pitch days. They are available to entrepreneurs who either themselves are over 50, or who are targeting people over 50.

Through that, I was picking up the cost of a couple of startups getting on stage at DEMO, and it also gave me the opportunity to really evangelize the needs, wants and opportunities in the 50-plus market – what I call the longevity economy.

It was through relationships with DEMO and other similar events that we were able to identify innovators and innovative parts and services for the over-50 market. And in turn, we became for the folks behind those events a source of insight into the marketplace, where the untapped needs are and where the opportunity it.

We’re really looking to find ways AARP can add value to that ecosystem and stimulate innovation that will benefit our constituents.

Did the number of startups that applied surprise you?
This was an experiment on our part, with the expectation being that we’d get 20 to 25 applicants. We knew we wanted to put eight to 10 on stage, but we had no idea what the response rate would be like. We ended up with 80 applications, so we were very pleased with that because it affirmed that AARP does have a legitimate role to play in this innovation space.

From you heard and saw on the show floor, whose booth had the most buzz? What were AARP members excited about?
There some things that were absolutely fascinating and off the charts in originality. GeriJoy actually had some of the highest consumer scores based on real-time voting. GeriJoy definitely got a lot of attention.

Click here to read more about consumer pitch winner CareLinx, and here to read more about investor pitch winner AbilTo.

I’ll be keen to touch base with Holtzman next year when the event comes to my hometown of Atlanta, to see how innovation for the 50-and-over set may evolve in the next 12 months.


Jennifer Dennard is Social Marketing Director for Atlanta-based Billian's HealthDATA, Porter Research and Connect with her on Twitter @SmyrnaGirl.