LONGMONT, Colo. – By 2040, more than a quarter of Boulder County’s population will be over the age of 60. To prepare for this unprecedented demographic shift, the Boulder County Area Agency on Aging has been convening senior care experts at its annual Age Well conference since 2011.
“Age Well is about innovation,” explained Laura Mathews, a planning and advocacy specialist for the Boulder County Area Agency on Aging. “It’s about changing the way we’re currently delivering healthcare to better serve the needs of our growing older adult population.”
Though Age Well 2016 was intended to strengthen Boulder County’s ability to care for its aging citizens, senior care professionals from across the state took part. Eager to learn more about the innovations transforming their industry, several attended Reimagining Aging, a panel discussion featuring three Colorado-based digital health entrepreneurs.
“Nymbl was founded to help people improve balance by putting a balance coach in a smartphone,” Tom Virden, CEO and founder of Nymbl Science, said as he introduced his company. “Our app will measure your balance and give you a balance score, which is typically assessed in a clinic right now and is very expensive to deliver.”
According to Virden, falls can lead to reduced quality of life for older adults, and currently cost the healthcare system $35 billion dollars a year. Preliminary tests have shown that using Nymbl five minutes a day for three weeks can lower the risk of falls by 20%.
“Our goal is to help people find the appropriate senior care facility for their loved ones,” Will Ahlering, the co-founder of Mimi, explained as he took the microphone. “There are many options out there today, and helping people become aware of them is important.”
Often referred to as the Airbnb of assisted living facilities, Mimi has developed an online platform where users can quickly find what Ahlering calls “care homes” – small assisted living facilities that are generally located within residential areas.
“Getting dementia scares me,” admitted Matt Morris, the co-founder of VisibleHand. “I watched my grandfather suffer through it for several years. We finally put him into an institution, where he received large amounts of psychotropic medications that turned him into a different person.”
In an attempt to improve the care delivered in skilled nursing and assisted living facilities, Morris co-founded VisibleHand, a digital health company that enables frontline care-workers to provide informed, personalized care to older adult patients.
Curious to learn more about each innovation, the attendees asked several questions. One of the first was whether any of the entrepreneurs had experienced difficulty in encouraging the adoption of their technologies among older adults.
“Many of the frontline care-workers who use our app are in their seventies,” explained Morris. “Most have never used a smartphone before, but they’ve embraced VisibleHand because using a well-designed app is so much easier than having to write things down in a logbook.”
One attendee asked Ahlering how in-depth his company’s assessment of the care homes it listed was, pointing out that widespread industry standards had yet to be adopted by many small assisted living facilities.
“Admittedly, there isn’t a robust standardization for assessing quality in the assisted living facility market,” said Ahlering. “We visit these homes, get personal references for them, and make sure our users can access the complaints lodged against them.”
When another attendee asked what senior care professionals could do to encourage the spread of innovation throughout their industry, Virden, whose product is still in the early stages of development, was quick to invite attendees to help him make that happen.
“What I want to do is figure out how we can work with you to get this product out there,” said Virden. “Technology alone is just technology. Working with you it becomes a solution, and that’s how we change things.”