by Rachel Keranen
Did you know that the number of Americans age 65 and older is expected to more than double between 2012 and 2060? The United States and many other nations are experiencing a significant demographic change, and the shift creates a huge opportunity for entrepreneurs.
Many of the innovators working in this space aren’t seniors themselves and to design good products, they need to get to know their market. To that end, two Minneapolis entrepreneurs focused on creating products for seniors, CEO Al Baker and CTO Ahmed Daoud of Reemo, didn’t just interview seniors — they moved in with them.
Baker, 25, and Daoud, 32, recently moved into the Brookdale Edina senior living community in Minnesota for five days. They took a deep dive into seniors’ daily lives so they could gather feedback and identify opportunities to improve the smartwatch software they’ve built, which allows seniors to control devices, appliances, and electronics using gestures. Reemo’s software also provides reminders of scheduled activities, medications, and more.
“There’s no experience like literally immersing yourself in the environment of the people you’re designing for,” said Baker. His team checks in with seniors at least every other week to make sure that the tech they’re designing truly serves the senior market.
Over time, they’ve found that seniors are excited and ready for technology.
“The misnomer that seniors just don’t like technology is wrong,” Baker said. They do have unique needs, however. When it comes to tech, what seniors want are products that make it easier to be independent and connected to their family and caregivers.
One of the insights Baker and Daoud gained from their stay at Brookdale is the value of an “I’m Okay” button on a smartwatch that seniors can tap when they wake up in the morning. Some of the existing technology that serves this type of need, such as medical alert pendants, come with stigmas. Today’s seniors grew up seeing their elders wear the pendants, and the devices have an air of advanced age and dependence that today’s seniors don’t want to assume.
A watch, however, is something seniors frequently wear anyway, and smartwatches are worn across generations. Both a senior and their grandchildren may be turning to the same device to make managing daily life easier.
It’s less “‘I need help’ and more ‘I’m using this because I’m empowered,’” Baker said.
Photo Credit: Photo courtesy of Reemo