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Insight on Global Innovation in the Longevity Economy

Ilyse Veron December 17, 2018
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The Washington Innovation in Longevity Summit convened top thought leaders and innovators from around the world.

Leaders in longevity gathered in D.C. December 10 and 11 to foster collaboration and demonstrate the latest technology, artificial intelligence and research-driven products for aging. The goal: shape a U.S. market due to grow by 2030 to 92.7 million, per the National Council on Aging.

It doesn’t matter what sector they come from—big business, start-ups, non-profits or government: “Everybody wants to leverage the power of the $7.6 billion longevity marketplace into their innovation strategy and plans,” said Mary Furlong, Founder and Executive Producer of the Summit.

As the U.S. heads into a decade of focus on healthy aging, we distilled global trends from the innovation ecosystem meet-up.

D.C. is Drawing Innovators

Investors believe Washington, D.C. is increasingly a place to innovate. CapitalOne and the arrival of Amazon are luring longevity business to the nation’s capital.

Financial firms seeking to stay involved in intergenerational wealth transfer need to add value to digital tools available on the web, Furlong said. Journalist-turned-entrepreneur Jay Newton-Small observed that the larger presence of female founders in D.C. creates natural synergy between aging innovation and entrepreneurship.

Nonprofits like AARP are redoing office space and forming innovation centers to tap into the market. AARP Innovation Lab Chief Andy Miller shared dramatic startup stories, including the therapy that got Congresswoman Gabby Giffords to sing when she couldn’t speak.

Crossing Borders Is Beneficial

A former White House advisor and longevity economy expert, Furlong noted that entrepreneurs are going to market faster overseas—in places like Scotland and South Africa. Multilingual Neeraj Singhal agreed as he shared his tale of exploring cities for Uber’s international deployment.

The Summit featured insights from Canada, which through its Centre for Aging + Brain Health (CABHI) has made an historic $124 million investment in validation testing for brain health and aging, as well as France, Ireland, Japan, Germany, Australia, the Canary Islands and the biggest market, China.

Shanghai-based attorney Kevin Qian said China will have 29 million people over the age of 80 by 2020. China approved a new drug for Alzheimer’s that improves memory, reported George Vradenburg, though few know how it works.

GeoBlue CEO Guillaume Deybach noted those companies that adapt to seniors’ international mobility will win market share. The Frenchman anticipated Africans would be immigrating to countries with larger aging populations.

Scottish CEO Cameron Graham represented a truly global perspective. He commutes every three weeks between the U.K. and the U.S. to market StoriiCare, his iPad enabled provider care management software.

Customer Preferences Matter

It seemed that every attendee at the summit had a personal tie to caregiving topics. Multiple speakers reinforced that business success comes from knowing details that offer insights on customers’ lives.

One key point many presenters made was that product interface can be a bridge or a wall, connecting with customers or pushing the away. Entrepreneurs like Todd Smith, CEO of myFamilyChannel, recommended codesign of new tech with customers, medical practitioners and caregivers.

Another growing business at the Summit, OneClick.chat, seeks to design an experience that increases social engagement and improves the quality of older adults’ lives. Through platform iterations informed by NIH-funded research, they learned how best to convene customers online.

Presenters also noted that businesses should not ignore their analog-oriented customers in a digital marketplace.

Artificial Intelligence Helps Scale Simple Solutions

AI is working for longevity market businesses, finding patterns or data points that inform business decisions. Chatbot May AI help you? offered insight to AARP’s workforce-focused Heather Tinsley-Fix, and Honor CEO Seth Sternberg used AI learning to exponentially improve his home care agency network.

Ears Are the New Wrists

According to Summit sponsor Starkey Hearing Technologies, hearing aids have even more potential to go mainstream now that the FDA approved them as OTC wearable devices. The new subtle Livio AI tracks brain health, offers language translation and more accurate body sensing than wrist wearables. “It gives you the sense of being superhuman,” said Starkey Consumer Marketing VP Carol Olson.

CITRIS’ David Lindeman reminded, hearing aid use lowers visits to the ER per JAMA.

Promising Practices Include Telehealth and Virtual Empathy

The hearing technology regulatory success gives the field hope that barriers will lift for other promising innovation such as telehealth. Michael Phillips, Director of AARP Technology, Strategy and Integration, imagines government can allow the “mixed reality environment” including augmented and digital reality to flourish.

“Virtual empathy” is trending globally, author and marketing strategist Rohit Bhargava told Summit participants. MemoryWell CEO Newton-Small agreed, saying her company aims to “capture stories, wisdom, perspective of those aging before we lose them.”

Looking for more insights into innovation in our field? For a fully immersive experience, head to Louisville, K.Y. to visit the Thrive Center. which was mentioned throughout the Summit. Or keep an eye out for the roster of 2019 longevity market events, including upcoming conference produced by Summit-host Mary Furlong Associates.

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Ilyse Veron

Ilyse Veron writes about culture, business, health and public policy challenges from the nation’s capital. An Emmy award winner, she also creates content, forges strategic partnerships and enhances others’ brand marketing via Veron Ventures, her independent consultancy.

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