Older Americans, especially those with pre-existing health conditions, are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, making it vital for them to stay at home, as much as possible. In many cases, this means that families have taken on added responsibilities, from running basic errands to overseeing medical treatments to providing extra companionship.
Even before the pandemic, the caregiving system could be unaffordable and hard to navigate, especially for the many seniors who will “age in place”— meaning they live independently in current homes or in a downsized home as they get older. According to the 2020 Gray New World Report, 79 percent of senior respondents (ages 55-70) plan to do this.
While the needs of aging Americans and their families are growing, there has been little innovation in this sector. Companies have an opportunity to bring creative solutions to market that will help seniors manage their health, safety, and well-being—from “smart home” technologies to care coordination software to platforms for social interaction.
Pivotal Ventures supports a range of partners that are advancing new ideas to help aging Americans, their families and caregivers. In the wake of COVID-19, this work has become more urgent and important.
To catalyze new ideas to help seniors and their families, Pivotal Ventures has teamed up with Techstars, an organization that helps entrepreneurs grow their businesses, to launch the Future of Longevity Accelerator. The accelerator aims to help scale the most promising startups offering caregiving solutions for the aging population. The program is currently accepting applications from innovators. The final deadline for startups to apply is May 10, 2020.
Based in Washington, D.C., the accelerator will accept 10 early-stage startups each year and provide financial support, hands-on mentorship, and training in entrepreneurial best practices. We believe this mentorship-driven model will help entrepreneurs navigate operational challenges arising from the current pandemic and ensure that their solutions can reach the greatest number of families possible.
Together with Techstars, we have identified several areas of caregiving ripe for innovation:
Many of our partners also have solutions available to help families right now—solutions that can also build the foundation for a stronger caregiving system in the future.
For example, our partner Papa helps seniors as they age by providing "grandkids on demand.” Given the need for physical distancing during the pandemic, Papa launched a virtual companionship program to provide “assistance from a distance” for seniors who are at home. This program enables seniors to connect with companions at any time over a mobile phone or landline. Papa also employs “Papa Pals” to virtually assist seniors with grocery delivery, telehealth and medicine delivery, tech tips, and more. A recent New York Times article recounts the story of Mr. Rodger and his Papa Pal, Ricardo, as they maneuver their new COVID-19 realities.
Additionally, organizations from other sectors are also stepping up during this pandemic, adapting their work to help aging Americans. HopSkipDrive, which provides transportation for kids, has expanded its services to include meal delivery and transportation solutions for seniors to get to their essential appointments. HopSkipDrive is also creating a community-driven program called HopSkipDrive Helps, which allows partners to donate rides or HopSkipDrive gift cards to those in need.
These are just two examples of how organizations are rising to meet this moment and provide more caregiving options.
We are living in unprecedented times that are exacerbating existing strains on our caregiving system. It’s more important than ever to unleash innovation in caregiving—to assist both aging Americans as well as their families. Pivotal Ventures remains committed to support partners on the front lines of this work.