TEDMED COO, Shirley Bergin, says over-50 crowd are real winners at AARP @50+ LivePitch

Finalists at the AARP Health Innovation @50+ LivePitch in Boston last week included a lab-quality DIY diagnostic kit and a smart phone that can tell when it’s user is getting a bad case of the wobbles.

Clearly, this is not your mother’s health technology, said TEDMED COO Shirley Bergin, who was one of the judges for the event.

““There really is something to the idea that today’s 50-year-old is yesterday’s 40. The way this group thinks about technology is sophisticated, from invisible sensors to wearable technology. They’re definitely ready to participate in a productive way,” she said.

Photo: Christopher Sherman/AARP
Photo: Christopher Sherman/AARP

The judges chose Lift Labs as their winner, which makes a spoon that automatically and unobtrusively prevents those with tremors from spilling food, an advance very much geared toward life quality.

The audience choice was Careticker, a web based program that helps caregivers track activities to earn incentives and to connect with other caregivers.

“Careticker is very focused on what I thought was a big theme; we’re living longer and taking care of those we love for longer periods of time,” Bergin said, adding that health tech innovation for this crowd seemed to center on needs-based items for an audience that was very much on the move.

“The psychographics of a 50-plus today is one of a very active individual, not somebody who’s thinking they’re on the last journey of life. They want to take advantage of all the world has to offer, and look for technology that facilitates an active lifestyle and promotes a good quality of life,” she says.

Shirley Bergin Photo: Christopher Sherman/AARP
Shirley Bergin Photo: Christopher Sherman/AARP

In a couple of weeks, TEDMED will begin releasing the names of startups joining its own innovation showcase, the TEDMED Hive.  After reviewing the hundreds of Hiva applicants, the AARP contestants and those at SXSW, at which she was also a tech innovation judge, Bergin says the market seems to be shifting to a more mature phase of implementation and commercial viability.

For example, while you’re still seeing startups focused on big data, it’s more focused about how that data is going to enable you to take care of yourself, manage a chronic disease or facilitate some improved state of being.  How is all of that data going to improve our health?

Entrepreneurs are also coming to terms with a venture capital pool that is finite, she says, and are delivering more sophisticated business model presentations; still mission-based, but with an eye as to how the work will scale commercially. One thing that might help:  joining forces.

“Startups are trying to approach solutions from different angles, so I hope there will be more awareness that other people are addressing the same problems. My hope is that those are going to be more collaborations as well as innovations,” Bergin said.