The Massachusetts Healthy Aging Collaborative joined a group of industry, academic and government partners affiliated with Governor Charlie Baker’s Council to Address Aging to announce the winners of the In Good Company: The 2018 Optimal Aging Challenge, a global competition designed to identify breakthrough solutions to social isolation and loneliness among older adults.
“Our administration formed the Commonwealth’s first Governor’s Council to Address Aging to analyze ways for the state to improve public and private means for supporting and engaging with older adults,” says Governor Charlie Baker. “The Optimal Aging Challenge is a great example of exactly what the Council is designed to support: a collaborative effort on an important topic, like isolation and loneliness, across sectors and industries to improve lives with innovative solutions for healthy aging.”
Experts from around the globe, including 11 different countries, submitted entries. Representatives from MIT’s AgeLab, Benchmark, GE Healthcare and the Governor’s Council to Address Aging chose four winning proposals based upon their prospective applicable market size, accessibility across diverse populations and commercial viability.
“Open innovation continues to be the most effective way to advance the mission of improving the aging experience and building a global community around such a critically important goal,” says Benchmark Founder, Chairman and CEO, Tom Grape. “It is exciting to see so many thoughtful and diverse ideas and approaches that can help reduce loneliness and social isolation in the lives of our seniors and, instead, transform their lives through personal, human connection.”
The winners will receive an initial cash prize of $5,000 USD each and could have an opportunity to work with Challenge sponsors to mature their solution. “The challenge of social isolation and loneliness in an aging society is made more difficult by the diversity of causes,” says MIT AgeLab Director and Founder, Joseph Coughlin, Ph.D. “The success of this challenge was the identification of innovative solutions that blended high tech as well as human touch.” The challenge winners are:
- Share Kitchens: Share Kitchens strives to end loneliness where it often creeps in: during the simple, daily occurrence of mealtime. The nonprofit helps older adults transform their domestic kitchens into culinary spaces that foster communal cooking and intergenerational preparation and enjoyment of food. The organization’s vision is to create a network of Share Kitchens across Massachusetts that ensures food stability and provides employment for seniors.
- FriendshipWorks: FriendshipWorks’ mission is to reduce social isolation, enhance quality of life and preserve the dignity of older adults in the Greater Boston area. Founded in 1984, the organization is based on the belief that no one should have to be alone, regardless of age or frailty. FriendshipWorks strives to achieve this vision by recruiting and training volunteers of all ages, faiths, and backgrounds to provide friendship, advocacy, education, assistance, and emotional support to the elderly.
- HelpAroundTown: HelpAroundTown is a personalized, localized community marketplace that connects neighbors organically by facilitating transactions between people who need help and neighbors looking for flexible work. HelpAroundTown believes that some people have what other people need, and that by connecting them, we can strengthen community ties and create intergenerational bonds.
- Care.coach: Care.coach avatars combine human intelligence and compassion with software automation and clinical algorithms to provide 24/7 psychosocial support for older adults. Researchers at universities and clinicians in diverse care settings have validated Care.coach’s innovative approach in caregiving and its ability to reduce loneliness, improve perceived social support, and drive outcomes – including reducing the need for nursing visits to the home, preventing falls, and mitigating delirium among hospitalized elders.
“It’s inspiring to see both public and industry leaders like our In Good Company Challenge sponsors—thinking and acting in new ways to create change,” says Dyan Finkhousen, Director of Open Innovation and Advanced Manufacturing, GeniusLink at GE. “Equally as significant—is the global expert community who has been actively engaged around this vision. Today is just the beginning of our journey into a future of enriched aging—one leveraging new tools and sustained community to accelerate change across a common mission… one that almost—if not all—of us can relate to.”