Startups, Health IT

A Dr. Oz-backed startup, Uber for grandparents and more at AARP’s Innovation@50+ Live Pitch event

A Dr. Oz-backed startup, Uber for grandparents and some very smart socks graced the stage at the 2017 AARP Innovation@50+ Live Pitch event on Wednesday.

Aging senior living health IT Old healhy man taking selfie

Now in its sixth year, the AARP Innovation@50+ Live Pitch event is as relevant as ever. Some 110 million Americans are over the age of 50 — a percentage set to rise significantly in the coming years. Experts have even speculated that the first person to live more than 150 years is alive today, noted AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins in the opening address.

However, the problems haven’t been solved and the mindset is the same.

“We need to change the way we think about aging,” Jenkins said. The culture needs disrupting.

Wednesday’s agenda focused on innovations that aim to do just that, with an emphasis on the role of caregivers and the potential of health tech startups.

“Just remember, when you’re over the hill, you begin to pick up speed,” said emcee Lisa Suennen, managing director of GE Ventures, quoting Charles Schulz.

After some early morning discussions, 10 aging well startups took the stage for a three-minute pitch and a five-minute Q&A with four expert judges and an engaged audience. The crowd then voted on whether the startup tackled an unmet need, how unique the innovation was, and whether the voter would recommend the product or service to family or friends.

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For the panel of judges, the Live Pitch winner on Wednesday was GoGoGrandparent, an upbeat Mountain View, California startup that helps seniors and users with disabilities make the most out of the rideshare revolution.

Tested and validated by the cofounder’s Grandma, who likes to take trips to Coco’s Bakery, GoGoGrandparent is a kind voice that customizes the Uber and Lyft experience. No smartphone is needed. Users make a standard phone call to schedule a pickup at their home address. A suitable vehicle and driver are sent their way; the same happens on the way back. Loved one and/or carers receive a text once the trip is complete. If anything doesn’t go as planned, a dedicated operator is just a phone call away to help troubleshoot the situation.

GoGoGrandparent taps into the existing rideshare networks, adding a $0.19 charge per minute to the trip to fund the added service and security.

Siren Care

The winner of the consumer audience vote was Siren Care, based in San Francisco, California. It’s a wearables startup, which makes perfectly normal looking socks that can be machine washed and dried. Solid.

Yet somehow, the socks also contain sensors that monitor the user’s skin temperature at six key points on the foot. Using the alternate foot as a control, the socks detect localized increases in heat that may be a sign of inflammation. For patients with Type 2 diabetes neuropathy and a lack of feeling in the foot, that technological warning could save them a toe or foot. Proactive care also saves a lot of healthcare dollars, even if a doctor’s visit is required in the short term.


One of the most tech-savvy startups was iBeat, a personal emergency response system (PERS) that is light years ahead of the status quo options.

To strike a balance between function and simplicity, iBeat engineered its own smartwatch that tracks vital signs in the shower, at the shops, and anywhere else the user might go. Other systems are tied to devices within the home and thus, have a limited range of function.

When a user’s blood pressure suddenly drops or their pulse unexpectedly quickens, the watch prompts the individual to either dismiss the warning or request help with just a press of a button. If they don’t make a choice, an ambulance is dispatched and their emergency contacts are alerted.

The high unmet need and lack of innovation in the field piqued the interest of Dr. Oz, who has signed on as an investor and committed to being part of the consumer brand.

iBeat has other tricks up its sleeve — which were hard to pack into a three-minute pitch. But if the company continues its rapid development pace, you’ll likely hear about them soon.

In the meantime, check out the winners of the MedCity News’ readers poll on digital health companies, entrepreneurs and initiatives our audience feels best reflects the wide range of technologies and applications that innovatively support the 50+ population.

Photo: Ridofranz, Getty Images