"A man travels the world over in search of what he needs and returns home to find it" (George A. Moore)
Continuing to live in our home as we age should not be too hard – or is it? I grew up in a closely-knit family with 3 generations under one roof: I got plenty of love from my grandparents, but also saw directly what it means to become frailer with age, walk with a stick or a trolley, experience the pain of nasty diseases.
I certainly wish they could have benefited from innovative solutions that enable the elderly to live independently at home: family won't always be there, and we're making fewer children anyway. Earlier this year, the Swiss Re Foundation launched a call to social entrepreneurs in this space from around the world, and for the past 4 months, I had the privilege of being closely involved in assessing the dozens of respondents. We saw intriguing socially-minded online marketplaces for health/care services, apps to manage conditions, house sensors and connected wearables, home robots, transportation services, alternative assisted living facilities.
Innovation is one of the criteria we'll use to select the winner of our Entrepreneurs for Resilience Award (announced in Hong Kong on 2 November by a panel of judges from business and academia). Based on my personal experience, to innovate successfully, a company –especially a start-up– must define and execute its job really well: that is, the job of solving a relevant problem of their customers (B2C or B2B doesn’t matter here).
Let's take a look at three important steps to consider:
(1) Define the problem: skip this first step, and you lose productivity and confidence if you're lucky, and fold your company if you are not. Be specific, not general; try to measure its potential in the short and long run; focus on actions and increasing relevance over time.
(2) Go beyond the product: design a proposition that takes into account the context in which it will be used, the social component, and –if you're really good and/or lucky– the emotions it creates. Helping elderly people live at home cannot for a second make them feel inadequate, subject/dependent or, worse, useless; empower them rather, and you'll have done good for society and your loyalty KPIs.
(3) Focus on the experience of usage, but also of purchase, cross-sell and upsell. What is the easiest way to help customers achieve the result they want? What are the worst obstacles that must be removed (…not just high perceived price)? Add in emotional and social elements, in addition to the strictly functional dimension.
The time is ripe for us to capture the benefits of sophisticated technologies and deep social interactions to advance physical functioning, cognitive ability and emotional health of the ever-increasing elderly population. Current and future generations will thank us for it.
Category: Funding longer lives: Long-term care, Pension/retirement, Social contract