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Challenge seeks innovations to improve wellbeing in aging populations

MIT AgeLab launches In Good Company global challenge in partnership with GE, Benchmark Senior Living, and the Massachusetts Council to Address Aging.
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AGNES, the Age Gain Now Empathy System developed at MIT AgeLab, a suit built to better understand the physical challenges associated with aging.
AGNES, the Age Gain Now Empathy System developed at MIT AgeLab, a suit built to better understand the physical challenges associated with aging.
Photo courtesy of AgeLab.

A global innovation challenge for the improvement of well-being in aging populations was recently announced by the MIT Age Lab and a group of industry, academic, and government partners affiliated with Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker’s Council to Address Aging. In Good Company: The 2018 Optimal Aging Challenge seeks to develop breakthrough technologies, community resources, and solutions that reduce social isolation and loneliness among older adults.

Despite the advent of lightning-speed technological connectivity, 29 percent of older adults are socially isolated, and both isolation and loneliness are known to have adverse consequences on individual and community health. Research from the American Psychological Association suggests that the loneliness epidemic now represents a threat to public health rivaling that of obesity.

“Led by our Council to Address Aging, Massachusetts is thinking differently about aging and we are proud to be one of the few states in the country certified by AARP for our commitment to become more ‘age-friendly,’” said Governor Baker. “The In Good Company Challenge is a great opportunity to improve the lives of older adults. We look forward to seeing what this challenge will develop so that Massachusetts can help ensure that those who grew up, raised families and built our communities, can continue to contribute their energy, experience, and talents toward making Massachusetts a great place.”

Competition sponsors of the In Good Company: Optimal Aging Challenge include GE Healthcare, MIT’s AgeLab, and Benchmark Senior Living, in collaboration with three members of the Governor’s Council to Address Aging in Massachusetts Innovation and Technology Workgroup. Challenge awards are being funded by the MIT AgeLab and Benchmark Senior Living. Challenge administration is being delivered by GE GENIUSLINK.

“The Governor’s aging initiative, coupled with this challenge, is both an opportunity to improve the lives of older adults in Massachusetts and an unprecedented call to create a new economic engine of innovation in the Commonwealth driven by a world that is living longer and wanting to live better,” said Joseph Coughlin, director of MIT AgeLab. 

Representatives from the competition sponsors and the Governor’s Council on Aging will serve as judges for the challenge and are seeking proposals across four key pillars:

  • caregiving,
  • transportation services,
  • eldercare housing solutions, and
  • employment and volunteerism opportunities among older populations.

Judges will evaluate entries based upon, but not limited to, their prospective applicable market size, accessibility across diverse populations and commercial viability. Up to four of the most promising entries will receive an initial cash prize of $5,000 each and may have an opportunity to participate in public and private endeavors with prize sponsors and their partner entities to develop their solution such that it can better serve the older population and their networks.

“There’s a perception that our aging communities have been underserved by advances in technology, as well as innovations in business models, service models, and beyond; with this initiative, we hope to start redressing that imbalance,” said Ger Brophy, head of cell therapy, life sciences at GE Healthcare. “There is a deep interest in the transformational ideas and creativity this challenge will inspire,” added Tom Grape, chair and CEO of Benchmark Senior Living. “When implemented, these ideas will connect the older adults we respect and love to what’s meaningful and possible at every stage of their lives.”

To participate, submit an entry by Sept. 28 at 5 p.m. EDT. Judges will evaluate submissions throughout October and November and announce winners in December.

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