A VCU Gerontology master's degree student and Senior Connections staffer was recently part of a team that was awarded runners up in a national "Engage with Age" hackfest.
The 2015 LeadingAge Hackfest at UMass Boston was a 2-day event that challenged teams of 4-6 participants to "Engage with Age" by creating a technology-driven tool aimed at improving the lives of older adults and their families. Tools may include software applications, websites, interactive online experiences, or devices. Catherine MacDonald was thrilled when she found out her application to was accepted.
Her team, called the New Gold, included a business expert, a designer, two developers and a nonprofit manager. MacDonald was there to represent the world of Gerontology. The team coach (the director of North Shore Elder Services [area agency on aging]) and a member of the Elder Council both provided invaluable insight and expertise as the team designed the tool.
After 24+ grueling hours of brainstorming, designing, planning and developing, the New Gold presented the tool, then called Knock Knock, to the judges. It's an easy to use app that seeks to reduce social isolation and promote healthy aging by using crowd sourcing to match elders with visitors for a quality experience in a person-centered setting. They presented the tool to an expert panel of judges, which included the Massachusetts Secretary of Elder Affairs and representatives from the MIT Agelab and UMass' Gerontology Institute.
The judges were impressed. The tool won runners up, which was announced in front of a crowd of 8,000+ at the LeadingAge Annual Conference General Session. The team then had the opportunity to demo their creation at the LeadingAge Expo -- a fantastic experience for all.
The team continues to develop their tool, now called Visitry. Follow updates on their progress here.
To anyone interested in technology and aging, or just a lover of new experiences, Catherine highly recommends seeking out similar events. She said, "The chance to promote person-centered care, dispel myths about aging and puzzle out an innovative way to reduce social isolation was a quality learning opportunity that I will always treasure."
#engaged — people of all ages are connected through various volunteer, educational, or leisure pursuits that enhance individual quality of life and communities.
#livable — Our region will offer housing transportation, and design features that enable residents to live safely and with dignity through all the stages of their lives.
#stable — Individuals of all ages are able to obtain jobs and to access services that help to build and safeguard assets, plan for retirement, lead productive lifestyles, and care for loved ones.
#well — Our region has effective and sustainable health and wellness resources that are coordinated, accessible, and well utilized.