i3 | December 30, 2019

AARP's Tech Hub: Innovation at Any Age

Jeremy Snow

The Hatchery, located just a few blocks from the National Mall in Washington, D.C., is AARP’s answer to the growing community of startups and tech-related endeavors across the country. While some see tech as more often used by younger people, AARP sees a different possibility, and hopes its Innovation Lab and accelerator program — located in the Hatchery — can encourage future-focused solutions for people age 50 and their families.

The Hatchery was launched four years ago to “highlight the physical manifestation of innovation within the AARP” and foster products that assist people over 50 years old, said Senior Vice President of Innovation and Product Development Andy Miller. The 10,000 square foot, two-floor space is host to plenty of meeting spaces and offices where the Hatchery’s staff work with outside companies, while also developing their own innovative ideas in-house.

AARP's Innovation Labs

Since its launch, Miller has helped grow the lab’s programs, events, competitions and partnerships. Its collaboration with the Boston’s MassChallenge accelerator, for example, has brought in dozens of companies to the AARP Innovation Labs looking to use technology to improve senior health, wealth and caregiving. This year, AARP is working with six healthtech and two fintech startups, incubating these companies as they grow. Among the 2019 startups to join are the end-of-life planning platform Cake and LifeSite, an online safe deposit box.

After a six-month incubation, which Miller jokingly called a “dating process,” AARP chooses just a fraction of the companies that apply to continue working with and developing, eventually taking equity in a few. The program continues to thrive, as they look for more fintech organizations in 2020.

AARP’s Innovation Labs is also building its own in-house products, already creating four market-ready products in just two years. The team of entrepreneurs and developers created the Let’s Be Well Box from scratch, a container with various information and products related to senior-related health concerns.

Consumers can order a box either focused on heart health or diabetes, each containing various books, products and readings about how to deal with the ailments.

The winners are announced at AARP's pitch competition at Eureka Park, CES 2019


AARP also hosts its own pitch competitions in cities like Berkeley, Nashville and New Orleans, where startups can show their work and ask AARP members and the innovation community to vote for the most viable and impactful product or service. This year featured the first of these pitch events at CES, where the event highlighted improving social connection.

Sponsored by the CTA Foundation and AARP, and hosted in Eureka Park, CES’ global stage for startups, eight companies pitched their ideas on how technology could reduce isolation — an issue thousands of seniors encounter. Shark Tank’s Daymond John emceed the event, and AARP CEO Jo Ann Jenkins announced the winners.

The pitches showcased the originality on display at CES, and the way technology brings us together — whether it was House of Haptics’ wearable bracelet that simulates sending human touch over long distances, or a video conferencing solution from Glowbl that allowed multiple types of content to be shared at once. In the end, the judges chose two winners: Waverly Labs and StoryUP’s Healium.

Pitch competition winners, including the two from CES, then had the opportunity to compete in the AARP’s Grand Pitch Finale held in October.

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