We continue our series of interviews with specialists in the aging in place community with an interview with Ignatius Fanlo, a co-founder and CEO of a new company known as Lively.
Specifically, Lively is a two-part technology system:
An in-home passive sensor solution, which is completely different from anything on the market today. It learns the normal daily routine of older adults and allows sharing of activity with only the people they choose. No Internet connection is required to use, in deference to the nearly 65 percent of older adults age 75+ who lack computer skills and/or Internet access.
With LivelyGram, family members get a creative way to share the events of their life with their elder loved one. Pictures and short messages are automatically turned into a creative printed piece that’s mailed to their elder loved one about every two weeks.
Lively today unveiled its product line on Kickstarter to generate pre-order pledges before Lively’s general availability, expected in July 2013. Lively’s activity-sharing products aim to solve the dilemma for up to 40 million older adults living at home in the U.S., Canada and Europe who want to stay independent, and the 100+ million loved ones that worry about the health and well-being of these older adults. With its launch today, Lively gives people a better way to ‘age in place’ and eliminates parent-sitting by families. We now speak with Ignatius Fanlo, a co-founder and CEO of Lively:
Iggy (may we call you Iggy?), how did you and co-founders David Glickman and Keith Dutton, come to found Lively? Were there communications issues you each had with your own older generations?
I always wanted to be a doctor and even had everything lined up to go to medical school, but at the last minute I changed course and entered finance. After successful stints in finance and digital media, I began to think about how my experience could finally play out in the health and wellness market. The idea for Lively was born from conversations I had with residents of retirement homes as well as their friends and family in the process of my explorations. I met David when I was seeking Lively’s first round of funding during his Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Mavron Ventures. And I long admired Keith’s work as a brilliant technologist and chief scientist when he worked with a previous competitor of mine several years ago.
What kind of customers are you attracting? Organizations as well as families?
We are tightening the connection between older adults who live on their own and their families and loved ones. As a new consumer products company, our activity-sharing products give generations new ways to share the events of the daily lives, adding to everyone’s peace of mind and forging more meaningful connections and interactions.
Since your services are partly a communications system, are there other uses that you have found for your product and services?
We have received lot of suggestions for other ways in which Lively’s technology is relevant to connect us with other aspects of daily life — and we will definitely explore these avenues, and more, when the timing is right.
Will the service work away from the home, on the road?
Lively’s proactive activity sharing uses a cellular “hub” and passive sensors placed around the home to detect general daily activity, such as how often a person gets out of the house, takes their medication, or spends time in the kitchen. Its purpose is to track daily activity happening in the home to remind older adults of their healthy habits and allow sharing of their normal routine with the people in their lives who care about how they’re taking care.
Lively’s system is easy to set up and does not require any Internet connection or phone line to use, in deference to nearly 65 percent of older adults age 75+ that lack Internet access.
An ongoing activity-sharing connection also is provided with LivelyGram, which is a creative way that family and friends can automatically send pictures and short messages by postal mail to their elder loved ones about what’s going on in their life. Content can be easily uploaded from any desktop computer, tablet or smartphone application (iPhone support will be included when Lively ships its product in July; Android support to be available by mid 2013).
We were thinking big when we started Lively because connection is something that makes everyone happier, healthier and feeling more alive. Plus, the more connected people feel, the better the conversations, peace of mind and relationships that can grow.
What other organizations are you working with to bridge gaps or fill needs that you have identified for your customers?
We’ve forged a partnership with the Institute for the Ages based in Sarasota, FL, which helped us conduct consumer testing of the Lively system. In this research, it became even clearer that staying connected as we age is essential and four critical needs must be addressed to this end:
1) Older adults want to stay in their homes indefinitely while they age. They want the freedom to live independently, but they don’t want to feel alone living on their own.
2) Older adults also don’t want to be a burden to their families who may worry about how they’re doing. Everyone would also like a way to eliminate the pestering check-in calls to enjoy more satisfying and meaningful conversations.
3) Adults are often “sandwiched” between their aging parents and their young children at home, while balancing jobs and parenting. We’ve talked to many people experiencing this and the most common words used are “guilt and worry” in reflecting on their relationships with elders who live on their own.
4) And younger generations also want to enjoy a closer connection with their wiser, older counterparts.
As your services begin to roll out, what priorities have your potential customers identified as their first, second, and so on priorities?
The first priority is to find ways in which older adults age 75+ can remain independent in their own homes. AARP conducted a study in which 89 percent of respondents age 50 years and older ranked this preference. Lively works best for the vast majority of older adults in good overall health that want the freedom to share as much or as little detail with the people that care about them to alleviate concern.
We’re finding that more often than not, communication between older adults and their loved ones is comprised of check-in conversations that no one enjoys. Lively negates this need for “Parent-Sitting” and enables both parties to better enjoy their interactions, by focusing on how they are doing, rather than what they are doing.
And finally, we are finding that our customers are seeking ways in which to bridge generational gaps, so people tell us they love the concept of LivelyGram. It’s easier for younger generations to use and ideal for older adults who don’t want to use a computer to stay connected.
What is your greatest challenge and your greatest reward in this new business, and in your personal life?
Reward of new business: Creating more value than you capture. I love that quote from Tim O’Reilly. It took me 50 years to actually “grok” it… that by creating more value, by giving more than getting, you actually feel better about your mission, your path, your life.
Challenge of personal life: Balancing work and family. I love my work and I love my family. Being successful at both requires different skills and sometimes different personalities. For work, I need intensity, focus, creativity… things that I feel confident about… know more about few things really well… For family it’s more renaissance… more about a little all the time and listening. I personally struggle with that since it’s not my natural state. I want to fix problems: jump in, fix, then jump out. I’m bad at the listening and not fixing…and being “present” all the time.
Reward of personal life: Seeing the younger generations’ growth; achievements; progress. Seeing who will inherit and benefit from our collective work.
What advice do you have for the ‘tweeners’ trying to keep in touch with their elders, their children, and their own inner needs?
If I knew the way in which to make tweeners understand the longer term implications of their behavior today, I would be a very powerful person! But seriously, I think the one point I would like to have come across is that Lively is here to improve the connections between multi-generational family members.
Also, all generations will be affected by the fact that we’re living longer. In fact, our increasingly aging society is an issue for today’s young people as much as for older people. In the words of admired aging expert and founding director of the Stanford Center on Longevity (she’s also a Lively board member), Laura Carstensen, “The greatest gift we can give future generations is to say, ‘Here’s a way to be old that you’ll want to be.’”
Thank you so much, Iggy, and best wishes for you and your new company!
Other interviews with experts on the subject of aging in place are:
Laurie Orlov, Aging in Place Technology Watch
Alesha Churba, Design with the Future in Mind
Tom and Lynn Wilson, The CareGiver Partnership
Gail Zahtz, Universal Design Advocate
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