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Intergenerational Hackfest Sparks Innovation

On Saturday, June 3, residents and staff from five local senior living communities joined forces with Olin College students and professionals in aging services for the LeadingAge MA Hackfest at North Hill in Needham, Massachusetts. The goal of Hackfest is to create a “technology-driven product or service aimed at improving the lives of older adults and their families.”

 

The winning team, comprised of residents and staff from Lasell Village, a senior living community in Newton, MA, an architect and Olin students Zack Davenport and Aidan McLaughlin, designed a “smart shoe” embedded with sensors for detecting obstacles and preventing falls by alerting the user through vibration and sound.

Davenport and McLaughlin—and their teammates—earned a trip to New Orleans to present their idea to more than 6,000 aging services professionals at the Leading Age national conference in October, as well as a cash prize of $2500 to develop the idea further.

Vice President of Marketing at North Hill, Paul Duffy, organized the event, with support from LeadingAge Massachusetts and Olin College Professor of Anthropology Caitrin Lynch. “This was a tremendous opportunity for our students to spend time with older adults, to design a product or service in real time with the very people who could end up using it,” said Lynch. “Afterward our students were excited about continuing their projects or pursuing other ideas that came up during the day.” Olin College Assistant Professor of Computer Science Paul Ruvolo was on hand at the competition to provide consultation to the teams.

The Hackfest was supported by participating business partners DiMella Shaffer Architects, mature marketing organization Creating Results and Wellesley Bank.

The goal of the event, sponsored by LeadingAge is to create teams of people with a variety of skills and knowledge to develop a tool that addresses the challenges of aging. The final products were judged by a 5-person team including a resident of North Hill, an elder law attorney, the COO of a geriatric care management agency, an owner of a design firm specializing in aging environments and a technology consultant, who was the founder of the LeadingAge Annual Hackfest.  The criteria included: originality, usability, feasibility, design and most developed.

“It was wonderful to see the students engaging with the older adults in such a positive and creative way,” said Elissa Sherman President of LeadingAge, Massachusetts.

There were 36 participants ranging in age from 19-year-old students to older adults in their 90s. The teams spent the day together coming up with products and services to help older adults. The process included a brainstorming session as the older adults talked about challenges they face in their daily lives and the Olin students asked probing questions so that they could fully explore the ideas. All the participants were co-designers, coming up with ideas for a final product or service to be presented at the end of the day.

In all, nine Olin students participated including: Kyle Combes, Zachary Davenport, Max Dietrich, Mary Keenan, Elizabeth Leadley, Meg McCauley, Aidan McLaughlin, Max Schommer and Wilson Tang.

The North Hill team, which included Olin student Max Schommer, and Olin professor Caitrin Lynch (and her father Frank Lynch) won the  Resident’s Choice award, for their idea of a GLO wearable hands-free flashlight for “task lighting and entering dark areas — such as threading a needle; reading a menu, theater program, or pill container; cooking; and walking into a dark room.”

Other projects included a system for connecting certified aging services professionals as drivers for people who need rides to appointments and events, especially in rural areas, proposed by the Deaconess Abundant Life team.

The Orchard Cove team designed a “smart box” to remind people with dementia when to take their medication, when to exercise, and how to reach out to friends and family.

Finally, the Brookhaven Lexington team designed an app that records and weaves stories together from different generations, using machine learning.

The national LeadingAge conference will take place in New Orleans October 29- November 1, 2017.