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Entrepreneurs Pitch Mobile Apps Geared To Seniors

Lisann Ramos

Mary Theresa Anderson is sitting in the back of a Miami Beach Convention Center ballroom, listening as entrepreneurs pitch health apps geared toward her and other retirees.

The former trauma nurse from Maryland follows along as venture capitalists drill aspiring businessmen and women about products offering brain exercises, real-time health monitoring, even online vitamin delivery.

From FitBits to smartphone calorie counters, mobile health apps are one the fastest-growing parts of today’s booming health care industry.

Entrepreneurs are pitching more and more to care for older consumers.

Anderson groans at the suggestion that these smartphone apps and other technology are beyond a senior’s grasp. She’s plenty savvy.

“Before I left my profession I had to learn how to use a computer. I had to do all my charting in computer. I had to order my medications, order tests and everything else via computer," said Anderson, adding, "We just go right along with the flow. Because I think older people are wiser and smarter. And I think they can keep up with technology."

Lisa Suennen is a venture capitalist who’s moderated 50+ LivePitch events since the first one in 2011 Los Angeles. She says the events remind entrepreneurs and consumers that technology isn’t too complicated for the AARP crowd.

“People in Silicon Valley tend to invest in things and select things and like things that are like themselves or remind them of their own lives," said Suennen. "And since so many of the people in those roles are young, sometimes people forget to look up and realize that the over-50 marketplace in health care is as large as it really is."

Mohanjit Jolly fits that bill. The Silicon Valley investor doesn’t hang out much with the 50-plus crowd.

“I was in the same bucket of thinking, 'Oh these guys are late adopters and laggers.' But what I actually found out was just the opposite, that there was a significant component that’s actually eager to take technology on,” said Jolly.

Now Jolly is back for a second year judging the 50+ LivePitch.

“I think the ah-ha moment for me at last year’s event was the fact that the room was full of consumers who are actually very interested in hearing about what venture capitalists are seeing in terms of technology and innovation, which is a surprise to me," said Jolly. 

Estimates say there are nearly 109 million 50-plus consumers in the U.S. market for entrepreneurs to target.

“The father of the Internet, Vince Surf, is in his early-mid 70s. And he was asked about older people. You know, are they afraid of technology? He says, 'We’re not afraid of technology, we invented it!'," said Jody Holtzman, a senior vice president at AARP.

A lot of these consumers are interested in mobile health apps -- which explains why six of the 15 products presented at the Miami Beach LivePitch fall in that category. Analysts say that market today is worth more than $6.6 billion.

Credit Constant Therapy
An exercise from the app Constant Therapy. The app designs brain games for victims of stroke or dementia. Constant Therapy won the audience award at the AARP 50 Live Pitch event.

It’s why entrepreneurs want consumers like Mary Theresa Anderson in the LivePitch audience. The one thing that makes this pitch event different is that AARP members in the audience score a company based on its presentation.

Anderson was most impressed with a brain game app for victims of stroke or dementia.

“As a health care professional, anytime someone is injured, the more therapy you get, the more you respond, the better you respond, the quicker you’re out of whatever situation you’re in," said Anderson.

She wasn’t alone. That brain game app won the LivePitch audience award.