Fall Prevention Tool Wins 2015 LeadingAge Hackfest

| November 17, 2015

The top prize at the 3rd Annual LeadingAge HackFest went to a software application designed to reduce falls by tracking an older adult’s range-of-motion and movement.

The top prize at the 3rd Annual LeadingAge HackFest went to a software application designed to reduce falls by tracking an older adult’s range-of-motion and movement.

Team Technolageia won the $5,000 grand prize at the 2-day HackFest competition, which took place at the University of Massachusetts - Boston during the LeadingAge Annual Meeting. 

Ziegler, a LeadingAge Gold Partner with CAST Support, and The Asbury Group, a subsidiary of The Asbury Communities, a CAST Patron, were the lead sponsors of the competition.  

HackFest challenges teams of technology innovators to design software applications that fill a void in the senior technology market. Each team includes 2 coaches -- an older adult counsel who can play the role of a potential user, and an aging services professional coach -- who helped ground the team designs in reality. 

This year, more than 60 innovators formed 10 HackFest teams.

Described by CAST Executive Director Majd Alwan as a “labor of love,” HackFest encourages diverse teams of young inventors to:

  • Define a challenge facing older adults.
  • Brainstorm the solution.
  • Build the product by storyboarding, designing, and coding. 
  • Make a 10-minute presentation describing the tool’s feasibility, marketing plan, and business viability. 

Projects are judged on originality, usability, feasibility, design relevance, and level of development.

And the Winners Are … 

The first-place winner -- the "Momentum" application from Team Technolageia -- uses a smartphone and the Cloud to encourage older adults to exercise. The app measures performance, recommends customized exercise programs, tracks a user’s progression, and motivates the user through goals, data, and reminders, according to a CAST statement

The app can also detect decline. During Team Technolageia’s 10-minute presentation, Jerry Zimmerman, the team’s senior counsel, followed the phone's verbal instructions to raise and lower his right arm so the phone’s acceleration sensor could measure his range of motion.

More assessments and a sharing feature could be added later, according to Long-Term Living magazine.

Other HackFest winners included apps that addressed:

  • Person-Centered Volunteerism: Team New Gold won a $2,000 prize for an app that creates “person-centered experiences for volunteers and the older adults they serve,” according to Long-Term Living. Older adults and volunteers would use the “Knock Knock” application to create personal profiles describing their interests, activities, and visitation preferences. The system would then match older adults with local volunteers. The system is designed to encourage volunteerism and combat isolation and depression in older adults. 

  • Memory Aid for Early Cognitive Challenges: Team Golden Age won a $2,000 prize for "MeMe," a small console for people living with early cognition challenges. The app works much like the iPhone’s “Siri” software. Users can ask the communications program a question and receive information. The MeMe system can also learn information about the user and family members. For instance, it might play a favorite song when the user expresses feelings of anxiety. 

  • People’s Choice: The "People's Choice" Award was determined by Annual Meeting participants who reviewed the projects in the meeting’s HackFest pavilion and voted for their favorite application. Technology for Living won the $1,000 prize for the “People’s Choice” award. Technology for Living created an Alumni Mentorship Program that matched senior alumni as mentors with students.    

Taking Innovation to the Next Level

Now that the HackFest winners have been announced, Alwan says the next challenge is helping teams “get to the next level.”

“There’s a real need for a venture capital philanthropy fund and for organizations like LeadingAge to serve as advisors and test sites to foster new technology ideas,” he says. 

Judges and Coaches

Seven judges chose the winners of this year’s HackFest. They included:

  • Alice Bonner, PhD, RN, Massachusetts Secretary of Elder Affairs.
  • Stephen W. Johnson, managing director, senior living practice at Ziegler.
  • Bill McQuaide, chief product officer at CAST Partner PointClickCare.
  • Jack York, president and co-founder of CAST Supporter It’s Never 2 Late.
  • Lisa D’Ambrosia, PhD, research scientist, Massachusetts Institute of Technology AgeLab, a CAST University Member.
  • Kevin Burns, chief information security officer, Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
  • Len Fishman, JD, director of the Gerontology Institute at University of Massachusetts, Boston.