Software for seniors: Student envisions future for seniors living alone in their own homes
Imagine you live alone, wake up, stretch, turn on your cellphone instead and hear: “Good morning. I hope you had a great sleep. What is your mood?”
This is how Chrissy Rossiter, a Memorial B.Comm. student, envisions the future for seniors living alone in their own homes.
Ms. Rossiter is currently completing her final work term. Unlike her first two work-terms, this time she gets to be her own boss. Thanks to a joint pilot project funded by the Memorial Centre for Entrepreneurship (MCE) and the Office of the Vice-President (Research), Ms. Rossiter has received $4,500 to pursue her own business idea.
As a result of this funding, Ms. Rossiter has been able to start her own company, Peachy. The company provides software solutions to enable seniors to better manage their health and be less reliant on outside support.
‘The right track’
“Memorial Centre for Entrepreneurship (MCE) has helped tremendously with my startup,” said Ms. Rossiter, who was born in Ontario and moved to the community of Calvert on the Southern Shore when she was a teen.
“I won $10,000 for my company in a business idea competition they host called the Startup Cup. This is what is allowing me to turn my idea into something real. They funded my work term and work closely with me throughout this entire process to ensure I am on the right track. I have been an ambassador with MCE for the past couple of years, where I have made many friendships and connections in the entrepreneurial community, further fuelling my passion for entrepreneurship.”
Funds for the Startup Cup are provided by business and community partners and donated to MCE, says Daan Goossens, programs catalyst, MCE, who helps students develop mini business plans and one-minute videos to pitch their ideas.
“If you’re entrepreneurial, you’ll force yourself to make the video even if it’s out of your comfort zone,” he said.
“The Genesis Centre has also been a huge help through the Evolution program,” said Ms. Rossiter, who took part in the program previously with a different business idea.
“I learned how to use the business model Canvas to start a business. This year I hope to build on what I learned to make Peachy a successful technology solution that will allow elderly people to spend more time living independently in their own homes.”
By using existing technology like cellphones and PCs, Ms. Rossiter wants to help seniors manage their health and remain independent.
“Many seniors today use home computers to email and Skype. I read recent stats indicating that 17 per cent of seniors in Canada send text messages,” she said, adding that number will only increase as people of younger generations age.
The concept for Peachy involves adult children buying Peachy software online for their parents, which can then be installed on whatever device the senior is comfortable using.
A subscription will provide cellphone alerts and access to the online platform and the software will help with automated medication schedules, fall risk assessment, mood and symptoms tracking, and behaviours.
The data collected will be shown in an eDairy: an online dashboard shareable with family and health-care supports. To date, Ms. Rossiter has completed interviews with seniors, adult children of seniors, doctors and nurses. Like any process of validation, Mr. Rossiter has learned that some assumptions have been off the mark. A senior may be non-compliant with medications even if understanding the alert, for example.
This kind of research has been invaluable to product development, says Ms. Rossiter, and she hopes the first prototype will be ready by late July. She says she would never be this advanced in her company if not for the pilot project funding.
“This work term funding has allowed me to put 100 per cent of my time into the company. With no funding, I would’ve had to find a minimum wage job,” said Ms. Rossiter. “It’s an amazing opportunity. I’m very fortunate.”
“Thanks to this work term funding jointly provided by MCE and the Office of the Vice-President (Research), we can encourage students to do it right and be competitive with all other co-op jobs out there. That’s a game changer,” said Mr. Goossens.
Memorial Centre for Entrepreneurship
Memorial Centre for Entrepreneurship (MCE) is campus-wide and promotes entrepreneurship by supporting students, faculty, and staff in the development of their startup idea.
Any student doing a co-op term or Memorial-recognized internship can apply for an entrepreneurial work term. Students apply themselves, but must be approved through the co-operative education program at Memorial.
At the end of the work term, students own the IP they develop. To date, the MCE has had 11 work-term students from the faculties of engineering and applied science and business administration and the departments of computer science and folklore.
This is the first semester that work-term students have been paid thanks to pilot project funding from the Office of the Vice-President (Research).