Good Lab members night: rethinking elderly care

We have heard of too many rants on the burden of an ageing population for our society. But what if such a thinking is misleading?

A recent NESTA report suggested that when we talk about ageing society, the focus on dependency, challenges and costs is misleading. In fact, older people are more likely to set up successful new businesses, provide unpaid care for their peers, to be happier and better off than their younger counterparts.

And we are seeing more and more examples coming up in town in this field. On 28 April 2014, we held a heated conversation at Good Lab@Prince. It is part of our monthly members night series. People seemed to be very curious about this topic of elderly care.

Here’s a quick recap of the event.

We prepared food and snacks before the sharing starts. People seemed to be enjoying the food and food for thought in the conversations.

Three Good Lab members take turns in presenting their projects. Here’s Tim Lui presenting.

The presentations are in 10 minutes each, followed by comments from Good Lab director Patrick Cheung, and Q&A from the audience.

Dominic Au from HKElderly shared his experiences working in the elderly care field in the past eight years. What distinguishes his service from the rest in the market is that it is an online-to-offline model. People can come to his website and read about different different nursing homes and decide which one to pick. But this seemingly simple idea actually takes a lot of behind-the-scene efforts. It took Dominic and his team a good eight years to figure out how this market works and how his company could add value to the process.

Ryan Yang of Happy Retired is new in this field. He started this company to promote a new way of thinking about retirement years. At the heart of its mission is to connect retirees with the community and contribute back to the community with their time and wisdom, through volunteering and through reapplying for jobs in the market.

Tim Lui of Heart Rate Connect is taking a different approach in tackling the market. He is starting a hardware company which aims to produce wearable gadgets that monitors heart rate for elderly people. One might ask, why yet another heart rate monitoring gadget? Well, for this, Tim’s answer is, most of the existing gadgets are not well designed for the elderly, because of short battery life or lack of elderly-friendly UX. So his mission is to hack and improve upon existing solutions and make it attractive enough for young people to buy for their parents.

After the sharing from these members, Good Lab director Patrick Cheung made some comments. He started venturing in this field since three years ago, but the road so far has been anything but even. There are a lot of unexpected challenges in the process.

The biggest problem?

The whole nursing home industry in Hong Kong is almost dominated by government-subsidized nursing centres, making it virtually impossible for private companies to enter the market and offer competitive services.

But on the other hand, the home care approach was essentially unexplored in Hong Kong. This is in fact the bigger market. If anyone could come up with good ideas on how to do this innovatively, they would eclipse the seemingly gigantic nursing home business.

Doris Leung doing her sharing

Following these stories and comments, Doris Leung from Diamond Cab shared her experience of launching Diamond Leisure. It is a new line of travel service catered to the need of people with disabilities. Elderly people or people with disabilities are like the rest of us, they want to have fun when they have time – they want to sing karaoke, they want to explore old and new neighborhoods, they want to go to concerts. Why shall they be bounded by a wheelchair? This simple question inspired Doris to start Diamond Cab and now Diamond Leisure, she says, we are not selling a means of transportation, rather, we are selling people happiness through access to different activities made possible by wheelchair-friendly taxis.

In other words, it is a matter of lifestyle. And it looks like this is becoming more and more important in an ever competitive market.

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