Digital technologies touch so many aspects of our daily lives, with astonishing power to transform our wellbeing and quality of life – but our ageing communities are often left behind, much to their detriment. An award-winning Australian startup is on the frontline in turning this around.
YourLink, co-founded in 2015 by long-time friends Rick Hollingworth and Richard Scenna, is entirely focussed on the digital inclusion of seniors, whether living in residential aged care, a retirement village or their own home. The pair sought to enable seniors to engage with their families and communities and experience the myriad of benefits technology can bring – from facilitating deep social connection to better managing their health and simplifying everyday tasks like shopping and paying bills as mobility wanes.
“I was very close to my grandmother, and it was difficult seeing her go through all the stages of dementia, independence and dependence,” Scenna recalls. “How we treat our older loved ones, and their quality of life, is just so important. At the time, there wasn’t an app designed with the needs of on an older demographic in mind, so we decided to create one and make use of the phones in everyone’s hands.”
The YourLink app was a frontrunner in the now burgeoning ‘age tech’ space. But it was clear a vital piece of the puzzle was missing: the skills and support for seniors and aged care environments to use the technology. YourLink began developing services and training programs for residential and community aged care providers, and rolled out Tea and Technology – a program of free community events where seniors can learn about their smart devices, apps and getting online in a safe, pressure-free environment.
“We’ve run around 60 of these events so far across NSW with more than 1,300 seniors taking part, and the feedback has been incredible; 96 per cent would come to another session and recommend them to others,” says Scenna. “It’s tailored to their individual needs so that the technology fits into their lives, and they can make the most of the devices that they have often been given but not shown how to use.”
For YourLink, busting the myth that seniors aren’t interested in digital technologies is central to the shift. Inspired by what they were hearing on the ground, Scenna and Hollingworth partnered with PwC to develop The Digital Paradox for Seniors research report, delivering clear evidence that seniors’ desire for digital inclusion is outpacing the response by service providers and community.
“One of the key insights was about support; over 80 per cent rely on friends and family, but that support is often unavailable due to time or geography, and when it is there it’s more often fixing and not teaching,” says Scenna. “Only around two per cent rely on their care providers for technical support, and there’s a real opportunity here because they have such a position of trust and contact.”
This is the ethos behind YourLink Involve, the company’s innovative B2B solution for wellbeing and lifestyle support in aged care environments. Developed late in 2019 in consultation with Apple, it supports organisations and providers to manage fleets of smart devices and open up a world of digital inclusion for their clients.
“It’s the most comprehensive and scalable solution for digital inclusion across aged care, bringing together the leading devices and skills to help seniors in care participate meaningfully in the life around them,” Scenna explains. “We teach them how to set up and use the technology, supported by ongoing catchups and help. It’s been so exciting to see participants move from initial fear to confidently FaceTiming their families, emailing, and accessing audiobooks through the local library.”
Sights are set on expansion across Australia and into global markets, beginning with Asia, and on evolving the product to tap into the ever-growing wearable tech market. Scenna says being part of the Macquarie University Incubator – where YourLink scooped the 2019 Pitch Final – continues to be a decisive element.
“The incubator isn’t just young tech startups, but a dynamic and unique mix of people and social enterprises, all at different stages. It’s been a phenomenal experience for us; we’ve really been able to stretch our thinking, improve articulation of our value proposition, and open up new conversations around partnerships and investment.”