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Caring for the Caregiver Hack: An Intergenerational and Inspiring Event


Virginia’s Senior Navigator and its Lindsay Institute for Innovations in Caregiving created the remarkable, intergenerational “ Caring for the Caregiver Hack”, a competition featuring teams from seven Virginia universities and colleges. AARP Virginia sponsored the second year of this event, for which Bob Stephen, AARP Vice President, Caregiving and Health Programs, served as a judge. Each university team, over a 24-hour period, created new technology-driven tools for caregivers. The teams were required to demonstrate the tool they had developed, the technology to be used, its benefits to caregivers, its feasibility and a business case.

Each of the teams of five or six members, who represented a variety of disciplines, worked with a long-time caregiver. The students commented that working with the caregivers was very inspiring. They helped to develop the students’ ideas and made them more aware of the sometimes profound difficulty of caregiving for a loved one. The students thanked the caregivers and said that they motivated them to do their very best.

The seven teams included: George Mason University; James Madison University; Lynchburg College; The College of William & Mary; University of Virginia; Virginia Commonwealth University; and Virginia Tech.

While all of the teams were winners in their own right, James Madison University students won the grand prize of $5,000 for “My Time”, an app to encourage and remind family caregivers to make and take time for leisure during the midst of the caregiver’s busy day. The second place prize of $1,000 went to the University of Virginia participants for “Quilted Stories”, a social media online app that harnesses the power of story-telling to create real human connections. The William and Mary students won the third place prize of $500 for “Simply Connected”, an easy-to-use web application that allows long-distance caregivers and other family members to stay connected through simplifying technology.

The esteemed panel of judges selected the grand prize, second place, and third place winners based on the technology’s originality, usability, feasibility, and how developed it was at the time of the presentation.

  • Gigi Amateau, Chief Impact Officer, United Way of Greater Richmond & Petersburg
  • David Cox, President and CEO, Professional Testing, Inc.
  • Gail Hunt, President and Chief Executive Officer, National Alliance for Caregiving
  • Sandy Markwood, Chief Executive Officer, National Association for Area Agencies on Aging
  • Jim Rothrock, Commissioner, Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services
  • Bob Stephen, Vice President, Caregiving and Health Programs, AARP
  • Andrew White, Attorney at Law, LeClairRyan

“This event gave a preview into how technology can be expanded to impact the lives of caregivers,” said hack judge Jim Rothrock, commissioner of the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services. Commissioner Rothrock added that, “the potential impact of these solutions was only exceeded by the commitment of the young people who designed them.  It's easy to be overwhelmed with the emerging issues relative to the age wave, but seeing these students gives hope for a much improved system for the years to come.” Bob Stephen, vice president of Caregiving and Health Programs for AARP was impressed seeing “great students bringing their energy and insights to help family caregivers—we got their best and I can honestly say that there were ideas that are fresh and have the potential to help family caregivers across the country.” Mr. Stephen also mentioned that “millennials are now ¼ of all family caregivers”, making the students insights even more relevant and important.

The team representing James Madison University was awarded the competition’s $5,000 Grand Prize, for “My Time”, an app to encourage and remind family caregivers to make and take time for leisure during the midst of the caregiver’s busy day. Additionally, the technology incorporates a transitional aide to assist the caregiver with grief if their loved one passes.

Additional teams and technologies developed at the Hack event include:

  • University of Virginia (2nd place and $1,000 cash prize): “Quilted Stories”, a social media app that harnesses the power of storytelling as catharsis for a caregiver, creating real human connections and a personalized virtual quilt with music and photos.
  • The College of William & Mary (3rd place and $500 cash prize): “Simply Connected”, an easy-to-use web-application that allows long-distance caregivers and other family members to stay connected through the power of simplified technology.
  • George Mason University:, a web platform designed to increase the spiritual health of caregivers by reducing stress and increasing connections to the care recipient through pop-up video messages and reminders.
  • Lynchburg College: “Be Me”, an electronic tracking tool for family caregivers that enables the caregiver to track time spent caring for others and caring for self, providing a score that serves as a reminder of self-care needs.
  • Virginia Commonwealth University: “Move Together is an initiative that offers free wellness classes for family caregivers and their care recipients. Though its web platform, caregivers can find opportunities for social engagement and exercise to remain healthy.
  • Virginia Tech for “”, an online peer community that features reviews for apps and websites for family caregivers

"Having been a judge at several Hackathons and business pitch competitions, I doubted the ability of the 7 college teams to produce something in 24 hours that would be able to be commercialized,” said Andrew White, attorney, LeClair Ryan and Hack Judge. “I was wrong as several of the products presented have great potential to become very useful tools and products in the market to help family caregivers stay healthy.  I think the Lindsay Institute's use of family caregivers matched up with teams probably had a lot to do with the utility and viability of the teams products'."

With the teams retaining ownership of their ideas, there was a surprise announced at the conclusion of the Hack. “We are thrilled to add a second round to the competition this year, enabling a team to take their technology to the next level,” Johnson said. “Through a Geriatric Training and Education (GTE) grant administered by the Virginia Center on Aging, we will provide $10,000 in seed funding and 10 hours of donated business and legal counsel from LeClairRyan to the winning 2 nd Round team, giving the team valuable tools to pursue the development of their idea that came out of the weekend.” All seven participating teams are eligible to submit an application for the 2 nd Round opportunity.

Any of the 7 participating schools are eligible to apply and, if awarded, the team will received $10,000 in seed funding and 10 hours of free emerging growth business/legal consult with Andrew White and/or Gary LeClair from LeClairRyan to take their idea to the next level.

Congrats and many thanks to ALL involved -- it was truly a HACK of an awesome weekend!

Click here to view pictures from the HACK.

Written by Jane King, Community Ambassador, AARP Virginia

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