COVID-19: What innovations do care providers need? [Adelaide edition]

​The Aging2.0 Adelaide Chapter pre-launch kickoff, organised by Mark Ogden and supported by Mike Rungie was to be held last Friday 20th March, but was cancelled due to COVID-19. The event had over 90 people registered – an impressive turnout for a pre-meeting – and there’s clearly lots of interest in Adelaide around ageing innovation. Instead of the meeting we put together a Zoom call with Mark, Mike and Megan Corlis, head of Research and Development at Helping Hand (‘a not-for-profit organisation offering help at home, retirement living and residential care to over 7,000 older South Australians’) to discuss some of the specific needs  for innovation that COVID-19 is creating. 

In this wide-ranging discussion – the video is available here – we covered a number of areas that came up as potential needs. We didn’t spend too much time on the medical side of things, and this was just one conversation, but hopefully a starting point. We’d like to hear from other providers about how they’re coping and what they need from the global Aging2.0 community. Comments and feedback welcome! 

Consumer-facing issues

  • Reducing isolation and maintaining connection. Increasing loneliness is inevitable as people are cut off from visitors, and many social programs are being put on hold. This is particularly a challenge for residential buildings which are now generally on lockdown (and often have rules that require anybody who has to leave the building be confined to their room for 14 days). Are there virtual solutions, for example, enabling shared meals? How can these be scaled up? Are there good options for keeping in contact with family members, other than video calls? One issue that came up was the challenges is moving home care workers into residential communities, given the need to maintain care. How to make it easier for family members to keep in touch.
  • Access to exercise and physical activity. Keeping people inside makes it even harder to get access to sufficient exercise and fresh air. There’s a need for solutions that enable people to exercise virtually and also socially.  

Operational issues

  • Access to products. Getting masks, gloves and PPE equipment is getting harder. “Masks that used to cost 5cents are now over a dollar.” Are there ways to develop direct relationships with providers (some sites are going direct, e.g. getting toilet paper direct from Sorbent)? Can we find out what is already available at different sites? For example, some smaller sites had large quantities of masks that they shared with others.
  • Managing volunteers. Lots of people can no longer volunteer in residential communities, still more would like to do more to help. How do we vet people. Interesting example mentioned in vancouver – ice hockey team. 
  • Working from home. Most businesses have been so reliant on in-person presence they don’t have the mindsets, business processes or IT capabilities around running productive operations from home. 
  • Managing business as usual. As management attention and priorities go to firefighting the crisis, it’s hard to know how and whether to focus resources and attention on managing the non-COVID-19 related planning for example planning new buildings and other strategic initiatives. 

Business challenges

  • How to fund innovation? Many of the interesting ideas are still early with an unproven business model. Are there opportunities to utilise unused “home care” packages in Australia?
  • Market intelligence. Lots of providers ‘don’t know what they don’t know’ and the space is fragmented. Many would find it useful to look at best practices from other areas, and share single ideas or problems (such as taking residents out to a veranda so they can chat with their family and friends from a safe distance).

Policy and governance issues

  • How to change the narrative? There’s a need to change from the existing model of dependency and negativity towards one where older people are integrated into society more effectively, and existing businesses are prioritising their needs. Need some momentum to show progress of a new way of doing things, such as Stitch, which is connecting people around shared passions rather than just their age or sense of isolation. 


Other South Australia care providers that were mentioned as doing interesting / innovative things included: Anglicare, St Hilarions and St Basil’s

A number of startups that were mentioned included: CareApp, Stitch, Sweat, Seniorly

About the Author

Stephen Johnston MBA is a co-founder of Aging2.0 a global innovation platform for aging and senior care, founder of Fordcastle, an innovation consultancy and a member of the Future Agenda, the world’s largest open foresight initiative. Stephen serves on the board of Music and Memory a New York 501c3 nonprofit focused on improving the quality of life for older people, He is co-author of Growth Champions (Wiley, 2012), a book about sustainable corporate growth. He has an MA in Economics from Cambridge University and an MBA from Harvard Business School where he was a Fulbright Scholar.