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New project aims to improve products for seniors

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AARP has launched a new program to aid developers of popular and emerging products in finding ways to improve them for mature consumers.

The initiative, called Project Catalyst, will give insight into how Americans 50 and older use technology, with the first of several studies to focus on activity and sleep trackers. In conjunction with UnitedHealthcare and Pfizer Inc., the studies aim to accelerate innovation for aging Americans.   

"Technology that is designed well – designed for all – can be used by a 5-year-old and a 95-year-old, alike. We are thrilled about starting this study and commencing the launch of the Project Catalyst program,” saidJody Holtzman, AARP senior vice president of Thought Leadership. "The goals of Project Catalyst are in direct alignment with the mission of AARP – to identify challenges and determine solutions to improve the quality of life for people as they age."

Project Catalyst engages consumers in the innovation process by providing valuable feedback on product functionality and design – from the time users open the packaging and as they incorporate the technology into their daily lives. Project Catalyst is the latest in a series of efforts led by AARP to raise awareness of the economic power of consumers who are 50-plus and conduct research about their wants and needs regarding innovative products.

This influential demographic is comprised of over 100 million people responsible for at least$7.1 trillionin annual economic activity – a figure that is expected to reach well over$13.5 trillionin real terms by 2032, according toOxford Economics.

Georgia Tech Research Institute is conducting the first study, which involves up to 80 consumers age 50 and older who are testing five different sleep and activity tracking devices over a six-week period. Researchers will evaluate how the study participants use the products and will record barriers and user engagement with some of the most popular activity and sleep trackers on the market. 

Researchers will not rank the products, but will determine where the technology is serving the needs of older consumers and areas where the users want improvements. 

Product developers will receive comprehensive results on their own specific product, providing them with actionable insights to help drive innovation. Overall findings about how people in the study use the devices and barriers they find will be shared publicly.

The findings from the study on sleep and activity trackers will be available inJune 2015.

Project Catalyst is an interdisciplinary initiative engaging leaders in healthcare, technology and research as well as innovators and consumers. Under the leadership of AARP and in conjunction with UnitedHealthcare and Pfizer, this model will allow study outcomes and learnings to be shared publicly to help spur the development of potential breakthrough products and services for the 50-plus population. 

"With the 50-plus population representing a large portion of the patients who depend on our medicines, we recognize the importance of finding innovative solutions to challenges such as medication management and adherence," saidWendy Mayer, vice president, Worldwide Innovation, Pfizer. "Project Catalyst has potential to enable collaboration across multiple stakeholder groups with the common goal of delivering the best value, and we look forward to continuing our longtime partnership with AARP."

"The goals of Project Catalyst are aligned with UnitedHealthcare's commitment to being older Americans' partners in a healthier future," saidTom Paul,chief consumer officer at UnitedHealthcare. "We're grateful for the opportunity to help healthcare technology better meet the needs and wants of consumers 50 and older through this initiative."

Project Catalyst builds on the long-standing commitment by AARP to ensure Americans 50-plus are part of the technology and innovation ecosystem.

AARP's Innovation Team joined UnitedHealthcare to launchwww.longevitynetwork.orglast year. The website highlights nine health frontier areas that are ripe for investment and invention that can serve the wants and needs of the 50-plus community. I

n addition, the AARP Innovation team is conducting a series of "LivePitch" events to identify and promote entrepreneurs who are developing health care products and services for the 50+ community. These events, which have been held for the past three years, have attracted more than 400 applications and helped companies raise approximately$47 millionin venture capital – funding that was unaffiliated with AARP.

For more information about Project Catalyst please visitwww.aarp.org/projectcatalyst.

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