As president and CEO of Institute for the Ages, Tom Esselman understands the value of Sarasota’s aging demographic. In fact, the city’s disproportionately older population is what drew him here in June.
At his previous job, at Hallmark Cards, Esselman helped innovate the singing greeting cards, which proved to be popular among older customers. Esselman moved to Sarasota to conduct further research on older consumers, before being recruited by Institute for the Ages.
A product of Sarasota County Openly Plans for Excellence, Institute for the Ages opened six months ago with the support of Sarasota County, local community foundations and residents. The institute aims to advance innovations in products, services and policies to improve lives among increasingly aging communities.
“Sarasota’s aging demographic should be seen as an asset,” said Esselman. “Our demographic right now reflects what most communities will look like in 20-to-25 years. We have a chance to be a true global leader in how communities can embrace issues associated with older populations.”
The institute is open and ready to put its mission into action. Its inaugural study seeks 30 volunteers, ages 75 and older who live alone and keep in touch with adult family members or friends on a regular basis.
The study, funded by San Francisco-based company Lively seeks to test a product that will monitor the daily activities of older residents who live alone, to provide greater peace of mind. Throughout the 30-day study, participants provide feedback as to whether they think the product enhances their lives and offer suggestions on how the product might be improved.
According to Esselman, this solves a major problem in the development of products marketed toward the older population: a lack of adequate input from the older adults who will be using the products.
“The older people in Sarasota are active, collaborative and willing to be engaged,” said Esselman. “They want to be involved and help influence new products and policies.”
The institute will continue conducting studies in hopes of attracting startups and entrepreneurs who see a need for products and services to improve the lives of older adults.
If You Go
Positive Aging Pioneers Lecture
What: The Institute for the Ages President and CEO Tom Esselman will provide the community with an update.
When: 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 15
Where: New College’s Mildred Sainer Pavilion, 5313 Bay Shore Road
Cost: $15, or $75 for entire six-lecture series. Free for New College students and faculty.
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