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July 26, 2018 Shownotes:

In our digitally connected world, one group is more isolated than ever. According to Pew Research, seniors are consistently the last to adopt new technology, resulting in a lack of social interaction that can have dire consequences. So, how do we introduce technology in a way that is accessible to the senior population? In today’s episode of The 19: Healthcare, Orange Label Agency Principal Rochelle Reiter talks to Dr. Kerry Burnight who is helping seniors stay connected through an innovative device called GrandPad.

The 19: Healthcare – Episode 10: Closing the Tech Age Gap

Orange Label Podcast Script

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Recorded Intro:

This is The 19. In 19 minutes or less, game-changing Insights in Healthcare from Orange Label, the leading response marketing agency for established brands that are driven by a fearless entrepreneurial mindset.

Host Intro:

Hey! This is Rochelle Reiter, Agency Principal at Orange Label. Now, I don’t have to tell you that we’re living in a digital age. I mean, take a look around right now. Chances are you’ll see at least one person scrolling through their Instagram feed, typing out a text message or talking on the phone. These days, our devices are so much more than a screen connected to buttons, wires and microchips – they’re our primary point of connection to the outside world. Every day, we look to our smartphones and laptops for answers to our questions, for updates from friends and family and so much more. Devices bring convenience and comfort to people’s lives and it’s no surprise that everyone is adopting the latest technology – Well, nearly everyone. According to Pew Research “people ages 65 and older consistently have lower rates of technology adoption than the general public,” as well as an overall lack of accessibility – and this trend seems to be negatively affecting the community of older adults. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that almost a quarter of men and nearly 46 percent of women over 75 live alone, and studies show that these feelings of loneliness can lead to major health problems and cognitive decline. So, how do we introduce technology in a way that is accessible to the senior population? Well, that’s where Dr. Kerry Burnight comes in.

A former professor of Geriatric Medicine and Gerontology at the University of California Irvine and founder and director of the nation’s first Elder Abuse Forensic Center and the national non-profit, Ageless Alliance, Kerry’s advocacy for older adults has brought her as far as the The White House and she has appeared as an expert on shows such as Dr. Phil, CBS news and The Doctors. Now, she brings her years of experience to GrandPad, a device specifically designed to help seniors stay connected. Kerry, welcome to The 19: Healthcare!

KB: I’m delighted to be here today.


Well first off can you tell us a little bit about your background in Healthcare?

KB: I could summarize it by the word gerontology. Every step of the way I’ve been working with, learning from, and enjoying older adults. So, my doctorate is in the study of aging and I was a professor then for 20 years at UCI in geriatric medicine. And that led me to work in the field of elder abuse and financial exploitation. So, we were ah, honored to start the nation’s first elder abuse forensic center. Where we combatted about 1500 cases of elder abuse and neglect. And in order to help those efforts ahum, we created a nonprofit called ageless alliance. And in order to scale our efforts I am involved with an organization that is combining gerontology with technology to improve the lives of millions of seniors, and that’s called GrandPad.


Ok and for our listeners how would you describe GrandPad and what it is?

KB: GrandPad is essentially a window into the lives of older adults. You can think of it as a platform and that platform for connection we created from scratch to look like a standard tablet. But that’s where the similarities end. Because GrandPad is different in every way from a standard tablet. For example, there are no passwords, there’s no set up. At a touch of a button you can reach a real human who can walk you through anything that you need. The reason that we created it was that I’ve seen with my patients that we create products for twenty-year-olds with tiny buttons and tiny plugs and frustrating WiFi needs. And then we quote train older adults to use these products that were never designed for them. So, this I hope is a move toward the future of designing products by, for and with those 80 and above. If you picture the GrandPad tablet it doesn’t even have an on and on off button. You open the cover and it’s on. The buttons are big you can press one button and a picture of all your loved ones are on there. Press their picture and you’re doing a video call to their phone. We for example have included 30 million songs with no need to pay more or download or remember passwords. We’ve enabled of course phone calling, but also news, transportation, weather, games all in one place with the hope of empowering seniors to have the autonomy of taking control of technology as opposed to being controlled by technology.


That’s amazing. So, if I was to want to get a GrandPad how would how does it work, how does the set up work? And how do you gain access to a GrandPad?

KB: What we find is most the time it’s family members who reach out to GrandPad and you know order it either on line or through a telephone call. And we have a member experience team who works very closely with the family members and with a 90-year-old a lot of times their Adult children are in their 60’s or 70’s it doesn’t require that their particularly tech savvy either. So, you if you wanted one for your 80, 90, 100 year old mother. You would contact GrandPad and then a human would set it up through the iCloud technology it’s all set up by the time that it arrives at the senior’s home. And we have a 90/90 principle, so that a 90-year-old must be able to use and be delighted with the GrandPad in 90 seconds. So, there’s no twisties, there’s no set up, it arrives you open the cover it has your family pictures on it, it has your family contacts on it, and even your favorite music. Because we have to personalize because ahum, we become unique as we get older, as opposed to more the same. So the more we can make it individualized the greater the joy of the user.


So, What do you believe are the benef it’s or what do you believe the benef it’s to be for older adults of GrandPad ?

KB: I believe and have seen through the research the biggest benefit to be the eradication of chronic isolation. And That is an area of research that I’ve been very involved in. and what we found is that being chronically isolated is equivalent to smoking fifteen cigarettes a day and yet it’s something we can really do something about. So by using this technology to connect humans you see decreases in dementia, decreases in deprecation, and even physiologically the reduction in some of the inflammation processes that result in Cancer, stroke, and heart disease. So, in my opinion the benefit can’t be underestimated about connecting humans. And my first choice is that humans be connected in person. But short of that connected with a video call is my second choice. And we’ve also found that by connecting through technology it leads to more in person connection.


Wow, so we talked about the joy of the user. What about the Joy of the family member that’s interacting with their mother, father, aunt, uncle?

KB: I’m so glad you brought that up, because I see every day the changing the lives of older adults. But also the lives of their entire extended family. So the GrandPad is the point of contact, and the senior is the center of the family hub. But all the kids, and grandkids and in-laws are all connected through a free app on their telephones. Or if they prefer it can be through their computers. So we really capitalized on the existing technology. We have a group of Grand advisors a team of people 80 ah, 90 and our oldest grand advisor who is 104. who tell us what they like and don’t like. And it’s the only way you can design something that’s truly user friendly. And what they said was we want to be able to type in our responses when we see the pictures, but we don’t want to have to do that. So we engineered a button you can use your voice and so you would see a picture, Ah I see this performance in Wisconsin. And then it sends so the whole family can immediately hear their loved one’s voice commenting on the picture. And that is true with Email as well. You have the choice, if you want to type an email terrific, if you want to use your voice perhaps even better.


That’s amazing. So what forms of marketing are you using to get the word out about GrandPad?

KB: In the very beginning we thought because we’re so senior focused, that our market was older adults. And what we quickly learned it was the family members. Because older adults have been burned by technology. And that makes ever sense in the world that they would not want to participate having had such bad experiences.  So what we learned first of all in marketing is that we’re marketing to the family. Particularly adult daughters, ages probably about 40 to 70 are our biggest consumers. And what they want is the peace of mind, these people want to be good daughters and good sons. And so we need to find a way to give the message that they can be. And teach this centrality of the autotomy of older adults. So that’s a whole other Oprah but it’s so tempting because we’ve all learned how to be parents to think that we’re quote parenting our loved ones who are older and that’s the recipe for disaster. You’re not a parent to your parent because that’s gonna cause all this friction and tension. So if you can reformat your mind is that your parent is the boss, and your job as a good and loving family member. Is to provide ways to support the decision making and strength and power of the senior in your life. And if you can do that it will change your relationship with mom or dad forever.


Wow such a good message. Now what have you found to be the easiest vehicle to reach the family in terms of media? Are you doing PR, are you doing radio, or are you doing television, or using digital ads?

KB: Yes we are doing all of those. And what we have found we have recently formed a partnership with Consumer Cellular. And Consumer Cellular is kind of live Verizon, or T-Mobile except they really specialize in data for I’d say older adults but ages maybe 50 and older. So by partnering with them we have been capitalizing on their success that they’ve had with their millions of members. And a big and successful way was advertising through AARP. And so AARP’s magazine goes out to 40 million seniors, so we’ve put a full page ad in that magazine and that has been helpful. Social media are constantly putting out information that’s not just about GrandPad but it’s about aging. And there’s a big hunger for people to want to be doing the best thing but not having the what to expect when you’re expecting a guide to aging. And then we’ve also put together commercials that we have aired on CNN and home channels, networks that women who are around my age watch.


Okay, now do you find that promotional messages pull more? Do you notice a jump in those in those time periods?

KB: WE do. So what we wanted because we’ve all ah, are quick to think oh a tablet I already tried an ad an iPad that won’t work for my mom. We’ve found that by offering for people to use it for free for a month. As soon as it arrives, and they see how different it is, then they keep it beyond then. So we do use a free trial and that has made it successful for us.


That’s great. How do define how would you define success for the GrandPad brand as a whole? You’re doing marketing you’re doing the promotional messages, giving almost a guarantee if you will. How do you define success for it? I know that education is a big role for you and your passion for the company as well.

KB: Right, so the way that GrandPad works it’s a monthly subscription. So you pay it initially $200. And then there’s a monthly $40 a month. Which is an amazing deal, because it includes your data and a live person who will help you any time of the day or night. So, success to us is that recurring subscriptions continues. So it’s really important to us we can never stop delighting the customer. Because if you’re not using the GrandPad then you’ll send it back. And so for example, somebody is not clicking the GrandPad, we know because every tap is recorded. And then we can reach out and say you know are you familiar with this feature. You might like to try the Lift transportation app. Which will help you with your transportation needs. And we look at why people stop service is because they pass away. And so that we that we understand ahum, and then even big picture what is success? Success is back to our mission which is to improve the lives of millions of seniors and their families. So I just feel like we can’t rest until we have millions of older adults whose lives are improved as a result of this platform.


Wow, What’s exciting or inspiring to you in the world of healthcare that that you’re seeing right now?

KB: One is that there’s so many seniors and there are not enough caregivers to care for the seniors that we have. And it’s hard for the family members. So right now, in our nation there are 43 Million family members caring for seniors. So, what is exciting to me and what is hopeful to me is that we might be able to both GrandPad and a number of companies. To use technology to help humans provide care. I think we have to be very cognizant of healthcare professionals about how we’re using technology. If it’s used to empower, to connect it’s very promising. If we’re using it to dehumanize or marginalize ahum, then I think there’s really a big risk.


What is one piece of advice that you could offer to other healthcare brands and marketers from your experience in dealing with the healthcare market?

KB: All healthcare is ultimately aging related because we spend 3.4 trillion dollars on health care but 65% of that is for senior care. So every one of us privileged to be in the healthcare arena needs to be thinking about this big portion of the population that is adding to itself by 10 thousand adults every day are turning 65. My advice is to think about your ultimate consumer, that is the older adult, as someone who is not to be paternalized or made less than or we’re gonna do this for you, or you’re cute. So, every healthcare company can really look at their materials is this empowering to be strong, and aspirational about what it’s like to live to a hundred. Or is it weak and oh poor them and because I think if you’re not in the new paradigm of empowerment, people are not gonna you’re your product. And they’re not gonna stand for it. And that’s what cool about the baby boomers coming through they are not going to stand for this paternalizing seniors. So, look at your marketing and think does this paint seniors with the respect and strength that they deserve. Or are we painting them as recipients of our charity or care.


I love that. Kerry, thank you so much for joining us today. I’ve known you for I think it’s been ten years. You have truly changed my life and my perspective about getting older. And I just love to hear you talk about older adults and how we can support them for the future, and empower their decision making. So, thank you so much for joining us today on the 19.

KB: Oh it’s my pleasure thanks very much.


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Host Close:

Thank you for listening to The 19: Healthcare – Closing the Tech Age Gap

If you have additional thoughts on this topic, send us an email! You can send questions, comments and more to Be sure subscribe to The 19 on iTunes and Google Play, and, if you like what you heard today, leave us a review!

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Recorded close:

This was The 19. Brought to you by Orange Label. If you’re interested in MORE healthcare response marketing, visit our blog and subscribe to our content, where we share our response marketing expertise on current healthcare industry topics. Visit for all the details.

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