Hello, Roosevelt Islanders! We are a group of Cornell Tech graduate students in the Masters of Engineering in Computer Science and Johnson Cornell Tech MBA programs.
Every spring semester, Cornell Tech students, across programs, work together to found their own startups. Through the Startup Studio curriculum, we develop an idea, product, and pitch, and work closely with practitioners and potential customers to build a new company.
This past semester, we had the opportunity to connect with the Roosevelt Island community as part of developing our startup company: Elroy.
Elroy is an app that aims to help older adults engage with essential and lifestyle services – apps like Uber, Seamless, and prescription refills – that will help them live easier and more independent lives. In order to make Elroy a helpful tool for older adults, we spent time getting to know our audience.
In March, we spent several days at the Roosevelt Island Senior Center interviewing more than 40 older adults about their current technology usage. We focused on their challenges as well as their successes, and we learned an incredible amount.
The older adults we spoke to on Roosevelt Island, on average, own more than 2.5 internet-connected devices (computers, phones, etc). We realized older adults are using technology, but are underutilizing essential services that could make their lives easier. Through our discussions, we found that was mainly due to two issues. The first is discoverability – meaning, finding the apps and services that will be helpful, and knowing which ones are reputable.
The second issue we found is usability. Too many apps are designed for digital natives and combine several steps into one. A prime example of this is Uber, where only 2% of riders are over the age of 55. Uber is easy to use for the millennial generation but can be overwhelming for older adults given the small screen, multitude of options, calls to action, and insider vocabulary. The time we spent with Roosevelt Islanders was invaluable in coming up with these insights and creating a solution that we think can have a real impact.
Elroy connects to other apps already on your phone. With the touch of a button, it can ask if you want CVS to refill a prescription or request a taxi from a ride-hailing app. Elroy asks key questions that are necessary to complete the task in a clear, easy-to-use way.
For example, after you click “request a cab” in Elroy, it will ask your destination and provide a drop-down list of likely options. The Elroy app communicates with Uber for you, giving it all the information it needs, but the user only experiences Elroy’s clear set of steps.
Longer term, we hope that apps like Elroy become helpful tools for older adults and other populations who find this new wave of lifestyle apps and services confusing and out of reach. We don’t want older adults to be left behind. The on-demand digital economy brings so many useful tools that everyone should have access to.
At Cornell Tech, we are focused on solving real problems. With Elroy, we hope to bridge the gap between these cutting-edge services and populations that are not currently benefiting from them.
We’d like to thank the Roosevelt Island older adults who worked with us. Their input was invaluable, and we loved getting to know them and spending some time on the Island.
For more information about Cornell Tech and the Startup Studio program, visit http://tech.cornell.edu.