Modern Aging China: A Focus on Innovation

The speakers from the event and the ACCESS Health Beijing team.


Following the success of the Modern Aging China launch event and first entrepreneurial community event in Shanghai, we organized our first Modern Aging China event in Beijing. The Beijing event, which focused on entrepreneurship in the aging industry, took place at Tsinghua Science Park.

At the beginning of the program, Chang Liu, our managing director for Singapore, Mainland China, and Hong Kong, introduced ACCESS Health and Modern Aging. Dr. Liu spoke about our Modern Aging Sweden and Singapore programs and explained how these programs served as models for the Modern Aging China program in Beijing and Shanghai.

Next, Ninie Wang, the founder and chief executive officer of Pinetree Care Group, spoke about the need for innovation in the Chinese elder care market. In 2004, Ms. Wang founded Pinetree, the first and fastest growing professional home healthcare provider for the aging population in China.

Ms. Wang shared lessons from her entrepreneurial experience. The accelerated aging of the population presents huge opportunities in China, she explained. We should optimize how care is provided in the aging industry by looking to international experience and making use of digital technologies. She reminded the entrepreneurs in the audience to pay attention to three major contradictions in reality:

Market potential versus efficient demands – a large elderly population base might show huge market potential, but the number of your target clients does not necessarily equal to the total amount of the elderly. Entrepreneurs need to identify actual demand among the elderly at the present moment.

Zero versus one and the good versus the excellent – it is a natural process for any business to start from zero to one, and then try to move from the good to the excellent. Excellence is not the enemy of the good, so entrepreneurs should not let the pursuit of excellence prevent them from trying out good ideas.

National policy versus effective implementation – there is a gap between the new national policy, as written, and how policy is actually implemented at the regional level. Entrepreneurs should navigate their businesses based on how policy is implemented in reality.

Ms. Wang then spoke about the business model and services provided by Pinetree. Pinetree focuses on elders who need rehabilitation and restorative care at home. Previously, Pinetree healthcare professionals, including doctors, nurses, rehabilitation experts, psychological consultants, and social workers, only provided home visits. Today, the company has introduced telemedicine and online consultation with the launch of Health Plus. Health Plus offers both home visits and online consultation. Health Plus provides continuous services through smart home tools. Pinetree healthcare professionals are able to provide tailored services and treatment through video conferencing and home visits at any time. Ms. Wang also offered a demonstration of the latest online interaction application and tablet tool to show how Pinetree provides instant counseling services to clients.

Dr. Au
Dr. Rhoda Au spoke about the latest research innovations in improving care and the lives of the elderly.

Rhoda Au, professor of neurology at Boston University and senior investigator of the Framingham Heart Study, gave a presentation titled, “Chronic Disease Prevention in the Aged: Current Challenges and Potential Business Driven Solutions.” Dr. Au gave an overview of the aging issues, both globally and in China. In China, the leading cause of death is chronic disease, which are associated with heavy economic costs for treatment. It is estimated by researchers that reducing cardiovascular disease by one percent for thirty years would add 10.7 trillion US dollars back into the economy. Compared with disease monitoring and treatment, disease prevention is a better way to reduce the burden of disease.

Dr. Au next spoke about her current project, Aging Well. The core of Aging Well is chronic disease prevention. The project combines four dimensions: research, technology, education, and the application of new technology. Dr. Au showed videos of experiments observing and measuring the behavior of the elderly. She then explained how researchers would use the experimental data to analyze problems and create prevention applications to address these problems.

Dr. Au sees tremendous business opportunities in the aging sector. She called for closer collaboration between academia and the business world. She suggested a research to market pipeline, which would propel the efficient commercialization of scientific achievements. Dr. Au shared an example from Digital Cognition Technologies, designed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Lahey Clinic. Researchers digitized the process of the elderly drawing a clock by using special pen and paper. This application of new technology enables researchers to capture and collect up to five hundred measurements on mild cognitive impairment, such as drawing speed, pause time, pause frequency, throughout the digital drawing process. Since China lacks training systems for cognitive science professionals, there will be a big market for the commercialization of cognitive science measurements in the future, Dr. Au explained. To meet this opportunity requires that entrepreneurs intensify interdisciplinary cooperation.

Hugh Rashid, founder of Xavor and design thinking instructor, gave a talk on design thinking and innovation in the aging sector. Great innovation is the combination of technology and meaning, explained Dr. Rashid. If we want to propel innovation in the aging sector, first we need to redefine aging. This redefinition requires three steps: listening, interpreting, and addressing. We will gain a deeper understanding of aging through listening. We can seek out resources from LinkedIn, inspirational stories from TED Talks, and university research centers on aging.

We need to understand different interpretations from various paths to broaden our perspective. The website Designs On- is a good place to discover creative ideas from different people. This website provides several examples of aging innovation, such as Care BnB, which combines AirBnB and elder care, and Overdelivery, which encourages deliverymen to spend a little time with the elderly in their homes during the delivery, and give feedback to care organizations.

When addressing problems, we need to be human centered and empathetic. We need to have the mindset of a beginner. We should learn to sketch experiences and stories, make models and prototype first, and then produce multiple iterations.

Zhiliang Zhao, a traditional craftsperson in Beijing, makes hairy monkeys by hand.
Zhiliang Zhao, a traditional craftsperson in Beijing, makes hairy monkeys by hand.

Dr. Rashid offered takeaway suggestions for the entrepreneurs: observe and deeply understand human problems and situations; listen and learn from a community of interpreters; come up with amazing human scenarios of possibilities and new ideas; prototypes, not slides, bring ideas to life; build a team, because venture capitals fund teams, not individuals; don’t be afraid to fail.

In the closing session, Dr. Liu presented a “hairy monkey” as gifts to the three speakers. The year 2016 is the year of the monkey for the Chinese people. The hairy monkey is crafted from the shell of a cicada and other natural materials that have significance in Chinese medicine. The hairy monkey is a folk craft of old Beijing. Zhiliang Zhao, a traditional craftsperson in Beijing, made our hairy monkeys by hand.

More than fifty participants attended the Beijing event. The audience actively engaged, raising important questions and sharing their own thinking about opportunities in the aging sector. After the event wrapped up, some of the attendees stayed behind to talk to the speakers, introduce themselves, and connect with other entrepreneurs.

Modern Aging China plans to hold events on a monthly basis, in both Beijing and Shanghai. The format of the events will range from small group discussions to large forums. Modern Aging China will recruit members into our community of entrepreneurs, cultivate and support innovative business plans, and encourage the entrepreneurship of the younger generation in the aging industry. Stay tuned for upcoming opportunities to join the Modern Aging China community! For updated event information, please follow our official WeChat account: AccessHealth.

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