- The Pathway to SilverStrides: A 22-Year-Old’s Venture into AgeTech, by Erin Kreis
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The Pathway to SilverStrides: A 22-Year-Old’s Venture into AgeTech, by Erin Kreis
One of my clearest memories of my Meamom (a.k.a. my grandmother) growing up is her walking laps around the mall. Determined to make a full recovery from her hip replacement, she drove herself to the mall at least three times a week without fail. I remember she always knew which stores were having sales.
My Meamom is now 93, still living independently, and in impressive health for her age. She and her doctors attribute much of that to her walking habit. She and my other grandparents have been a constant source of love and support my whole life.
My grandparents always emphasized the importance of education. So in the fall of 2019, I enrolled at Stevens Institute of Technology. I met professors doing incredible work to improve how people age, tackling problems like dementia, fall risk, and ageism. The Weickenmeier Lab welcomed me as an undergraduate researcher, although I had no experience. That was the first time I realized my studies could be a way to give back to my grandparents and other wonderful older adults like them.
Around the same time, I joined Launchpad@Stevens, an accelerator teaching engineers the business skills to launch a company. In one of the first exercises, we discussed pain points; what bothered us about the world? The common theme in my answers was clear: lack of accessible technology for older adults. Despite the fascinating research in gerontology, developers often overlook older adults. Contrary to the stereotypes, I believe older adults can efficiently use and benefit immensely from technology.
When I decided to build a walking app, it just fit. Walking is not only a core memory of mine with my grandparents; but also a safe and powerful way to improve collective health. Older adults face two difficult obstacles in inactivity and loneliness. Both can lead to chronic pain, disease, and even premature death. Walking with friends and family keeps the body moving and stimulates the mind producing incredible benefits for physical and mental health.
Building the SilverStrides app is the hardest thing I have ever done but also the most rewarding. A self-taught developer, I had to learn to think differently and be resourceful. Last fall, I organized the inaugural Hoboken 1-Mile 55+ Walk/Run. I started SilverStrides during COVID, so it was dangerous to meet in person with older adults, including my grandparents. This event celebrated launching the app and reconnecting with the community. Watching Hoboken residents make new walking buddies and try out the app made it real. It made it worth it.