CEO Harry Bailes, a lawyer-turned-entrepreneur, started Family Health Network in 2009 with a simple goal: to make technology both usable and useful for seniors. “Older people shouldn’t be thought of as liabilities but as assets,” he said. “They have become disconnected. Their health is dependent upon the roles that they play.”
Bailes, 65, said the burgeoning economic and psychological costs associated with living longer inspired him to create a way to bring families back together. The software allows seniors to keep in touch with their “circle of care” through a simple interface that facilitates video chats, emails, appointment scheduling and the sharing of family photos.
The software has a two-pronged approach that combines the fragmented efforts of its competitors. On one hand, Connected for Life serves as an aging services platform, targeting people who want to age in the comfort of their own homes while staying connected to their families. The software also helps strengthen the ties between seniors and their health care providers.
The first step in creating the software was designing a simple interface that seniors would find inviting: a photo carousel and a personal message center.
The center allows seniors to compose emails, choose from preset messages and record voice notes.
“The ability to send a message with a voice message attached for this older group of people, that’s been really very appealing,” Bailes said. “Now if you’re a granddaughter, you get this message and you hear your grandma talking to you.”
The next step was removing the physical keyboard, creating touch-screen capabilities or allowing for point-and-click commands.
“I believe that’s the major reason that a lot of older people haven’t embraced computers,” Bailes said. “The keyboard is a major problem, so there’s one on the screen.”
The software costs roughly $30 a month per family, and Bailes said he has about 100 clients right now. Slotnick was part of an initial pilot program in Fearrington Village and is using the software for free in exchange for providing feedback to the company.
Other companies, both big and small, are targeting the same market as Family Health Network. Intel and General Electric have a joint venture to develop technologies for senior living communities while Telikin, a Pennsylvania company, makes a computer that comes with software designed for seniors.
But Bailes argues that his company’s offering is unique. Telikin bundles hardware and software and, unlike Connected For Life, can’t simply be downloaded onto an existing computer, while GE and Intel are offering services at a different price point and selling their technology in a different way, he said.
Family Health Network has about a dozen employees, including contractors. Bailes said the company has received about $1 million from angel investors, grants and his own contributions. Before starting Family Health Network, Bailes was an executive vice president with Connexion Technologies, a Cary company that builds and manages telecommunication networks for residential communities.
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