AARP and the Magic of Accessibility

Overview The AARP Innovation Lab is developing tech solutions to address issues faced by older adults and those with disabilities.

For 60 years, AARP has championed innovation. The AARP Innovation Lab, The Hatchery, that launched four years ago is one example of their innovative spirit. The Hatchery is AARP’s answer to the growing community of startups across the country, and they are hoping to encourage future-focused solutions for older adults and their families.

The lab’s name is a reminder of AARP’s founding story: When AARP Founder Dr. Ethel Andrus met a retired teacher living in a chicken coop because she could not afford a home, Dr. Andrus made it her mission to help older adults.

We try to provide solutions that allow you to age as you want to age,” said Richard Robinson, vice president of product innovation at AARP, on the CES Tech Talk podcast.


Empowered Aging

The Hatchery focuses on three tenets that help turn ideas into marketed solutions that generate significant impact.

Product development: The team develops and builds products to address aging challenges from multiple angles.

Startup engagement: Collaboration with startups help spark innovation across generations.

Design thinking: The Hatchery also researches, explores and prototypes new ways to address people’s needs.

Robinson, whose team focuses on the product development tenet, said of The Hatchery’s mission, “Whether it’s people who have hearing impairment, or early onset dementia, [I want to] find solutions that disappear and become indistinguishable from magic, and solve and address these issues.”

The Hatchery creates solutions that shy away from calling out those with accessibility issues as they age, and instead blends into everyday needs.


New Opportunities for Entrepreneurs

As those who are 85 and older grow in number in the U.S. and entrepreneurs over the age of 45 join the market, Robinson highlights the opportunity for venture capitalists and entrepreneurs who focus on the demand for accessible tech solutions for older adults.

“A lot of folks who are over 50 now are much savvier technologically than they were 20 years ago,” Robinson said. “You have to take that into consideration when you’re developing products and marketing products to [that audience]. When I work with startups, I try to get them interested in thinking about this space because it is so important and, frankly, so large.”

Augmented reality and artificial intelligence are two technologies Robinson highlighted as examples of how tech innovation can be applied and taken advantage of to solve various problems.

Whether it’s people who have hearing impairment, or early onset dementia, [I want to] find solutions that disappear and become indistinguishable from magic, and solve and address these issues.

Richard Robinson
Vice President of Product Innovation, AARP


At CES® 2020, AARP Innovation Labs and the Consumer Technology Association (CTA)® Foundation partnered to present a pitch competition that featured innovative technologies that enable people of all ages to stay active and perform at their best.

AARP CEO JoAnn Jenkins also took the C Space Storyteller stage to talk about global aging and the development of new tech in this growing marketplace.

Learn more about the AARP Innovation Lab on the CES Tech Talk podcast and read about some of its products in i3 magazine.

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