Students present business ideas to serve aging population

With hopes of alleviating future problems associated with a rapidly growing elderly population, the Williamson College of Business Administration hosts the Ohio Professional and Student Conference on Aging every year.

Four Youngstown State University students and one Canfield High School teacher presented their business ideas at the 36th annual conference on Friday.

Seven business ideas were recognized at the Big Idea Symposium, with the top three ideas winning awards and cash prizes.

Donna Walsh, director of the Monus Entrepreneurship Center, was one of fourjudges.

“We were looking for ideas that were technically feasible, realistic and needed in society to help the aging population,” Walsh said.

Of the 187,485 people residing in Mahoning County, 147,901 are 35 or older, and 102,508 are 50 or older.

Americans from the baby boomer generation began reaching retirement age in 2011. The largest generation in American history, consisting of roughly 77 million people, will continue bloating the upper regions of the population period over the next 17 years.

Walsh said seven of the 27 submitted ideas were recognized with awards.

Jacob Schafer and James Golden, two YSU accounting students, presented their innovated protection system, Salus, which won them $100. Hypothetically, Salus would measure daily activity and is similar to products such as Life Alert.

Described as “a modern response to the question of personal safety and the daily ‘what ifs that face our aging society,’” Golden and Schafer said their idea could save lives.

If patented, Salus would measure the user’s vitals, such as pulse and blood pressure, as well as daily activity, making it easier for aging people to live independently.

Though they did not have a tangible model to show at the presentation, they provided a picture of a wristwatch-like device as a blueprint for their product.

“It’d be nice to have a positive impact on people’s lives,” Golden said.

Schafer said that, if the opportunity presents itself, the two would pursue a patent.

“You never know,” Schafer said. “It was just nice to have the opportunity to present the idea.”

Michael Metzinger, also a YSU accounting student, presented his TV video chat idea, which he said will keep the aging population connected, while keeping it technologically simple enough so that they will be able to utilize it.

His product would use Skype to connect people in nursing homes to their family and friends through a television webcam.

He developed the idea after noticing lonely residents at the nursing home he worked at.

“I noticed residents with more visitors were happier and more cheerful,” Metzinger said. “I wanted to help the lonely people and keep it simple for the people I’m selling it to.”

Erin Angelo, a Canfield High School teacher, and her husband, Joe Angelo, were the only non-students involved in Friday’s competition. They presented an idea to improve the lives of individuals with dementia.

They provided an example of their product, which they created for Erin Angelo’s mother during her battle with Alzheimer’s disease.

“These flash cards will not only benefit the patient, but the care giver as well,” Erin Angelo said. “Research has shown that providing visual cues with text large enough that the person can actually see will foster recognition of things that should be familiar to them but might not be.”

The flash cards are customized with pictures, scents and graphs to spark memories in the user’s mind.

“[The user] can’t remember what they ate for breakfast, or if they took their medication,” Erin Angelo said. “We cannot change that; what we can do is change the journey.”

Two honorable mention recipients presented their ideas at the conference.

Business management student Drew Banyon presented his pre-owned medical equipment plan because of increasing medical costs and an interest in the health care industry.

“I think it could be a common trend in the health care industry and help a lot of people in the long run,” Banyon said.

Nate Whaley, a marketing student, took his idea from his time spent at an internship at Camp Ramapo in New York.

He received an honorable mention for his self-sufficient plan for nursing homes where resident seniors take care of the other nursing home residents.

“This would allow people not receiving a Social Security check to receive living compensation and work in the same facility,” Whaley said.