My running buddy, Lawrence Kosick, and I were regularly asked for tech support by older relatives. Lawrence helped his 90-year-old father set up a new smartwatch via phone, which was not ideal, but there wasn’t anywhere else for him to turn. Older adults are determined to break stereotypes, and driven by the belief that life will continue to get better, yet some remain painfully underserved online. There was a clear need for an online educational and social space just for elders ages 50 and older.
Using our experience in edtech and in building new businesses, in 2020 we launched GetSetUp—an interactive platform for this cohort, with peer-to-peer teaching that offers classes around the clock on thousands of subjects in a global community. The company name originated from a goal to get everyone set up digitally, help them to understand their devices, and reap the most from their online experiences—fundamentally reducing the global digital divide.
We listened to GetSetUp’s Learners, and that mission quickly expanded, to empower older adults to befriend other Learners and acquire new skills, in a safe and welcoming space, where they can thrive and open new doors to opportunities in learning, work, health, socialization and technology.
Understanding the Extent of the Need
Knowing that a lack of real connection and isolation can have life-threatening consequences, we made social inclusion a primary focus. GetSetUp Learners have a sense of community, a routine and are building meaningful friendships while continuing their lifelong learning.
Our support for making meaningful connections remains key to what we do, which is why we launched The Lounge, for Learners to chat before classes and enable involvement in classes without any software downloads. This has helped build confidence in users.
Health and wellness classes have made a considerable difference in Learners’ level of activity offline.
The transformative power of community and education is unchallenged, and we built the infrastructure to support it.
In addition to our unique learning platform and engaged social media accounts, we’ve launched an app, have a catalog of more than 4,000 classes, employ many people who are older than age 50 (40% of our staff) and have fostered more friendships than could be counted.
In just over two years we’ve grown to become the largest global social learning platform for older adults, supporting them by onboarding ex-teachers and subject matter experts who would become our Guides, with one qualifying factor—they must be older than age 50 and have a passion for lifelong learning.
Working with governments, organizations, and healthcare partners, we provide communities with custom classes for mental and social engagement, technology classes, onboarding services to reduce the digital divide and job reskilling to open a world of economic opportunity.
Early in the pandemic, GetSetUp partnered with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, creating how-to classes for some services that were forced online. The human point of contact was suddenly unavailable to Michigan’s older community, and these elders needed help understanding how to book their vaccines, so live classes talked them through what they needed to do.
Since then, we have run classes to help people navigate local Michigan government websites and a number of Michiganders have stepped up to host classes on topics they are passionate about. This helped bridge the digital divide and mitigate social isolation.
“We believe this platform helps reduce social isolation, by empowering older adults when it comes to using technology while providing a safe place to learn, grow and make friends,” said Dr. Alexis Travis, (former) Senior Deputy Director of the Michigan Aging and Adult Services Agency.
Our selection of health and wellness classes has made a considerable difference in Learners’ level of activity offline. At least 31% of Learners rated their physical health as very good or excellent after becoming members of the community, compared to just 7% prior to joining. Participation from Learners is directly improving socialization and physical and mental health, while offering a stronger sense of purpose.
What Makes GetSetUp Unique
At our core, we believe older adults have much more to do and give. We create the environment and opportunities for them to learn, grow, and inspire others.
For example, the launch of the Cookbook project this year has seen dozens of aspiring cooks share their passion and family recipes with the community. This has led to fascinating story sharing, Learners taking part in classes cooking their recipes live, and will be featured in an upcoming book publication.
‘We now support more than 4.6 million users from across the globe.’
Our Start-Up Accelerator Program, launched in March, invited budding older entrepreneurs to join a series of classes and mentorship sessions, empowering them to start or scale their business into something rewarding and prosperous. After the 12-week course, the participants will have new marketing, business, technology, Social Media and communication skills to apply to their business dreams and culminate in a Demo Day.
Becoming the place for older adults to pursue those passions and continue creating, growing, and giving back is a privilege.
We now support more than 4.6 million users from across the globe. We’ve impacted many of those lives at such a deep level that we hear stories from learners constantly. Like Diane, who retired just as the pandemic lockdowns began and depression crept in.
“I used to feel sad, and take lots of naps, but last Tuesday (for example) I took seven classes in one day. I live alone, and this gets me into the world. Attending classes has given me purpose, and there are seemingly limitless choices for me,” she said.
Looking at the Future
Our goal is for all people older than age 50 to have reliable internet access on a usable device, and be able to use GetSetUp for free thanks to government and healthcare partnerships investing in their older community members.
Join us as we keep charging along that road, improving later life and encouraging older adults to live, what can be, the most fulfilling days of their lives.
Neil Dsouza is the CEO and co-founder of GetSetUp.
Photo: GetSetUp Guide Pilar Rodriguez sets up for cooking class.
Photo credit: Courtesy GetSetUp.