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Startup aims to help aging veterans at home (Video)

Friday - 7/18/2014, 6:49am  ET

Older veterans could benefit from the services offered by Blue Star Veterans Network. (David McNew/Getty Images News)

Sophie Ho, special to

WASHINGTON -- The mission of Blue Star Veterans Network is simple: use technology to ease the lives of millions of aging veterans in the comfort of their homes.

By providing a range of products that can help monitor health or call for assistance, the Bethesda-based startup company aims to help aging veterans pursue an independent lifestyle, while being connected to medical professionals, family members and caretakers.

The goal is to provide existing technologies geared towards "aging-in-place" for veterans in a one-stop shop website.

It seems a little paradoxical at times -- Blue Star's main target is an aging demographic that is usually not linked to tech-savvy living. But, as CEO and retired Navy Admiral Rob Wray puts it, Blue Star isn't simply about the technology and products.

"The real goal is to provide technology where it currently isn't," says Wray. "Your average 85-year-old doesn't know about the technology, and that‘s where we come in."

Blue Star's products are divided into three categories -- safety, health and connectivity. Hardware products include wearable technologies such as the Blue Star Service Watch, a wristwatch with a button veterans can push when in need of assistance or in an emergency.

Other products include technologies that can help monitor health, such as blood pressure cuffs that could alert family members of the veteran's health. Outside of the hardware technologies, Blue Star also aims to provide software, such as brain- training programs similar to Lumosity for seniors.

The company also hopes to launch a free online network to help veterans and their families connect with others of similar experiences, as well as provide access to programs and resources.

Ideally, customers can customize their service packages to pick and choose which technologies they want in what Wray hopes will be "a seamless experience."

"We're really trying to not dumb things down, but to make them simple," he added. "With 80-year-olds, it doesn't take much technology to flummox them -- we're trying to make it unflummoxable."

According to the 2012 American Community Survey, there are about 9.6 million veterans 65 or older, about twenty percent of the entire 65 or older population in the U.S. While Wray notes that the experience of aging veterans may not be more difficult than a non-veteran, the desire to exclusively serve the veteran population stems from the company's hope to give back to those who have served.

Twenty percent of the company's profits will go to veteran-related causes and organizations.

Though services already exist to aid aging veterans hoping to live independently - - such as Purple Heart Homes' Veterans Aging in Place Program, which modifies veterans' homes for increased accessibility -- Wray says his company is the only one to put all these technologies into one comprehensive service.

Blue Star recently launched a crowdsourcing campaign on IndieGoGo to try and spread its message, endeavoring to raise $72,500 by July 26. Though Wray says the company isn't the usual "crowdsourcing campaign," he says Blue Star has already connected with people interested in the network's goal and mission.

"We want to use existing technologies and make them be useful and utilized by the folks that need them," he says. "It's an interesting kind of business play and we're getting good responses so far and we're looking forward to it."

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