There are approximately 47 million senior citizens in the United States, many of whom live in senior living facilities. These seniors are becoming progressively more adept at technology, but many communities are far behind their tenants, with antiquated tech that is not connected throughout the community, making living harder, not easier. Chapel Hill-based Viibrant is a resident engagement platform that seeks to fix this problem.
Viibrant founder Patrick Smith is a software engineer-turned-entrepreneur. He first came up with the idea for Viibrant when he took on the project of building this platform for customers in the senior living space while working for Riithink, a Chapel Hill-based business, of which he was the president. He was surprised to find that no other software existed to synthesize the desired connectivity into a single platform, so he spent a year developing it himself.
The startup that resulted from that effort has been steadily gaining both customers and plaudits. It was recently named one of NC TECH’s 10 “Startups To Watch” for 2019.
Part of the reason why there was so little technology out there for senior living spaces is that there is a common misconception that seniors are not adept at technology, Smith said. This is not true.
“If you’re 70, you’re very likely to have a smart phone, you’re very likely to have a tablet, to have some device,” Smith said. “Independents that are moving into communities are coming in very well-prepared. We’re seeing technology usage of people moving into a community today in a very high percentile—close to 100%.”
With residents moving in with such a high level of tech-savviness, older, paper-dependent ways of organizing information are inefficient and time-consuming. Without an engagement software like Viibrant’s, residents might have to go to the one side of campus to make a dinner reservation, then to another side to file a maintenance request, and back to the other to sign up for a night at the opera.
Viibrant remedies this problem by making a resident’s living space options available to them on just about any form of technology they could want, whether through their phones, tablets, desktops, digital TVs, Google Homes or Amazon Alexas.
“The most centric piece is socialization and resident engagement,” Smith said. “Fundamentally, it allows people to be more engaged in their community, and it’s proved that the more engaged you are with your community, the better quality of life you will have.”
Viibrant is sold to and used in senior living communities throughout the country, from North Carolina to Florida to Texas to California. Currently, Viibrant is mostly used in higher-end Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs), where it builds a custom system perfectly tailored to each community’s unique DNA.
In 2020, Viibrant will be officially launching Viibrant XE, a lower-cost SaaS platform catered to the middle-to-lower income market. This product will not replace Viibrant, but rather be an option for communities that cannot afford the higher-cost, fully customized version.
“Our number-one objective is to build software that’s not flashy,” Smith said, “but that is being used by residents and improving the quality of their lives, while enhancing the administration’s ability to manage the resident population and their needs and requests. We want to be servants to the community and the resident, and be the heartbeat of them as we develop.”