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Press Release

In Good Company Challenge Announces Winners of 2018 Optimal Aging Challenge

December 17, 2018

Massachusetts Tech, Innovation and Aging Service Leaders Award Four Organizations Combatting Loneliness in Older Adults

BOSTON - Dec. 17, 2018 - A group of industry, academic and government partners affiliated with Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker’s Council to Address Aging announced today the winners of the In Good Company: The 2018 Optimal Aging Challenge, a global competition designed to identify breakthrough solutions to social isolation and loneliness among older adults.

“Our administration formed the Commonwealth’s first Governor’s Council to Address Aging to analyze ways for the state to improve public and private means for supporting and engaging with older adults,” says Governor Charlie Baker. “The Optimal Aging Challenge is a great example of exactly what the Council is designed to support: a collaborative effort on an important topic, like isolation and loneliness, across sectors and industries to improve lives with innovative solutions for healthy aging.”

Experts from around the globe, including 11 different countries, submitted entries. Representatives from MIT’s AgeLab, Benchmark, GE Healthcare and the Governor’s Council to Address Aging chose four winning proposals based upon their prospective applicable market size, accessibility across diverse populations and commercial viability. 

“Open innovation continues to be the most effective way to advance the mission of improving the aging experience and building a global community around such a critically important goal,” says Benchmark Founder, Chairman and CEO, Tom Grape. “It is exciting to see so many thoughtful and diverse ideas and approaches that can help reduce loneliness and social isolation in the lives of our seniors and, instead, transform their lives through personal, human connection.”

The winners will receive an initial cash prize of $5,000 USD each and could have an opportunity to work with Challenge sponsors to mature their solution. “The challenge of social isolation and loneliness in an aging society is made more difficult by the diversity of causes,” says MIT AgeLab Director and Founder, Joseph Coughlin, Ph.D.  “The success of this challenge was the identification of innovative solutions that blended high tech as well as human touch.”  The challenge winners are:

  • Share Kitchens: Share Kitchens strives to end loneliness where it often creeps in: during the simple, daily occurrence of mealtime. The nonprofit helps older adults transform their domestic kitchens into culinary spaces that foster communal cooking and intergenerational preparation and enjoyment of food. The organization’s vision is to create a network of Share Kitchens across Massachusetts that ensures food stability and provides employment for seniors.
  • FriendshipWorks: FriendshipWorks’ mission is to reduce social isolation, enhance quality of life and preserve the dignity of older adults in the Greater Boston area. Founded in 1984, the organization is based on the belief that no one should have to be alone, regardless of age or frailty. FriendshipWorks strives to achieve this vision by recruiting and training volunteers of all ages, faiths, and backgrounds to provide friendship, advocacy, education, assistance, and emotional support to the elderly.
  • HelpAroundTown: HelpAroundTown is a personalized, localized community marketplace that connects neighbors organically by facilitating transactions between people who need help and neighbors looking for flexible work. HelpAroundTown believes that some people have what other people need, and that by connecting them, we can strengthen community ties and create intergenerational bonds.
  • avatars combine human intelligence and compassion with software automation and clinical algorithms to provide 24/7 psychosocial support for older adults. Researchers at universities and clinicians in diverse care settings have validated’s innovative approach in caregiving and its ability to reduce loneliness, improve perceived social support, and drive outcomes - including reducing the need for nursing visits to the home, preventing falls, and mitigating delirium among hospitalized elders.

“It’s inspiring to see both public and industry leaders like our In Good Company Challenge sponsors-thinking and acting in new ways to create change,” says Dyan Finkhousen, Director of Open Innovation and Advanced Manufacturing, GeniusLink at GE.  “Equally as significant-is the global expert community who has been actively engaged around this vision.  Today is just the beginning of our journey into a future of enriched aging-one leveraging new tools and sustained community to accelerate change across a common mission… one that almost-if not all-of us can relate to.”

In Good Company Optimal Aging Challenge Winners Announcement Event

Community members, industry leaders and innovators will congregate from 12:30-2:30 p.m. ET on Dec. 17, 2018 at MIT’s Samberg Center for the In Good Company winner event.  At 1:30 p.m. ET, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker will congratulate the winners. Leaders from Massachusetts’ tech, innovation and aging services organizations will join him in discussing how each winner can help to enrich communities by enabling healthy aging in older adults through their innovative, winning projects.

Attendees will have an opportunity to network with other change makers who are committed to improving healthy aging. Other special guests will include:

  • Marylou Sudders, MSW, ACSW, Secretary, Executive Office of Health and Human Services, Commonwealth of Massachusetts
  • Dyan Finkhousen, Director, Open Innovation & Advanced Manufacturing, GeniusLink™, GE Global Operations
  • Joe Coughlin, Ph.D., Founder and Director, MIT AgeLab
  • Tom Grape, Founder, Chairman and CEO, Benchmark
  • Alice Bonner, Secretary of Elder Affairs, Commonwealth of Massachusetts

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Research from the American Psychological Association suggests that the loneliness epidemic now represents a threat to public health that exceeds obesity.1 The 2018 In Good Company: Optimal Aging Innovation Challenge was designed to develop breakthrough technologies, community resources and solutions that reduce social isolation and loneliness among aging populations. Proposals were evaluated across four key pillars: caregiving, transportation services, elder care housing solutions, and employment and volunteerism opportunities for seniors.

GENIUSLINK ( is GE’s Expert Operating System - leveraging gig economy methodology to connect business priorities with experts and solutions for outsized performance.  GENIUSLINK engages millions of brilliant minds to provide customers with new approaches to: accelerate speed, improve quality, access expertise, increase productivity, increase capacity and reduce cost. GENIUSLINK is part of GE’s Global Operations organization.


GE Healthcare is the $19 billion healthcare business of GE (NYSE: GE).  As a leading provider of medical imaging, monitoring, biomanufacturing, and cell and gene therapy technologies, GE Healthcare enables precision health in diagnostics, therapeutics and monitoring through intelligent devices, data analytics, applications and services.  With over 100 years of experience in the healthcare industry and more than 50,000 employees globally, the company helps improve outcomes more efficiently for patients, healthcare providers, researchers and life sciences companies around the world.  Follow us on FacebookLinkedInTwitter and The Pulse for latest news, or visit our website for more information.


The MIT AgeLab is a multidisciplinary research program that works with business, government, and NGOs to improve the quality of life of older people and those who care for them. The AgeLab applies consumer-centered systems thinking to understand the challenges and opportunities of longevity and emerging generational lifestyles to catalyze innovation across business markets.  To learn more about the MIT AgeLab, visit its website


Benchmark is a human connection company and leading provider of senior living services in the Northeast with assets under management valued at $2.6 billion. Founded in 1997 by Tom Grape, a charter member of the Governor’s Council to Address Aging in Massachusetts, Benchmark employs 6,300 associates and operates 58 senior living communities in eight states. The organization this year was selected by Fortune magazine for its inaugural 2018 Best Workplaces for Aging Services list, taking the number 16 spot on the list of top 40 aging services companies and ranking number three among companies with more than 40 communities. Benchmark is one of only six companies named to The Boston Globe Top Places to Work list every year of the 11 years it has been published. And it has been consistently recognized by Boston Business Journal, Hartford Courant and Hartford Business Journal as a top workplace, and by the Boston Business Journal, Providence Business News and Hartford Business Journal as one of the healthiest employers. To learn more about Benchmark, visit its website.


Massachusetts Governor Baker launched the Governor’s Council to Address Aging in Massachusetts in 2017 to support the Commonwealth’s desire to become the most age-friendly state for people of all ages. The Council’s mission is to address current practices that support healthy aging, improve public awareness of and access to services for older adults and caregivers, and leverage innovation and technology to support aging in communities. To learn more about the Council, visit its website.



Lisa Ralph


[email protected]


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