New App Could End Social Isolation in Senior Living Communities

A new app coming out this summer and aimed at the 50+ crowd could make the idea of social isolation in senior living communities obsolete.

Stitch, launched by the company behind Tapestry, a secure social networking site aimed at seniors, matches like-minded older adults looking for companionship, a relationship, or both.

The idea is similar to Tinder, a dating app popular among young adults that uses location and looks to match people with romantic inclinations.

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On Tinder, if two people like what they see and swipe accordingly, they’re matched up and can chat through the app. Stitch functions similarly, although people are matched by location and interests, whether it’s a mutual appreciation for skiing, traveling, or something as simple as bingo night.

The need for an app like Stitch is definitely there, says Marcie Rogo, San Francisco-based co-founder and head of marketing at Tapestry and Stitch alongside Andrew Dowling, CEO of Tapestry.

In March, the Tapestry founders wrote a blog post about dating online over age 55 and asked people if they’d be interested in something like Stitch. After advertising the post on Facebook, Stitch got 700 signups—and it didn’t even exist yet.

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“What we’re offering for people is an alternative to what online dating has become,” Rogo says. “There’s frustration with all these sites from the perspective of an older adult, because they’re not necessarily looking for a spouse like younger people. They’re looking for companionship.”

Stitch allows all sorts of connections—male-to-male, male-to-female, female-to female—and also separates users into two pools: those looking for a romantic partner, or those looking for a companion—with the possibility it could turn romantic.

“We’re not offering a narrow dating spectrum,” says Rogo. “We’re the opposite, the whole spectrum: it’s anywhere from companionship to marriage, and anything in between.”

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At first, Stitch wasn’t envisioned as having any particular application in senior living communities, intended instead as a direct-to-consumer app. But it could play an important role in senior housing, as well.

“Caregivers know who’s lonely or doesn’t have companionship,” says Rogo, who recently had the opportunity to talk about Stitch and the idea behind it to Sheila Garner, Division Vice President Operations at Brookdale Senior Living, the nation’s largest senior living provider.

“Something a product like Stitch does is begins to expand that group of friends a person might have, and give a little more fulfillment as they get to know even more people that have similar interests,” Garner says. 

The more Garner talked with Rogo, the more she thought about how Stitch could work in a senior housing setting, she says. Brookdale hasn’t actually started down that road, she clarifies, but the thought is there—particularly in large communities with substantial independent living populations.

“While we do our best to gather information to see what the interests are of our residents and try to make sure we’re connecting people together, when I was talking to Marcie I wondered if there wasn’t an application—even within a senior community—for people to have an opportunity to use an application like Stitch,” says Garner.

Women overwhelmingly outnumber men in senior living communities, giving males “all the leverage—and all the dates,” Rogo says. “This app allows you to go outside your walls and talk to people in other communities. Residents can see who’s looking for companionship outside their community’s walls.”

Whether it’s finding people in the general area or discovering a new friend who happens to live under the same room, Stitch could play well in senior living.

“When [residents] actually find that companionship—even if it’s undiscovered within the group of people with whom they’re living—that’s where we’re really thinking about this,” Garner says.

Right now, Stitch—part of accelerator program 500startups’ ninth batch—is in beta mode and is only open for private, limited registration for people in the Bay Area. The founders are still working out the details, including security and verification. Tinder, for example, requires users to sign up via a verified Facebook account, and Rogo says Stitch will offer a couple levels of verification, including profile badges for those who have paid to do a background check. 

“We’re doing manual verifications right now, and only matching people who have been fully confirmed,” she says.

Stitch’s beta period has only been open for a month and Rogo says they’re keeping marketing low-key, but it already has more than 1,200 registrations. She anticipates the national rollout will be “pretty easy” since the infrastructure is there. “We’ll start with major cities. Tapestry runs itself now and we’re open to [other companies] acquiring or licensing it at this point [so we can focus on Stitch].”

Other details in the works include pricing and subscription models, which could range anywhere from $9 to $60 a month for a basic or premium account. Rogo says there are plans to offer incentives like a free month for users who refer friends and get them to sign up.

“One woman told me she can’t do eHarmony, because it makes her sign up for three months up front,” says Rogo. “She’s on fixed income of $1,000 a month and would have to pay $89 up front—that’s why it has to have a monthly plan.”

Eventually, Stitch may allow users to skip a month for those who are committed to finding a companion but don’t have the financial resources that month, or have a timing issue. No matter the final outcome of Stitch once it completes 500startups, the app could have serious 

“I don’t know what this will look like at the end of the road, but it’s something that I have been talking with Marcie about, and we’ll continue to talk with her and with our own folks at the corporate office to begin to understand this further,” Garner says. “If it looks like something that would be of added value to our residents—and on the surface, it does—then it’s something we would give strong consideration to, if it would enhance residents’ lives.”

Written by Alyssa Gerace

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