On a mission to improve the lives of millions of older people, GrandPad could also transform the future of work in Ireland’s regions.
US tech company GrandPad, a provider of tablet computers and support services for older people, is to create 75 new jobs with the opening of a new European HQ in Gorey, Co Wexford.
The company, with the support of IDA Ireland, is also aiming to transform the future of work in Ireland, and in doing so enable significant growth for small-town economies in Ireland by facilitating remote working and growing the locally based workforce.
‘There is an epidemic of loneliness affecting the elderly, and 37pc of the older age group in Ireland is desperately lonely’
– SCOTT LIEN
As well as its European headquarters in Gorey, a significant number of GrandPad’s employees will work remotely from within a 90km distance of the offices to support the thousands of people it envisages will use its tablet computer devices.
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The move, calculated to take advantage of the growing number of people in Ireland willing to work remotely, echoes a similar strategy used by Canadian e-commerce giant Shopify, which has grown to 150 employees – many of them remote workers – from its European headquarters in Galway.
Headquartered in Orange, California, GrandPad has designed a tablet for seniors that enables a secure private family network as well as access to games, music and video chat with relatives and caregivers.
CEO Scott Lien told Siliconrepublic.com that he founded the company with his son Isaac when the family encountered difficulties sharing family photos and memories with loved ones 2,000 miles away.
The business is very diverse and its R&D teams work with advisers who themselves are seniors. For example, the company’s ‘chief grand adviser’ is 90-year-old Betty Parker and the company’s eldest product adviser is 105-year-old Elmer Thill.
“This is a huge vote of confidence in Co Wexford from a company that has so much to offer,” said Paul Kehoe, TD, Minister for State at the Department of An Taoiseach.
Focused on reducing loneliness and improving connectivity among those over the age of 75, GrandPad is complete with apps designed for older adults using large, clearly labelled icons for video and voice calls, photos, email, music, games, news, weather, and search.
Lien explained that the company’s remote workers will be people who live in communities, not cities, who are happy to work online to support GrandPad’s user community.
“There is an epidemic of loneliness affecting the elderly, and 37pc of the older age group in Ireland is desperately lonely,” Lien said. “It is a serious health issue and equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and as a result contributes to the healthcare crisis in terms of diabetes, weight and heart issues.”
According to the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing, an estimated 400,000 people in Ireland experience loneliness. Technology can play an important role in helping older adults reduce loneliness and isolation by allowing them to stay connected with loved ones and live independently at home.
Lien said that the mission is to improve the lives of older people. “Our product combines high tech with high touch and we’re excited to bring more unique jobs to Ireland while offering a new, innovative solution to help improve the lives of elderly people across Europe.”
He explained that the company’s technology is built in collaboration with Taiwan-headquartered Acer, one of the biggest computer manufacturers on the planet. “Every device we ship to our users has LTE (4G) cellular built in so they don’t have to be messing with Wi-Fi.”
Lien added that the remote-working model works for companies such as GrandPad chiefly because it suits the workers and results in a lower employee turnover.
He said the company plans to hire caring, family-oriented and talented people who can provide customer care to older people and their families.
“It suits people who are empty nesters or parents who can work online while the kids are at school. We have been testing this model for four-plus years and it works well because we are able to hire great people; it is cost-effective for us and for them. The benefits add up because they can work from home [and] have less impact on the environment by not having to drive every day. All they need is good-quality broadband and they can work from their home office.
“Our employees love it, they love the mission and we have an extremely low turnover. The average annual attrition in call centres in the US is between 40pc and 50pc. Our turnover is only 3pc because people are working from home and we pay them well and treat them well.”
A caregiving aspect to the roll-out of GrandPad in Ireland will involve a partnership between the company and Home Instead Senior Care, which operates a network of 4,000 caregivers across Ireland.
IDA Ireland CEO Martin Shanahan said that as well as the jobs that will be created in Gorey, the remote-working aspect of the investment will see the benefit spread to regions within 90km of the European headquarters.
“GrandPad’s arrival in Ireland adds to the growing cluster of technology companies in the south-east and will act as an excellent reference client for IDA in promoting the region,” Shanahan added.