Yuqi Qiu, 16, Candice Huang, 15, Sarah Zhang, 15, and Susie Lee, 16, of Toronto, Canada are one of this year’s competitors in the i.Invest National Youth Business Competition. Their app, Pharos, is a social networking app aimed to address senior isolation. We spoke to Yuqi Qiu to learn more.
Tell us about your business.
Pharos aims to help seniors combat isolation by creating a tight-knit community for them. The chatroom feature on Pharos allows seniors to connect and form new friendships; the games and riddles feature encourages mental exercise; daily quotes drive motivation, and daily exercise (such as yoga) encourages seniors to stay physically active. By offering features that expand seniors’ social groups and enhance their cognitive abilities, Pharos helps seniors overcome the barrier of isolation and decreases their chances of mental diseases.
What inspired the creation of Pharos?
Recently, I read an article on a study of senior isolation conducted by Rachel Weldrick—a Ph.D. candidate in McMaster University’s Health, Aging, and Society program. Weldrick aims to “hear in [the seniors’] own words what it’s like to be isolated” through her study. Out of my keen interest, I informed my friends about it. They later also expressed concerns on this issue. Therefore, we came together to form a group to discuss senior isolation, including its impacts, connections to us, and how we can potentially help mitigate this problem.
How will Pharos impact the world?
With the intent to improve senior isolation, Pharos will have a positive impact on the senior population. From the results of the survey that we distributed to 43 seniors over 65 years of age, 82.6% of them showed a willingness to use technologies such as smartphones and tablets. After describing the features of Pharos to the surveyed seniors, 73.9% of them expressed interest in using the app. The application would allow seniors to make new relationships, challenge themselves daily with games—that sometimes requires physical movements—to be motivated, and to maintain their physical and mental health.
What are the next steps for Pharos?
The next step is to reach our target market—individuals who are over 65 years of age—Pharos will firstly be advertised in our community. Specifically, we will create flyers and distribute them to over 20 senior homes. The flyers will use relatable language and messages for seniors. Seniors can relate when they know how a product or service is going to improve the quality of their life. Therefore, the flyers will contain all the benefits that Pharos will bring to seniors. For example, we will put a message that says, “On Pharos, you can expand your social group and make new friends!” These flyers will then grab seniors’ attention and spark their interest in Pharos. Our product targets senior residents in Forest Hill (a community located in Toronto). There are about 4,215 seniors, aged 65 and above, that currently live in Forest Hill. Therefore, for our first year, we hope to reach the entire senior population in Forest Hill. For our second year, we hope to introduce Pharos into the GTA (Greater Toronto Area), there are about 400,000 seniors who are aged 65 and above. We are seeking between $1,000 to $10,000 from investors for start-up costs and any partnership opportunities! Please connect with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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