We caught up with the brilliant and insightful Mayank Mishra a few weeks ago and have shared our conversation below.
Mayank, looking forward to hearing all of your stories today. Can you talk to us about serving the underserved.
Everyday over 10,000 people turn 65 years old in the US, 25% suffer from loneliness. Loneliness is more than a touchy-feely subject. Studies have shown prolonged social isolation increases the risk of mortality of older adults by 30%. Social connectedness is an important element of community mental health: social isolation has been closely linked with depression, anxiety, suicide, dementia and other mental ailments which can be easily prevented with timely intervention. On average, Medicare spent an additional $134 per month, or $1,608 per year, on socially isolated individuals. That is an additional $6.7 billion per year in spending.
Technology is not always the most accessible medium, and specially not designed to include users with cognitive, visual and auditory impairments. As a product developer, I work closely with civic organizations to design accessible recreational models that make community building more inclusive. Televeda helps community-based organizations improve access to care and adherence to community health initiatives by efficiently connecting members with network resources. We support municipalities and non-profits with better access to data reporting & interventions that help aging independently at home.
Great, appreciate you sharing that with us. Before we ask you to share more of your insights, can you take a moment to introduce yourself and how you got to where you are today to our readers
I am an age-tech entrepreneur with a public policy background. I briefly practiced law in a previous life before embarking on a self-taught journey into programming. I am currently the Co-founder of Televeda, a Phoenix based digital health company. I do my best to help community health & public officials in the service design of their recreational programming.
Televeda is a social venture with a mission to eradicate social isolation amongst older adults and improve community mental health amongst the underserved. Televeda was founded because we believe accessibility is an oft-ignored human-right. Everyday we work to help individuals with varying cognitive, auditory and visual impairments connect & find a sense of community. Our business helps community-based organizations digitize their events to facilitate the efficient delivery of wellness & social activities, and also evidence-based programs, physical therapies & peer support groups.
We’d love to hear a story of resilience from your journey.
In 2013, I received an opportunity to move to South Dakota to work on a telemedicine startup serving the elderly. It failed. But it was how I became obsessed with the problem. I saw how people are more interconnected than ever before on social networks, yet loneliness was a growing problem. The way older adults were treated in America was almost dystopian. And this problem isn’t exclusively about older adults, but something that affects us all on a long enough time scale. I jumped across several technical and product jobs over the next few years but for some reason this problem kept gnawing at me.
In 2018, I witnessed my partner’s grandparents suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. When her grandmother was unable to use Skype and Zoom to socialize, I cobbled together a very simple 1-click access livestreaming user interface on the browser which would turn into Televeda’s first prototype. Since then our platform has delivered 4000+ live programs from healthcare, nonprofits and recreational centers to older adults & individuals with disabilities.
In my twenties I bounced around a lot and barely stayed at one job for over a year. Televeda was the first time I felt like I had a real calling. I figure there are so many different ways of making money, but you really have to know what moves you. There are days when the work will suck. But if it’s able to make someone else happy, like genuinely make a difference in their lives, then that’s good enough motivation to power through the tougher days.
How’d you build such a strong reputation within your market?
One of the things I am really proud of Televeda is our mission-oriented culture. We believe in giving back to the community as much as we can without expecting anything in return. We started virtual programs for older adults before the pandemic, and saw how hard the lockdowns affected them. We made it a point never to charge older adults for classes, and made money on software subscription fees from the organizations who use our platform. During the pandemic, we opened up our private community and made sure programs were free for whoever needed the connection. It helped us scale our product and inspired us to tackle bigger ways to contribute.
We always take on challenging technical problems for social causes to make digital experiences more accessible. Like our decision to build our own accessible livestreaming software instead of just using a traditional video conferencing tool, or when we incorporated music streaming to help the Chandler Symphony Orchestra stream a free concert series to the public.
On Oct 22nd 2021 I had the joy of leading an 8-month community initiative that set a Guinness World Record for most viewers of a bingo livestream. The pandemic was particularly difficult for older adults and Televeda wanted to do something fun that would help uplift folks. Bingo was a no-brainer, and a hybrid game would provide a chance to bridge the digital divide. Many seniors aren’t comfortable with technology but can still play bingo with printed cards and physical chips, while online users can join the same game from whichever internet device they have available. Technology like this makes community events more accessible and lets isolated individuals join their local community center to participate in activities. But since there was no hybrid bingo application on the market the Televeda team decided to make its own. The project was a big bet by our bootstrapped startup, and a pivotal moment in witnessing the power of play to bring people together, especially such a hard-to-reach tech-shy demographic. The project set a new standard in virtual events and senior engagement, connecting hundreds of senior centers and thousands of older adults across 29 countries together for a majestic game of bingo.
Image Credits: Nita Blum