Virtual health and wellness platforms have grown increasingly popular throughout the pandemic, but a new startup wants to focus that effort exclusively on senior citizens. Bold, a digital health and wellness service, plans to prevent chronic health problems in older adults through free and personalized exercise programs. Co-founded by Amanda Rees and her partner Hari Arul, Bold picked up $7 million this week in seed funding led by Julie Yoo of Silicon Valley-based Andreessen Horowitz.
Rees said in an interview that the idea for Bold came from time she spent caring for her grandmother, helping her through health challenges like falls. “I kept thinking about solutions we could build to keep someone healthier longer, rather than waiting for until they have a fall or something else goes off the rails to intervene,” she said. Rees started Bold to use what she’d learned from her own experience in dance and yoga to help her grandmother practice maintaining balance to prevent future falls. “My passion really was around ways to sort of widen the aperture, and make these solutions more accessible and built for older people.”
The member experience is pretty straightforward. Users fill out some brief fitness information on the web-based platform, outlining their goals and current baseline. From that information, Bold creates a personalized program that ranges from a short, seated Tai Chi class once a week, to cardio and strength classes meeting multiple times each week. “The idea is to really meet a member where they are, and then through our programming, help them along their journey of doing the types of exercises that are going to have the most immediate benefit for them,” said Rees.
Bold’s funding round comes at a time of concern around ballooning healthcare expenses for older populations, and a focus on how to reduce these costs for both current and future generations. While falls alone aren’t necessarily complex medical incidents, they have the potential to lead to fractures and other serious injuries. Bold’s preventative approach to falls is a more active solution than necklace or bracelet monitors that send a signal to emergency services when they detect a fall. And by offering virtual programs, they can help at-risk older populations engage in exercise while avoiding potential COVID-19 exposure at gyms.
Research shows that this works. Even simple, low-intensity exercise can improve balance and strength enough to reduce the incidence of falls, which is currently the leading cause of injury and injury death among older adults.
Fewer injuries would mean less need for medical care, which would lead to money saved for hospitals and health insurers alike. That’s why in addition to their seed funding, Bold has plans to start rolling out partnerships with Medicare Advantage organizations and risk-bearing providers, which will help make their exercise programs available to users for free.