"The wireless industry seemed to be losing touch with a huge number of Americans," says David Inns, CEO of San Diego-based Jitterbug. "There are people who don't want a giant chunk of functionality jammed into their cell phones."
Their solution? A Samsung-built, boomer-friendly phone with a bigger keyboard (none of that circle and click business) and industry-leading background-noise reduction. The result is a phone you can hear and keys you won't fat-finger. Personal safety is also a hallmark of Jitterbug, which offers 24-hour roadside assistance and a Live Nurse function. When subscribers call customer service, they aren't directed to a website or manual, but to an operator who will help with tasks remotely, like programming in contacts.
It took two veterans of the wireless world, Jitterbug founders Arlene Harris (creator of the SOS phone) and her husband Martin Cooper (he built the first handheld cell phone for Motorola in 1973) to realize the emerging need for a utilitarian cell.
Launched in 2006 with $100 million in VC funding and 10 employees, Jitterbug now employs 180. "It's a big market," Inns, 39, explains. "You could easily say it's a little less than half of the boomers and then go from there. But it doesn't have to do with age; it has to do with lifestyle. What are the priorities of people out there?" If one of those priorities is reliable, simple cell service, Jitterbug is in line for its own personal boom.
Keep an eye on:
Ecostore USA: An offshoot of a New Zealand company, Ecostore USA has hit the market with a full line of cleaning products and the tag line "no nasty chemicals." Eco-conscious boomers are adopting it as their signature product line.
The Elations Company: Elations is a fruit juice laced with 1,500 milligrams of glucosamine and 1,200 milligrams of chondritin, a combo shown by the National Institutes of Health to ease joint pain.
iMemories: Customers send photos, videocassettes and Super 8 films to this Arizona company, which digitizes the media and uploads it to the iMemories site. Users pay for the digitizing and then only for the photos and videos they want.
Linear Recumbent: This company has been around for 25 years, but as boomers look for sports that don't involve back or neck pain, recumbent cycling--and this industry leader--are poised for growth.
Loc8tor: This smart device out of the UK lets users attach electronic homing tags on keys, pets or grandkids, and, if they're within 600 feet, locate them with a credit-card-size handheld unit.
Nordic Pole Walking USA: Pole walking is easier on the knees than running, so it offers a boomer-friendly total-body workout. Pole Walking USA trains instructors, offers books, coordinates groups, and sells poles and gear to a rush of aging athletes looking for a low-impact workout.
Oticon: Oticon isn't new, but its cutting-edge designs, enhanced sound amplification and the noise isolation in its EPOQ line of high-tech hearing aides are setting new standards for comfort and functionality.
Roku: Plug this $99.99 book-size machine into any TV and you'll have access to 12,000 NetFlix movies and, soon, 40,000 Amazon titles.
Smooth Transitions: This franchisor gives boomers moving to an apartment or condo the backup they need to find a new living space and donate or toss out their mountains of old junk.