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Planeteria Owner to Launch Web-based Resource for Elder Care

By D. Ashley Furness, Business Journal Staff Reporter
North Bay Business Journal

September 28th, 2009

SANTA ROSA – Former Microsoft designer and owner of one of the North Bay’s most prominent Web marketing firms, Jamie Spooner, will go live with a new business venture in about three weeks – a comprehensive elder-care Web platform developed as a tribute to her father.

The “i care village” slated to launch Oct. 15 is designed to be the most comprehensive, expert-enriched resource for caretakers of aging parents, serving as both an accredited information center and interactive community of original videos, photos, articles, stories, forums and more.

Late last year when her father’s heart condition advanced to a debilitating stage, Ms. Spooner, owner of the nationally recognized Web marketing firm, suddenly found herself in the position of long-distance caretaker. The experience of alienation, uncertainty and crisis inspired the creation of the new business, which is co-located with Planeteria in a newly expanded office on Dutton Avenue.

“When you’re faced with this kind of situation, you have this feeling like, ‘oh my god, crisis mode,’ and all this emotion comes up. And you feel this huge responsibility, but it’s kind of traveling into the unknown,” Ms. Spooner said.

“I decided this could be an opportunity to create something wholly in honor of my father, and from a marketing standpoint, there is this huge growth of the sandwich generation, families that are caring for both their children and their parents. I was hoping my experience could help others.”

According to a 2008 survey by the American Association of Retired People, approximately 46 percent of the population is considered the baby boomer generation, and of that group about 73 percent have a living parent, step-parent or parent in law.

To begin setting up the business, former Deloitte senior auditor Carolyn Mayes was brought on as chief financial officer, and Ms. Spooner hand-selected a board of acclaimed elder-care authors, professionals and researchers, including Dementia Care Consulting President and owner Laurie White, who also is a nationally recognized consultant and lecturer for the Alzheimer’s Association.

In January, the bootstrap-funded start-up commenced organizing focus groups of caretakers to help lead and inspire content and the design for the site. Since, the group has collected pages of original articles from Oregon Health and Sciences University, the Center for Practical Bioethics, MIT AgeLab, the Seattle Arthritis Clinic and other sources. Topics include information on transportation help, financial and legal assistance, health care and the like.

Also included in the project, the group has a patent pending for a “virtual office” service. Screened experts have profiles on the site with biographical information, photos, articles and videos that the user can browse. Using a unique scheduling tool also on the page, the person can actually set a time to speak live with the professional.

“The site is meant to help the caretaker feel not so alone. They can read, watch, listen or interact depending on their needs or questions,” Ms. Spooner said.

Once it is running, members can post comments on articles on the site and sign up for customized newsletters on elder care topics. “Gold members,” or paid, have added privileges including direct access to screen elder-care experts.

Ms. Spooner said “i care village” will also produce a series of independent, full-length films that will be available from the site and to order on DVD. The first movie, “Wisdom of Elders Across America,” is currently in production and includes live interviews and stories from older adults across the United States from New Orleans to Boston to San Francisco.

Ms. Spooner has plans for multiple revenue streams for the site including but not limited to advertising and sponsorship.

The site has been self-funded to date, but the leadership team is seeking interested investors.