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Welcome to WISE Cities! Hear from the Founder Marie Brodsky

I’m Marie Brodsky. I am a student at the University of Maryland, about to finish my degree in mathematics this spring. I started working on WISE Cities about three years ago, inspired by trying to help my grandfather become more connected to his community and not so socially isolated at home, especially as someone new to the area. So WISE Cities is all about connecting older adults to community resources and opportunities and helping our communities become more supportive of us as we age.

What made you launch Wise Cities?

This project started off as an intense research effort where we tried to understand what are the types of problems that older adults in our communities are facing? What would they like to see more of? How are families and nonprofits that offer resources and local businesses all involved in this? And then, we used what we learned from that to develop an online platform designed specifically for older adults to be really convenient and easy to use to find local programs, to take advantage of local social opportunities, and so on. So we’re excited to have recently launched our first live platform that adjusts to a user’s location. And we’re based out of the city of Fairfax. So that’s where our starting focus is.

What is the latest news about Wise Cities?

We’re lucky to be supported by the city of Fairfax Economic Development Office. We just received a second grant from them, and we’ll be working with them to get some local businesses in the city of Fairfax involved in Wise Cities as spaces that can welcome older adults in the community in for Social Times. And we’re also excited to have just joined as new virtual members of the Mason Enterprise Center and are looking forward to the opportunities that come out of that. And of course, we’ve been in collaborating with organizations that offer senior programs of different kinds, including lifelong learning institutes and various other activities.

Who can benefit the most from using WISE Cities?

If you’re a local business, there are two ways in which we’d love for you to get involved. One is if you’re a local business that offers a service that could be relevant to older residents of the community. We’d love to feature you on the Wise Cities platform, which is a one-stop shop for older adults to discover what they should be aware of in their community. And if you’re a local business that might be conducive to hosting older adults for social times that we call Wise Spaces, we’d love to include your kind of on our map of places that older adults could go to, particularly if they’re off-peak hours during the weekdays. For example, when you’d like to have a group of older adults come in and feel in your space.

What are the benefits for local businesses that join WISE Cities?

Regardless of what generation you’re in and what age you’re at, wise Cities is a way for you to think about whether you yourself, as an older individual can get more involved in your community and to take advantage of the resources that are there that you might not be aware of, or as a younger person with an older family member or friend, to help them navigate what opportunities they might have in their communities as they’re aging at home. So this is a way to both improve your health by participating in programs available to you and stay more active and find out what exists in your community that you might not yet have discovered. We’d love to hear from you about the ways in which you’d like to participate, any feedback you have on what we’re working on, and help us shape the direction in which we’re moving at this stage. So we’d love to hear from you. You can just reach out to us by email if you’d like, or you can visit our website and sign up for our newsletter to stay in the loop about updates happening in the local area or further out because we’re planning on expanding geographically past this pilot phase later on.

Who are you collaborating with currently?

So a couple of things we’ve had in the works recently are using the feedback that we’ve gathered about our pilot platform, the initial version that we’ve launched, and using that to develop a more exciting platform with an updated design that will be coming out in the summer. And in addition to that, we’ve developed a portal for organizations to use where you can come in and see how people are discovering your local business, what kinds of needs older adults in the area are indicating, such as the need for transportation to get to an event that you’re hosting and other information like that. And we’re also excited about this new initiative of Wise spaces where we’re collaborating with local venues like cafes or bookstores or art studios to create social times for older adults. And we’d love to take part in that as well.

So we want to make sure that the older adults that are using the platform are getting the information on what your local business is like, and that includes sharing information about any accessibility accommodations you might have that might be important for participants who are thinking about joining for a wise space event that’s happening. And so if you’re interested in reaching out, we can talk about how we might make your space more conducive to having a social event take place there. And what considerations might be helpful or modifications that we can slightly make to make that more feasible? The best way to reach us is by emailing at Wise Cities us, or you can also go to our website, which is just www Wise Cities us. And we also have social media links that are available through our website where you can stand the loop about what we’re doing. We are excited to be working on this starting in Fairfax. This is a student startup and we have a lot of energy about what we’re doing and are really trying to grow and adapt it to what we’re learning and what we’re seeing. So any feedback is greatly appreciated throughout this process.

How can people get involved?

We have so many opportunities on the internship front within different sub-teams of our startup. So there are ways to contribute to the software development and the design of the online platform itself, but there are also ways to participate in the community engagement side and in the marketing side to really help us get this off the ground. Everyone who has worked with us has said it’s really exciting and fulfilling to be working on this project and seeing the impact it has hands-on. So we’d love to have any other interested students get in touch with us too.

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