50 In 52 Journey interview with Jeff Pepper, Founder and President of Touchtown.
By Jeff Pepper, Founder and CEO
For me, the story of Touchtown begins with my dad, Edward Pepper. Born in 1913, he lived nearly all his life in tightly knit communities, first growing up in a working class neighborhood in the Bronx and then serving in the Coast Guard in World War II. He spent the next thirty years as a shopkeeper in a small town in Long Island. As he aged he began to lose his vision and have difficulty taking care of himself. He agreed to move to a retirement community near my family and me in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
During his six years in the retirement community, my dad enjoyed the company of his new neighbors and the activities available to him and the other residents. But he missed the texture of his old life: going to work in the morning, having breakfast with his buddies, going to the shops and stores in his old neighborhood, and of course seeing the family members he left behind in New York. As I watched his health decline and his sense of isolation increase, I began to wonder whether somehow he would have had a better quality of life if he hadn't been uprooted from the context of his old community.
That wondering eventually led me to resign from my previous job as CEO of ServiceWare Inc., a large software company, and start a full time effort to learn about the links between isolation, depression and quality of life for seniors. That, in turn, led me to start Touchtown.
When I think about our company, I don't think of it primarily as a business, although we certainly work very hard to make it an economic success. For me, Touchtown is a wonderful opportunity to change the world. Weve gathered together a team of people from a wide variety of disciplines computer science, design, geriatrics, human factors, sales and marketing who are working to adapt cutting edge technologies to meet the needs of our grandparents, our parents, and our own families.
I believe one of the biggest challenges in this new century is to learn how to bring people, families and communities back together. If the world is a tapestry of individual lives woven together, then all of us need to look for the frayed edges and do our best to weave them back into the whole. This is our mission at Touchtown: to provide our elders with the means to become reconnected with their lives, their friends and the things that give their lives meaning. We seek to help our elders heal their own lives, and in doing so perhaps to heal our own.