Scot Wingo
5 min readMar 19, 2020

About two weeks ago, I pondered in a tweet:

Before I could think more about it, the kind folks at Blue Recruit whipped together a simple MVP (minimum-viable-product). That basically did three things:

  1. Allowed volunteers to sign-up
  2. Allowed those ‘at risk’ and ‘in need’ to raise their hand
  3. Showed a list of folks ‘in need’

The idea is what’s called a three-sided marketplace — folks in need, those that can give $/items and those that can give time/services. Also, like any MVP, it’s important to start small and scale up. The idea is to figure this out in Raleigh and then scale up to Triangle, NC, etc. Ok, back to Raleigh…

But it didn’t work….

What we quickly found out is that there are a LOT of folks that want to help, but the hardest thing about the idea in my tweet is finding the ‘at risk’ folks that need help. It’s impossible to know why, but here’s two possible reasons and my thoughts.

  1. Nobody over 60 or immunocompromised needs help — Look below at the ‘Raleigh Demographics’ section if you are curious, but by my math, we’re looking at 61,000–120,000 folks in the Triangle at super-risk from Covid-19. Now certainly a large portion of these folks are supported by their living situation, their family, neighbors, etc. but if 5% need help that’s still 3,000+ folks. My spidey-sense says this isn’t it.
  2. There ARE folks that need help, but they don’t know help is out there— If you look at the typical internet usage for folks over 70/80 (see below section ‘Internet Usage by Senior Citizens’ for data), they under-index on internet usage generally. When you look at social networks, senior citizens are not active on Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter. Nextdoor and Facebook have the oldest demographics.

Conclusion: We need a huge effort to get the word out to this audience that probably needs help, but doesn’t know where to go.

How can YOU help?

Here’s the problem, we have 60,000+ folks in the Triangle in this category of ‘at supersized risk’ and ‘possibly needing help’. Let’s say 5–10% of them need help — that’s 3,000–6,000 people that are basically digital islands. How do we get to them? Here’s some ideas:

  1. Social media — Ok, I just said they aren’t on social, but you know who is? Their neighbors and family. What if someone lives next to a senior citizen and hasn’t checked in on them? We can reminder the younger/digital person via social. What if someone in Washington DC (or wherever) has a parent or aunt/uncle/relative that lives in Raleigh and they can call and check in on them. I do think the focus here should be Facebook and Nextdoor.
  2. Ring some doorbells — We’re all walking around more because #CabinFever — use that opportunity to check in on any senior citizens in your neighborhood (keep your 10ft+ distance of course).
  3. I’m all ears — Another reason for putting this out there is the more smart people thinking about this, the more great ideas will come out. Should we do a mailing? Are there certain neighborhoods with more senior citizens than others? Should we just focus on helping elderly care facilities? Comments are on for this post, fire away, tweet me, etc.

Why focus on 60+ and Pre-existing conditions?

There’s so much misinformation on COVID-19, but one area there seems to be agreement on that senior citizens are hit hardest by this pandemic. This chart compares the demographic mortality rates compared to the traditional flu:

This is early data from China. When you look at the hot spots in the USA like NYC and Washington state, the data is pretty consistent:

Conclusion: If you are over 29, your risk of infection is evenly distributed, but your risk of death over 60 is many orders of magnitude than those under 60.

There’s also data that shows the mortality rate for pre-existing conditions is orders of magnitude higher than those without pre-existing conditions or those immunocompromised.

Of course, there’s some overlap here with the over 60 cohort being more likely to have pre-existing conditions, but if you are 50 and are being treated for cancer, you are in a similar risk profile to being in the older age-group cohort.

Raleigh Demographics

To understand the need here, I took a bit of a deep dive into the Raleigh, NC demographics. There’s no way to know how many folks are immunocompromised (cancer treatments, diabetic, lupus, etc.), but there is good data on demographics by age and gender. Because of my day job at Spiffy, I spend a fair amount of time looking at demographics and I’ve found the best site for this is World Population Review — they take the census data and make it easier to understand. Here’s the snapshot of Raleigh’s 457,159 population by gender and age in what’s called a population tree:

What you see here is that Raleigh, NC is definitely a young city with a median age of 33.2. Looking at the tree, look at that set of wide population bands at 25–30, 20–25 and 30–35.

Trees are cool, but we’re looking for specifics, so I took the tree data above and put it into a handy table:

Here we see that 13.3% of the population in Raleigh or 60,900 folks are in the 60+ demographic. If we guess about folks that are immunocompromised and under 60, that feels like an additional 5–10%. or another 30,000–60,000 folks in that category. Conclusion -if we put a wide range on it 61,000–120,000 people in just Raleigh are at a very high risk from Covid-19 or 13–23%.

Internet usage by Senior Citizens

Here’s research from Pew institute:

As you can see once you get into the over 75/80 cohorts, the internet usage drops to under 44% with only 28% of folks over 80 having broadband.



Thanks for reading this and helping us get the word out!



Scot Wingo

CEO of Spiffy (www.getspiffy.com) and Co-Founder/Executive Chairman of ChannelAdvisor