The White House Conference on Aging took place on July 13 and Gale Reece, founder of the I know expo, was in attendance.
The topic of technology and innovation was discussed on that day and here’s a synopsis of what was said as reported by Next Avenue, public media’s first and only national service for America’s booming 50+ population.
Technology was a theme throughout the day, with a dedicated panel on Technology and Future of Aging and two, shorter, related discussions on innovation and universal design. In planning the conference, the White House emphasized engagement with the business community to solve some of the challenges facing an aging population.
The fact that 10,000 Americans turn 65 each day was repeated several times throughout the day. Representatives of several companies who would like to reach those consumers, including uber, Airbnb, Peapod, Walgreens and Care.com were invited to share ways they are serving and thinking about older consumers. Seth Sternberg, co-founder and CEO of Honor, a start-up for in-home care, was frank in his assessment. In the tech industry, he said, “We haven’t done a good job thinking about our older Americans. It’s a population we have ignored.” Sternberg raised some eyebrows by saying, “In my world the senior space is not sexy.” But, he said it proved easier to recruit developers than he thought with the promise of a tool that could make “millions of people’s lives fundamentally better.”
Anita Roth, Head of Policy Research for Airbnb said the home-sharing company noticed more people over 50 were using the service as hosts and guests than they originally anticipated. Older guests on fixed incomes are finding that Airbnb saves them money and offers social engagement. Older hosts are finding that they can supplement their income while making use of a spare bedroom. She also noted that older hosts are typically among the highest rated by guests, with a lot to teach their younger counterparts.
Joseph Coughlin, Director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology AgeLab, said: “Real innovation is not about technology, it’s about putting these innovations to use.”He added that “the next generation careforce” will need training to make use of innovations to improve the quality and efficiency of caring for others.
Barbara Beskind, a 91-year-old designer for IDEO, said it best when she said companies should “design with, not for” older adults.