We didn’t know what to expect in this, our first time covering Aging in America (AiA18), the nation’s largest event addressing issues, opportunities, and challenges of aging — except a lot of people who care about older adults.
Saying the 3,000 people here “care” is an understatement!
There are people here from around the US and beyond, representing service organizations, government agencies, academia, business, and many here as individuals to share their perspectives and learn from others.
We’ve still got half the conference ahead and are planning an article wrapping it up afterward, but are both excited and concerned about some of what we’ve heard on technology for older adults and caregivers at AiA18 and wanted to share some of it with you in a mid-conference update.
Technology Talk at Aging in America
One of the great things about Aging in America is the diversity of perspectives on so many issues related to older adults and technology is no different.
The biggest focus on tech so far came in the opening general session in a panel discussion that left us shaking our heads at the overall picture painted of technology, despite having a panel with representatives from GreatCall, Samsung, IBM Watson, and CDW Healthcare.
The panel featured a blunt-speaking, 70-something senior whose perspective and experience with technology was consistent with a number of other seniors but certainly not representative of all seniors — or even a majority of those from and about whom we have heard.
The tone for the session was set by a video in which a senior was depicted overcoming the health and safety monitoring technology clearly imposed on him by pushy family members against his will.
One point of the session, which the tech industry panelists handled well, included the need to not just design tech for seniors, but with seniors from the start of the process. There were also clear and valid lessons for family caregivers in how not to approach technology with senior loved ones.
While there were important points made in the session and we really like the discussion by the tech panelists, the depictions of technology and family caregivers left us wondering what we would hear in other tech-related sessions to come in AiA18.
As with other topics at Aging in America 2018 so far, though, we have found a broad range of views on technology – – all expressed with the needs and interests of older adults in mind, which is the point.
Aging, Technology, and Quality of Life Session
One of our favorite sessions so far was presented by Ginna Baik of CDW Healthcare and Shelia Cotten, a Michigan State University Professor. They discussed some real world research studies on technology and older adults in a session that had a much different tone from the opening general session yesterday.
Confirmed in the session was something we have seen firsthand and heard from others, that the top reason older adults use tech is to stay connected with their families. Unrelated to that, we received a cross-country FaceTime call from our grandson just before the session, but I digress.
While it was clear Ginna and Shelia merely scratched the surface of what they could have discussed with us — and the appreciative audience would have listened much longer — we were able to learn about quantification of benefits to seniors of technology.
One eye-opening research finding reported was that older adults who were internet users were 33% less likely to be depressed, which we often discuss is a real concern for seniors who live independently.
It was reassuring to hear what we have learned through anecdotal evidence reinforced by research studies.
Wide Range of Technology at AiA18
These two sessions stand out the most in our minds so far but are only a sampling of the tech discussions and exhibits we will encounter during our week at Aging in America. We look forward to bringing more to you over the coming weeks, including interviews with some in our coming reintroduction of the Senior Care Corner Show.
Because each senior’s needs and situations, technology-related and otherwise, are as individual as the seniors themselves, we are enjoying the wide range of views we are hearing on tech and other issues impacting older adults. It’s gratifying to see so many people speaking out and hearing their varied perspectives on issues important to the lives, health, and happiness of older adults.
Stay tuned for more!