Innovations For a Longer Quality of Life
By MICHAEL HODIN,
Posted: October 28, 2010
What were you doing yesterday about the debt explosion resulting from our aging population? President Obama was meeting with his Debt Commission, and hopefully the demographic bomb was on their agenda. President Sarkozy was busy pushing through his measly 2 year work extension over the protests of a million and a half trade unionists lighting fire to the streets of Paris. And newly elected UK Prime Minister Cameron was restructuring – Thatcher style – the UK Government economic policy in order to restore their economy for young and old alike.
I, on the other hand, was with Joe Coughlin, founder and head of the MIT Age Lab in Cambridge Mass. My money’s on Joe. His Age Lab is just a few steps from the building where scientists contributed to the invention of the internet radar and microwave, just for starters. Add to that pedigree, Joe’s vision, “Aging is new. It demands and deserves new thinking. Only 100 years ago, life expectancy was about 47 years; what was the end of life then is considered by many as the beginning of midlife today. Longer life is an opportunity to invest, invent, and innovate for how we will live tomorrow.” The technological advances I found at the lab can be real solutions to quality living for the rising demographic group of long lifers.
A Technological Advisor: to help older adults or those managing chronic disease make the right food choices at the right time and point of decision in the store:
e-Home Social Kitchen: the application of RFID technology and NASA-based engineering to help manage medications, nutrition and provide a social connection in the kitchen for those living alone. Older women are more likely than most to live and eat alone, this means they tend to eat poorly since meal making is inherently a social activity. What if we could bring high-tech social communication to the kitchen?
AwareCar: Imagine a car that can sense how well you feel and perform. The AgeLab AwareCar seeks to understand how older operators behave behind the wheel. The lab and other research shows that age is not a predictor of safety; health and well-being does. The AwareCar detects heart rate, skin conductance (sweaty palms), eye movement, etc. to detect stress, fatigue, and distraction; and it introduces smell, massage, even light into the vehicle to relax the driver or to make them more alert.
Memo to Presidents Obama, Sarkozy and PM Cameron: If you’re going to fiddle with public policy to enable fiscal sustainability, make sure they include tax, regulatory and financial incentives to keep Joe Coughlin’s MIT Age Lab innovating. It’s out of that Lab we will get real and pragmatic market place innovative solutions that will allow aging populations to stay healthier and economically productive.