I'm back from the beautiful East coast and the AGEWELL 2019 Annual Conference.
If you recall, last year we won the National Impact Challenge and were invited to come back this year to participate in another conference. This year's theme was Exploring the Future of Technology, where panelists and presenters explored where technology and the aging sector are headed in the decades to come.
As always, the conference was inspiring and motivating. It is encouraging to be surrounded by so many like-minded people who share the passion for improving quality of life for older adults and exploring how innovation can contribute to these improvements. Some takeaways from the conference include:
Technology is for everyone
Many speakers at the conference shared research or trials involving older adults using technology. The response is overwhelming, not only can older adults use technology, but it also helps them with day-to-day tasks and enriches their lives. Older adults with cognitive, vision, and physical impairments all showed conference goers how technology improved their lives. The above photo and statistic proves that older adults are confident using technology and are excited about the benefits it can bring them. However, there is room for improvement in how we assist older adults onboarding to health and wellness platforms. The big takeaway here is that innovators should be developing technologies that keep older adults in mind.
Stigma is still rampant
Although older adults have proven they are both interested in technology and capable of using it, stigma is still rampant. Older adults can be stigmatized by the media, family, friends, staff in care centres and even the companies creating technological products. We have experienced this stigma in our own work, and are actively working to educate communities on how to reduce stigma. Researchers and older adults both shared examples of stigmas older adults face, including the inability to participate in research, use technology, or be independent. This comic included in the conference registration packets summarizes our feelings well!
Research + Innovation= the equation for change
The AGEWELL conference is always a mix of researchers and innovators sharing emerging research and startup innovations. When you sit in on both types of sessions, the two almost feel like they couldn't be further apart in practice. A group of researchers using specific processes to conduct research, gaining ethics approval and submitting papers to journals to mostly be read by other researchers and academics. VS a group of innovators who are quickly implementing beta units, learning as they develop, and working directly with their target markets. Yet as I sat in on panels that involved both researchers and innovators it affirmed what I have learned working on Marlena Books. Innovators and researchers must work together to develop quality products that will improve the lives of older adults. Without innovation research is often never brought to life, and without research innovation cannot pinpoint which areas to work in. Many teams at AGEWELL are multi-disciplinary, with a strong focus on both innovation and research; very inspiring!
I had a great time at the AGEWELL 2019 conference in beautiful Moncton and learned a lot. I'm excited to go back next year!