On November 3, Accelerate organized its second ThinkTank of the calendar year, this time doing so alongside partners at Innovate@BU. This unique event convened more than 80 students, academic faculty, and industry thought leaders to ideate with one another about the Future of Aging. The attendees pondered some of the challenges older adults currently face, and predicted which new ones may arise, then located opportunities for improvements and designing solutions.

Accelerate welcomed the enthusiastic audience, representing 40 different organizations from the Boston area and beyond, into the Cambridge Innovation Center’s Lighthouse event space downtown for a full day of collaboration. People from a diverse spectrum of disciplines formed teams with academic stakeholders to create a wide-ranging array of different ideas and perspectives. Networking opportunities were abound, as professionals who would normally never cross paths were brought together under a shared mission, and a coworking space such as CIC Boston provided the perfect setting.

The stage was set by a series of individual speakers and a panel discussion. Leading off the day was Robin Lipson of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Elder Affairs to speak to her office’s progress toward building a more age-friendly Massachusetts. She was followed by Dr. Charlotte Yeh, the Chief Medical Officer for the AARP, who talked about the ways that we can change the perception of aging and eliminate preconceived stigma around older adults. Also on hand was Danielle Duplin of Agency, the CIC’s Global Longevity Collective to talk about her organization’s goals of working toward Worldwide Innovation for Living Longer & Aging Better.

Our panel featured local professionals Dyan Finkhousen, Managing Director of GE’s Genius Link and President of GE Fuse; Toby Patel, Director of Community Engagement at Rendever; Dr. Anne Lusk, Research Scientist in the Harvard T.H. Chan School’s Department of Nutrition; and Nondini Naqui, former CEO at Society of Grownups. The panel presented real-world examples of how public and private industry stakeholders are implementing inclusive activities, from biking (Lusk) to virtual reality (Patel), to support the needs of older adults and provided a glimpse into the mindsets of Millennials around aging (Naqui), before concluding with an overview on the importance of sourcing of technologies on a local and global scale that have the ability to improve the lives of older adults (Finkhousen).

With the ideas presented by the speakers serving as the basis for their own ideation process, the teams began a rapid prototyping stage. The first step of was to produce ideas en masse, ranging from probable to preposterous, with possible and preferable options in between, and then they commenced sifting through the various conjectures to pinpoint the ones with the most potential. From there, they began developing a single, unified solution that combined the best elements of the most promising ideas.

The ThinkTank groups constructed eight foundational concepts:

  • The Living Library – A community center designed to be shared by people of all ages to socialize and interact. Loosely based upon the structural framework seen in today’s shopping centers, the Living Library would feature everything an individual might desire – food/drink, healthcare, shopping, entertainment, and knowledge, all under one roof.
  • Lucy – An app that connects people of different ages, backgrounds and skill-sets under the premise of exchanging ideas. The thought process behind this app is to enable older adults and young people to come together and better understand their differences and ideas. Older adults can provide mentorship on both a professional and personal level and young people can help explain the latest developments in technology and culture.
  • Time Travel Bus – Approached the problem of changing societal attitudes toward aging and the elderly by forming a team that travels from town to town via bus and transfers knowledge, wisdom, skills and passions across generations through story-telling. Functioning like an all-inclusive, mobile hub for interaction, the bus travels to different community centers collecting stories to be conveyed to the population at large during a workshop.
  • Combined Senior Living Centers with Schools – Formed based on a similarity in the way that young people and older adults struggle with feelings of isolation has been identified, and it seems to stems from the way that society tends to lump together generations with peers that are close to our own age. To combat this separation, a combination of schools and senior centers are built under one roof to encourage intermingling amongst generations.
  • Intergenerational Innovation Centers – These innovation centers are built around a core makerspace, with the hope of achieving “Design for All,” in such a way that older adults begin to voice their problems and ideas in the ideation process so that we truly create more well-rounded solutions. Individuals age in a healthier environment if they are residing beside, and interacting with, peers of all ages who bring both similar perspectives and wildly diverse ones.
  • Opportunity Land – With the belief that the issues plaguing modern societies are too systemic to uproot, a solution is to build a city from the ground up in which intergenerational populations live together, work together, and have a sense of purpose.Taking cues from across the globe around how older adults are treated within various cultures provides a depth of knowledge that vastly improves the relationships between old and young within a community. With rethought transportation, energy, and food supplies, an egalitarian society is created for the benefit of all generations.
  • On-Demand Mobile Companion – An app provides solutions to loneliness through companionship and intergenerational connectivity, while also meeting the needs of aging populations. Using the app, older adults set parameters that connect them with a caregiver or support resource that they socialize with while accomplishing daily tasks – from grocery shopping to medical appointments. Social isolation and loneliness declines as individuals are provided access to an extensive network of people who share their interests.
  • Magic Wand – A “magic wand” that transports people to a virtual reality that provides any environment they desire. Physical limitations are eliminated thanks to automated forms of transportation and the introduction of zero gravity simulations. Mobility constraints are tackled from multiple angles so that individuals experience all of the pleasures of the outside world without leaving their homes or emerging technologies are available to enhance the physical capabilities that are necessary to explore our immediate communities or societies in different areas of the world.

Despite each group devising their own imaginative idea, there seemed to be several key themes underlying each, rooted in a problem facing older adults, specifically loneliness/isolation, lack of mobility/access, and the loss of purpose. By addressing each of these concerns, we can significantly improve the attitude that people have about aging, and about interacting with older adults.

If you are interested in learning more about the Future of Aging ThinkTank, be sure to visit our website at www.acceleratethinktank.org

And for more photos from the day, feel free to visit our Facebook page: http://bit.ly/FutureofAgingThinkTankPhotos

Thanks for reading and hope to see you at our next ThinkTank!

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