weekly blog--one for the ages
It’s HubWeek in Boston, the second annual celebration of the area’s technology prowess.
On Tuesday night, I went to a lecture on harnessing evolution to solve problems in biotechnology and therapeutics science. The focus was on speeding up the evolutionary process of proteins in a laboratory to engineer novel therapeutic agents that address a variety of problems including agricultural productivity--specifically the rise of insects resistant to insecticides. One day the process might be used to eliminate genetic disorders.
On tap for Friday is a panel discussion on the horizons in regenerative medicine, otherwise known as ageless aging.
Also this week, I received my first copy of the magazine, Today’s Geriatric Medicine. The articles inside were revealing. One focused on the concept of a good death, the difficulty doctors have in discussing the topic with patients, and the forms being developed to address this issue. Another article highlighted the development of an app, Fit2Drive that predicts on-road driving ability in patients with dementia.
A third discussed the new dietary guidelines published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and what the experts recommend for optimal nutrition among older adults. A fourth featured a story on elder suicide, a growing problem as more people live longer, and how to identify patients who are at risk.
More upbeat was an article that delved into the development of electrodes (multijoint neuroprothesis) that can be implanted near the nerves of large muscles in people who had a stroke to improve walking.
Finally, for 50 years Japan has honored centenarians with a silver sake cup and a congratulatory letter from the prime minister. But the 31,747 people who are eligible for the gift this year – a rise of 4.5% from last year – will instead be presented with a silver-plated cup on Respect for the Aged Day, which is celebrated on September 15th. The cost of the new cup is about half of the old one. Japan had just 153 centenarians when records began in 1963, and as recently as 1998 the number stood at just 10,000. It exceeded 30,000 in 2007, and increased to more than 60,000 in 2015.
In a ceremony earlier this week, the city where I live (Newton) was officially designated an age-friendly community by the World Health Organization and AARP, which sponsor the initiative. Newton joins eight municipalities across Massachusetts and 160 nationwide. There are about 20 countries participating in the program. The focus is to create communities that foster an environment that is friendly to all age groups.
This is accomplished by working through action steps centered on eight ‘pillars’: housing, transportation, communication, community support, outdoor spaces and buildings, social inclusion, social participation, and civic participation and employment. To fit its demographic, Newton added two more to the list: education, and arts and culture.
The nearby Town of Brookline was the first Massachusetts community to earn the designation. Among the initiatives undertaken in the aftermath of several resident ‘listening’ sessions: the creation of a bathroom map so people know where to go, obtaining a grant so that the fire department can install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in the homes of seniors, and creating work stipends for renters to help reduce living costs (many municipalities already offer this benefit to home owners).
Iowa City, the “best small metro city” on the Milken Institute’s 2014 Best Places for Successful Aging list, offers builders bonuses for new construction aimed at seniors, tries to locate services near where residents live, recently approved Iowa’s first inter-generational co-housing project, provides door-to-door transit service for the disabled, and has a dedicated senior center commission advising the city on senior issues.
The irony is that Iowa City is home to the University of Iowa and only eight percent of its residents are aged 65 and older. Newton's 65+ group is projected to reach 40 percent of the population within a decade or two.
However, when all is said and done, the good news is that most of the things old people need are good for the rest of the community. The not so good news is that more and more people want to age in place, which can alter a community’s demographic, and make it more difficult for municipal leaders to fund programs aimed at attracting younger people and their families.
The Stanford Center on Longevity Design Challenge offers cash prizes and free entrepreneur mentorship in a competition open to all university students around the world. This year’s challenge focuses on products and services that improve the quality of life for individuals aging in their homes.
IBM’s Outthink Aging Innovation Olympics (in collaboration with Cambridge, Massachusetts-based IXL Center for Innovation and Excellence) is an 8-week program that began in February 2016 for university and business school students. Teams consisting of mid-career graduate students from Babson, Hult, Columbia, Stanford and the University of Texas, were challenged to develop integrated, technology-based solutions that address the larger and more complex issues that significantly improve the lives of the aging population.
The National Senior Games or "Senior Olympics" is a multi-sport competition in the United States specifically devoted to adults aged 50 and over. Events are divided into age groups with five years intervals. Competitions are held yearly in all American states. Every two years, a nationwide event takes place. The next National Senior Olympics is scheduled for June 2-15 in Birmingham, Alabama. A few photos from the last Senior Games.
In the competition for the best diet, here’s a Tedx Talk about the surprising winner.
Source: Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies 17th Annual Retirement Survey/USA Today
For those planning to work past 65, workers are taking these steps to ensure they can do so:
Search for a job or career that lets you ease into retirement:
Below are some of the startups that are garnering some recognition at this year’s Aging2.0 Optimize conference scheduled for October in San Francisco. Sadly, several of the company websites make it difficult to figure out exactly what products and services they are actually selling.