Event blur -- but non-tech pattern is evident. I spent last week trying to keep up with myself at the ASA/NCOA Aging in America Conference in Chicago and the post-event Boomer What's Next summit. Those who saw me dashing around the exhibit hall and conference locations know that I was well-managed by my trusty BlackBerry, and managed to fully circle the exhibit floor twice. Still, after two passes and a bizarre demo of Philips Lifeline with AutoAlert, it was tough to form an overall impression about the technologies discussed and demonstrated at the show. But the website is up and instructive.
Five days, 837 listed sessions, 47 of them tech-related, but.... Searching for the word 'technology' anywhere in title or description of sessions, I found 47. But when you examine the list to find enablers of aging in place (as broadly defined as possible), you might agree that some are strictly intended to upgrade skills and train the 3500 professionals at the show within their profession, for example, "Assessment of Capacity of Older Adults: A Training Curriculum for Clinicians."
So let's cull those out of the list, along with the overall trend sessions, bringing us down to 37 sessions. Might we learn about specific technology products in those sessions and how professionals might use them? Maybe if we went to sessions on Brain Fitness or Medication Management or Assistive Technology -- attendees would know best whether product names were mentioned. I will bet that the 37 boils down to half or fewer in which an actual tech product name that can be purchased was mentioned. (And free doesn't count - no Google, Twitter, Facebook.)
Exhibits -- 114 exhibitors in the hall, tech is barely visible. You can read the list yourself and form your own assessment. Taking a fair amount of leeway, but avoiding tools and back office systems for use within professional service organizations, I see maybe 15-20 tech exhibitors. I could see on site that they were generally lost (except for the sizable Philips booth of course), disappearing in a booth sea of home care services, non-profits, public agencies, schools, research organizations. Certainly it is great to see so much information available to help professionals understand these organizations and their information and insights. But...
How do product vendors find this audience? This process is simply not working as a way to educate home care agencies, social service professionals, gerontologists, geriatric care managers, or any of the myriad of people who can play a strong referring role to the ultimate consumer. Why does that matter? Because many of these technologies have a service and alerting component, because many products can connect those professionals to families in a way that improves safety, communication, health, and overall well-being.
Aging in America -- in 2011, let's see proactive tech education of attendees. In 2011, the first of the baby boomer age wave turns 65. But most of the baby boomer population is connected in some fashion to aging parents, spouses, or relatives. So let's be clear: I am not talking about educating attendees on use of social networking to acquire new clients. I am talking about the entire cycle of technologies, from websites to devices, from caregiving portals to monitoring systems, cameras, cell and smart phones, to touch computers and tech for mitigating loss of vision, hearing, and manual dexterity. Vendors need to communicate about these technologies to professionals. Professionals need to learn about them. It's not okay to talk about fall prevention without fall detection. It's not okay to discuss home care services without considering caregiver communications among family members, professionals, the care recipient.
This problem is easily fixed -- the next Aging in America event is a year away.