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Add more technology breadth to Aging in America

You walked the Exhibit Hall at ASA. You've been there, done that -- the American Society on Aging conferences and always the Exhibit Hall – so that you could note what the organization prioritizes for its many social services attendees to hear about or visit. A few years ago, you were observing that there were many companies, so little tech. This time it seemed that the exhibit hall had even fewer tech offerings than previous, and very few brand-new companies. Big firm entrants were there -- like Tunstall (Exhibit Hall) and GreatCall (Sponsor), along with divisions of larger firms, like Plantronics/Clarity.  You might have thought it was surprising to see a new senior-focused business unit from Hasbro -- with a Companion Robotic Cat (Exhibit Hall). Maybe you noted that a few smaller firms were there – with tech like MyMar (medication reminders for assisted living staff), MyMemory Carebook (life legacy), SwiftAlarm (PERS) and SingFit (dementia care music technology).

Technology, Accessibility and Transportation. This was a grouping of sort-of related session topics that might have hidden big organizations behind the title, like "A Tech-Enabled Home for Aging America" (a workshop with CDW and Samsung), or at the other end of the enterprise spectrum, "BeBloomin: A Platform for Thriving in Place" (about a software company and implementation in Otsego County, Michigan).  Good title, but not so good to learn that "Caregiving 2.0" was ony about a portal. A great title: "Technology Innovations to Care for Caregiving" also had a great description, but this turned out to be a one-time student hack.

Buried in the sessions – there was a bit more tech.  One might assume from the presence of tech in sessions, not in the hall, that the booth price is more than small firms want to pay for the not-so-likelihood of seeing the attendees, who might have been challenged by such a crowded set of parallel sessions. POr perhaps the small firms signed up as attendees but were not interested in exhibiting. Other than the firms noted, there were a few smaller companies hidden away in session descriptions: HeraTrack Wearables (for dementia), CareAtHand (predictive analytics), K4Connect (for persons with disabilities), or Carely (a mobile caregiving app).  

For future Exhibit Hall recruiters – please seize the opportunity. If you have the AiA16 book (or the time to review the online Aging in America sessions) then you know. You've looked through numerous sessions that touch on nearly every aspect of caregiving, aging/social services, caregiver challenges, state initiatives, university projects and expert insights. But there was little presence  -- sponsored, exhibiting, or on the agenda -- of technology innovation or startups. And it did not appear to be a must-attend exhibit opportunity for tech integrators or consultants, especially those offering how-to-implement technology guidance for social services settings. This is a missed opportunity to reach an audience of professional managers trying to grapple with thorny problems.

Tech for the elderly and those who serve them – now that’s a thorny problem.  Identifying, sorting, selecting, and implementing technologies is a big deal. Considering the recent $100 million investment in tech-enabled home care -- what sessions at the ASA event discussed the significance of this? Who knows about AARP TEK online training programs -- which could be very useful for the ASA professionals? And what about progress in deploying technology within senior centers, regional non-profits, social service agencies, or home health organizations? Is there progress? Trust me, if you saw the ASA session book, you know all of those folks were there. So why weren't there more tech leaders and staff offering to help? Why wasn't the exhibit hall crowded with innovations that can help seniors?  Just asking.