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Aging research projects focus on the same-old, same-old

The more tech is commercialized, the more researchers ignore it. It’s so interesting and fun to read about research that is going to help seniors, don’t you think? Reporters love to write it, readers love to read it.  Someday, they say and readers agree, there will be tech that will finally help us age in our own homes. A recent AARP Bulletin offered up an article about living laboratory research into ‘possibilities’ for improving our capabilities for independent living/aka aging in place. We can feel good that work goes on at Orcatech, at Mayo Clinic, and MIT's Age Lab.  And many others have researched the same exact categories previously, as noted in 2008 in one of the very first blogs on this site. As always, the researchers interviewed offered no observations about whether there were commercial versions that were viable for consumers, and really, no acknowledgement of commercial vendors at all. Guess that’s not the point of research.

As always, a Robotic reality check is warranted.  Surprise, the new research proved that it was possible to improve communication with the video conferencing capability of the robot. Oh well, even though that sounds good, robots are not priced today at a point for general use for this purpose -- the VGo robot shown has been described elsewhere as is in the neighborhood of $6000 - not such a good deal for simple communication use, since the family contact with Celia could be provided by a simple computer or Tablet using Skype for under $300.

Motion sensors – more software needed? Scientists at Orcatech learned that motion sensors can't distinguish who triggers them — was it a spouse or a visitor? So they are developing software to detect changes in activity to better analyze the data. Really? QuietCare (now CareInnovations), WellAWARE, GrandCare and Healthsense all started businesses (that’s right, with funders, intending for the tech to be purchased, used, and generate revenue and profit!) over the past 6 years to do exactly the same thing. In fact, the software has already been written to "better analyze the data." And sadly, I have spoken with researchers who HAD NO IDEA that that was the case – and did not think that not knowing was a problem.

Medication management and telehealth.  There really must be nothing new left to research over at the MIT AgeLab -- the Agnes age suit (how's it feel to grow old?) and driverless cars for seniors -- that's so yesterday. So researchers tried out a tablet so that "the kids or grandkids can log on to see if Mom took her medications and leave messages." And using NASA software, no less! But there are already numerous medication dispensing and reminder technologies on the market – no need to have a research project hook something new up on a tablet. To Mayo Clinic, a reminder that the VA (in 2008) has already done a study on the use of telehealth technologies that provided the benefit of collecting vital signs to improve outcomes and prevent re-hospitalization. Not to be left out, insurance companies, CMS, and other researchers are also trying to reprove the benefits of telehealth technologies for treating the oldest and poorest so that incentives (to see the doctor) are replaced with telehealth et al.

Something else to research -- try these out.  So glad to hear about living laboratories -- how about some more work on helping seniors monitor and improve balance and prevent falls, now that the iShoe is a goner. Let's do more with making smart phones really smart -- enabling adjustment of touch sensitivity as we age, maybe one-touch Skype launch (with the grandchildren already in a directory), a suite of inexpensive packaged health or leisure apps for seniors that run on multiple platforms, training programs invented that are clever and on television to help seniors with new technology.  Come on Orchatech, Mayo Clinic and MIT (and Stanford -- smartphone apps help older adults (age 45-77) exercise more) -- let's stop researching the same problems with fresh, new press releases about different graduate students year-in and year-out.  Living laboratories are everywhere -- what do seniors need and what can they use? 



If there is a supply of graduate students looking to do research, then possibly there is a need for the industry to provide an advisory panel? Consider it a place where universities can inquire about trends or validate research concepts. Possibly firms could leverage universities to assist with prototypes and market trials before launching a commercial product? Start small and see where it can go. Maybe Laurie you role in the industry is the ideal place for this to occur given you are neither a vendor or a university?


Homage for Life and Active Health Active Aging

The Aging industry is looking for a breakthrough and the European Active Health Active Aging is a major strategic step to achieve such a breakthrough.

A real breakthrough, however, requires an effective platform through which the elderly, their caretakers and their families can access the components that are meant to make an improved environment for aging accessible to them.

Yes Many breakthrough projects and ideas have been presented in the Aging in Place industry. But an essential breakthrough that must be made is a way to connect them all and make everything that we call “available” truly available for the benefit of government, business and the end-users (customers) whom we all wish to serve. After all, we all hope to be those customers in the future.

The Homage for Life (HFL) platform provides a "Built-To-Order" design that can respond to and provide a platform for newly available goods and services for the elderly. The platform is sustainable and through personalization is capable of complementing the needs of each elderly person and those concerned with their well-being. The outcome is a personalized service platform for Independent Living for each elderly individual.

The HFL platform was arrived at on the basis of best practices in the IT world as well as in Aging research and development. Speeding up breakthroughs for the rapidly growing elderly population requires bold original thinking that takes the best techniques proven in other fields and adapts them to feasible and enriched Independent Living for the elderly population, improving their prospects.

Homage For Life vision is to be "A Personalized Best Practice Platform for
Independent Living - Active Aging Active Health"

Originally inspired by insights from personal experiences with aging in my family, the platform takes into account the multi-disciplinary needs and agenda of the 70+ population as individuals with varying requirements, capabilities and aspirations, and those of their formal and informal caregivers.

In Europe alone, the target audience is a population of more than 80 million elderly people and their caregivers Therefore, identifying the algorithm that matches them up with the products and services they require is simply good business.

Insights and innovations of HFL’s multi-disciplinary team are leading to the development of a first-of-its-kind platform that provides access to a personalized suite of services and products at the elderly person’s residence.

The Homage for Life platform is based on and inspired by:

• The real needs and aspirations of the 70+elderly population "end users"
• Mature IT Technology / Internet / ICT Technologies
• A new paradigm of a sustainable, personalized self-service platform
• The HFL Multi-Dimensional Business model
• The emerging Multi Generation family insights
• The HFL Non Compete Jointness Model

The HFL team, me included, looks forward to the mutual sharing of insights and the optional sharing of our platform with a wide array of groups that share our vision of a better life for the elderly through independent living.

Shoshan Shacham
Ramat Hasharon
30 Sheshet Hayamim
Israel 47247
T: +972 3 5409101,M: +972 54 5900185
Shoshan Shacham - Israel | LinkedIn


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Shacham Shoshan filmed at the: AAL Call 5 Info Day ...

I think that having a consortium or a university based research center that pulls together those with the "need" in with those who are experimenting with the technologies, is a dandy idea. Basic research on the needs of aging seniors and how technology can be used to assist them in the context of a service orientation can be brought together in a place where all the stakeholder disciplines are represented. What is needed to do it right is a community of senior subjects in realistic living situations, an interdisciplinary research team (representing engineering, sciences, medical, social worker, pharmacy, behavioral sciences, nursing, senior care givers, etc.). and an external group of partners that represent all areas of society that are concerned about the "age wave".

It seems like the biggest research areas where we are missing the boat, is in needs analysis, pilot studies, technology evaluation, technolgoy integration studies, and all pre-commercialization experiments with proposed technologies to vet them in context.

I am trying to put such a center in place at a top 10 university in the US. But so far, it's like pushing on the end of a rope. The nice part is that multidisciplinary connections are being made that cut across all the current bureacracies.

If Laurie wants to form an advisory board, I am available and willing.

This column resonated with me. I wanted very much to do some rigorous, academic research on Memo and had two experienced researchers at one of the nation's top 50 research universities interested in participating. But academia works in very slow, highly structured ways that are hard for business people to tolerate. In the end, none of us could invest the time necessary to get the project off the ground. Getting funding takes a year more or less, by the time you identify likely grant programs, develop a winning proposal, wait for deadlines, and finally get decisions. Then you have to get all the approvals, including the Institutional Research Board. IRBs are the boards who ensure the safety and well-being of research participants, and they have special protections for vulnurable populations such as elders with dementia. This can adds months. Procedures for data collection and analysis are laborious. The slow, painstakingly careful work of academic research is what makes it so valuable, but also puts it out of reach of ordinary mortals. Entrepreneurs generally work at the other end of the speed scale: they must be hares who race their product to market before their financing runs out or a competitor beats them to it. Compared with academics, they work at breakneck speed and are pretty careless about details. This is not to say that researchers and the aging-tech business community can't work together - they can and they must! But there are real cultural differences to overcome. It reminds me of an old song: Two different worlds...we live in two different worlds...

Enough research! Senior Living Providers (yes, you!) put this great technology into action! Invest into these solutions and watch the magic unfold.

Many high schools now require a senior project. Why not harness this opportunity by connecting students with seniors to teach them how to use emerging technology. Skype you say? FaceTime on a MAC, robots. High schools in the area I live have robotic classes. Technology is all well and good if you can use it meaningfully. In addition, having youth mentor seniors would create another of layer of advocacy.

It will be exciting to see what kids come up with as far as Solutions for Seniors. I don't know if you are familiar with FIRST Robotics? http://www.usfirst.org/

The challenge for the coming year is "Senior Solutions".

In the 2012 Senior Solutions℠ Challenge, over 200,000 children, ages 9 to 16*, from more than 60 countries will explore the topic of aging and how it may affect a person’s ability to maintain his or her lifestyle — solving issues like getting around, keeping in touch, or staying fit. More information here:

Who knows-- they may come up with the next must-have product. It will be fun to follow!