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NCOA-ASA Aging in America -- many sessions, little tech information

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.

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I would have to agree with you about the missing technological advances at the Aging in America conference, however some of the technologies and devices are quite new therefore many of the attendees probably wanted an opportunity to check out the conference before exhibiting. I was a first time attendee and my team was as well, we learned a lot as marketers within a more niche audience than we were used to. Even though we did not have a booth at Aging in America I encourage you and your readers to take a look at our product. The LifeGuard30 is a mobile medical record device that does not need the Internet, phone line or even power to function. Please visit our website lifeguard30.com to learn more about how this product can help caregivers, family members, professionals, care recipients and those who feel it is important to be an alert, prepared medical consumer in an emergency.

As Senior Vice President of NCOA with a strong technology bent, I would have to agree with you, and I very much appreciate the public feedback.  I would invite you to contact me directly to see how we can better implement some of the ideas you have listed.


Stuart Spector



Laurie, Good to see you again at NCOA/ASA.
I agree with your take that technology information and planning need to be taken in a large context. There is a wide range of services that support Aging in Place alongside with the higher technologies including homecare, remodeling, meals and food deliveries, transportation, money management, and others. They all need to develop in lock step, providing flowing, coordinated and well managed services to clients.

Can totally relate to your comments - I was a first time attendee and found my initial perusal of their website confounding...I actually changed my flight and stayed longer in the end but missed the Thursday and Friday sessions. I found the keynote speakers (Ken Dychtwald and Gail Sheehy) very interesting - and as someone new(ish) to this market, their perspective was great. I found some other presentations a bit light - but that wouldn't be unique to this conference. However I also recognize the educational / peer-to-peer time must be invaluable to many attendees. Speaking as someone with a consumer marketing background, I was underwhelmed by most of the displays at the exhibit floor (as you mention with the exception of Phillips). I would like to see far more consumer facing brands and businesses there (one bank? good to see Wells Fargo there but were are the other companies?). I fault the brands - not the ASA / NCOA but consumer marketers need to wake up to this market!

Laurie, I agree with your assessment that technology was glaringly obscure. As an organization who designs & develops technology specific to assistive hearing & vision, we participated on a panel, however the panel I participated in was related to social media. As I review the attendee list, it is clear that ClearSounds needed to present and show our hearing technology products as these solutions are so fundamentally critical to maintaining independence & safety as we age and I would suggest most importantly, our ability to maintain quality of life through our relationships. We would gladly run a workshop that focused on hearing loss, how to identify it, solutions and methods for managing communication with people with hearing loss.

You can expect to see ClearSounds not only attending next year but showing our technology!

Hello all-
As an exhibitor at the conference, I did see some technology companies in the exhibit hall as well as on the speaker list. In case you missed our exhibit at the conference, or did not get a chance to listen to Chief Gene Saunders of Project Lifesaver International speak about available technologies during one of the break out sessions, please visit www.projectlifesaver.org for more information.

Project Lifesaver International is a non-profit organization that is committed to helping families quickly find their loved ones who wander because of Alzheimer's, Down syndrome, autism, and other cognitive conditions. Project Lifesaver trains agencies on how to search for individuals who become lost by utilizing search and rescue techniques and equipment, as well as how to interact with individuals once they are found to help facilitate a safe escort home. Clients enrolled in the program wear a small, wrist-watch sized radio transmitter than emits a tracking signal, and should the individual wander, public safety agencies are able to rapidly locate them. These efforts have reduced search times for officials and have helped find loved ones quicker and easier with an average search time of 30 minutes. To date, Project Lifesaver agencies have rescued nearly 2,100 individuals successfully, with 1,100 public safety agencies participating in 45 states, D.C., Canada and Australia.