Posts from 2015-04

Empowering Elderhood in the Digital Age



CareWheels Research has identified 3 key criteria for empowering elders and driving gerontech innovation adoption:

  1. technologies that empower - rather than objectify - boomers and elders,
  2. solutions that address the social determinants of health before medicalizing aging,
  3. objectives that harness interdependence as an effective means to achieve independence.


Eric Dishman, Intel Fellow and general manager of Health and Life Sciences, sees social health technologies as low-hanging fruit and advocates to shift care homeward.

Clayton Christensen, Harvard Business School Professor, has defined 2 key disruptive innovations in health care that facilitate this shift:

1. Point-of-Care disruptions happen when treatments that were previously performed in a hospital may now be done at home.

2. Provider-level disruptions happen when diagnoses and procedures that previously required physicians can now be done as self-care because methods have been codified and procedures automated with technology.

Alvin Toffler, futurist and author of The Third Wave, coined the term Prosumer. CareWheels Research revealed a third innovation: Prosumer-level disruptions that happen when gerontech empowered Prosumers exchange mutual care services that harness the network effect of reciprocal interdependence to achieve faster and greater adoption rates.

Book Review: Can't We Talk about Something More Pleasant?: A Memoir Roz Chast


I put off reading this book for a long time. Sure, it was a 2014 National Book award finalist and I had read many gushing reviews. But graphic novels are not one of my favorite genres, and memoirs are. I was skeptical of the concept of a graphic memoir about aging.

Yet I found Chast’s memoir to be substantive, honest, deeply moving and scathingly funny. A New Yorker cartoonist, Chast brings to bear her skills of incisive observation and wit to portray her ideas compactly. She engages the reader in the relatable story of people who we come to know in ways that are both universal and instructive, in keeping with some of the best traditions of memoir. 

Through delightful and expressive drawings combined with handwritten passages, Chast writes about her upbringing - but mostly the period of her parents’ decline. It was surprisingly hilarious, painfully poignant and at times, even oddly uplifting.  In a word, it is full of contradictions - not unlike the life passage it depicts. 

A book I was reluctant to read, but basically inhaled and now find myself recommending to all my friends.

First Thoughts

  The Art of Growing Older


 After nourishment, shelter and companionship,

stories are the thing we need most in the world.

~Philip Pullman


Much of our culture surrounding issues of aging is devoted to denial of it.  Eternal youth is packaged and promoted in many forms- miracle foods, miracle creams, miracle pills, miracle claims…60 is the new 50. Our emphasis is on anti-aging.

Anti-aging. Now there's an oxymoron. Aging (according to American English dictionary) is the process of becoming older. When that process ceases we are no longer alive.

But, in a culture that medicalizes the natural process of aging as a disease process, the term anti-aging becomes the vocabulary for the myriad of cures with which we seek to arrest, reverse and eradicate that process. We have an extraordinary aversion to aging. In media and business cultures enthralled with youth, aging is waning power. Rather than seeing experience, wisdom and beauty, we are trained to see weakness, irrelevance and ugliness.

Continue reading
What is GeronTechnology?



GeronTechnology = Gerontology + Technology

Gerontology: "to become ripe, grow old" from the Proto-Indo-European base *ger(e)

Medical Dictionary: The scientific study of the biological, psychological, and sociological phenomena that are associated with old age and aging.

Technology: "systematic treatment of an art, craft, or technique" from the Greek tekhnologia

Science Dictionary: The use of scientific knowledge to solve practical problems, especially in industry and commerce.

Gerontechnology is defined as “the study of technology and aging for ensuring good health, full social participation, and independent living through the entire life span.” Gerontechnology is interdisciplinary in nature, combining gerontology (eg, medical, psychological, and social sciences of aging) and technology (eg, robotics, ergonomics, information and communication technologies). In this perspective, older adults are studied from the lens of living among a dynamic technological society, while technology is studied from the viewpoint of its potential to improve their daily living and to facilitate their social participation.

CareWheels Gerontechnology Research

CareWheels began exploring the use of wireless sensor networks for in-home monitoring and support in 2001, with a grant from the Intel Research Council. We learned in our first ”living lab” how to develop systems in people’s homes and engage them in person-centered, participatory design, which helped inform and inspire the subsequent ORCATECH Life Laboratory and the Intelligent Systems for Assessment of Aging Changes Study.

ORCATECH and CareWheels have deployed the same sensor technology to achieve very different, yet complementary medical and social health objectives, respectively. ORCATECH deployed in-home sensors to discover and detect pre-clinical indicators of mild cognitive impairment, and monitor important health changes due to chronic disease and aging to guide care transitions.

CareWheels research demonstrated that by empowering people with technology to practice peer-care and participate in community-based social health networks, they can help themselves live more independently. By sharing responsibility for the well-being of others, people become motivated to take better care of themselves.

Together these kinds of complementary medical and social health applications offer us new gerontechnology tools to live more interdependently and age in place more affordably, safely and gracefully. CareWheels’ methods offer boomers a resource (ourselves) that has the potential to scale-up in proportion to the growing needs of our aging society. In essence, we can become the ones we’ve been waiting for.

Gerontechnology Around the Healthcare Continuum