Historically, older adults have been slow to adopt new technology, a pressing issue as medicine increasingly becomes tech driven. Often stereotyped for their lack of tech fluency, older adults stand to gain the most from our increasingly digital world.
At last week’s White House Conference on Aging, Philips announced it will be increasing its ongoing efforts to find technology, product and service solutions for aging well by launching the AgingWell Hub (AWH). According to a press release, AWH will focus its efforts on driving open innovation through the creation of learning labs, sharing thought leadership and promoting positive images of aging.
The center, set to open by the end of the year, will be based in Cambridge, Mass. where Philips recently relocated its North American research headquarters. Its goal: to improve the lives of 3 billion people by 2025 and to create meaningful innovations.
We spoke with Kimberly O’Loughlin, senior vice president and general manager of Philips Home Monitoring, about AWH and the need for further focus on older adults.
How long has Philips’ AWH been in the works?
Our research and discussions have shown to both Philips and our collaborators that a new approach to delivering meaningful innovation is needed – an approach where government, industry, healthcare systems, academic institutions, non-profits and consumers must be partners in the design of new programs and smart technologies that will empower older adults to thrive. Understanding the need for a new approach is what led us to create the AWH. Innovation doesn’t happen in a vacuum and each one of the organizations involved [Georgetown’s Global Social Enterprise Initiative, MIT AgeLab and MedStar Health] brings a different perspective and area of expertise to the table. They all see the benefit of this work and quickly signed on.
Philips is committed to continue to bring together the best minds in healthcare and caregiving, as well as payers, policy makers, corporate innovators, and entrepreneurs to create real solutions that can have a meaningful impact on older adults.
What will the AgingWell hub offer to participators?
The AgingWell Research hub in Cambridge will serve as a “sandbox” where partners can study problems, test new technologies and protocols, conduct customer workshops, prototype new product and service ideas and conduct systems integration testing. We expect to affect positive change by organizing research based tactics such as open hackathons that address structured AgingWell problems, and by convening designers, developers, scientists, aging well experts and other stakeholders to co-create.
Philips’ already has a suite of projects focused on older adults, most notably the Philips Center for Health and Well-being’s Aging Well research center. How does the AWH add on to the other projects? Will it work independently or in conjunction with them?
The AWH is a collaborative research and development initiative to create products, services and best practices that make aging well accessible and inevitable, not just a concept. By fostering affordable and scalable technological solutions, as well as relevant services and best practices that can help both the caregiver and the care recipient, the work of the AWH will help enable older adults to be healthier and independent longer. The AWH will also look at ways to better connect older adults within their homes and communities.
We believe that the great work we are doing with the Global Social Enterprise Initiative and the likely outcomes of the work with the AWH can influence product design and offerings in the future. However, just as importantly, the open innovation approach to be used by AWH will enable many other organizations to realize their desire to assist and support this key segment of our population as well.
How exactly do you define an older adult?
We don’t have a specific definition for an older adult, but we are helping the oldest seniors and their family caregivers who may be in their forties, fifties, or sixties as well as their doctors and nurses. People of all ages should care about this issue and have a personal stake in some way. The earlier in someone’s life they think about planning for their own aging and their family members’ aging, the better.
Why the focus on older adults? What are some of the challenges with focusing on that population subset?
Longevity—one of our biggest successes—has become one of our greatest individual and societal challenges. The growth in the number and proportion of older adults is unparalleled in the history of the United States.
According to U.S. Census Bureau projections, by 2030, 25 percent of the U.S. population will be 60 years of age and older, and 19 percent of the population will be 65 years of age and older. Every day, 10,000 baby boomers turn 65.
Older adults are beginning to make crucial and complex decisions about where and how they will spend their aging years. At the same time, the Affordable Care Act has catalyzed the shift to a value-driven, integrated, open ecosystem focused on efficient, high-quality care. Actionable insights, collaboration and engagement are more important than ever, and advances in health technology can help facilitate this collaboration while also connecting silo-ed entities, data sets and people to provide a holistic picture of both a patient and a population’s health.
Now is the time to urgently and collectively take action to reduce the social, societal, cost, design and policy barriers to innovation that could provide connectivity to older adults within their homes and communities.
Paula is a freelance science writer and strategic communications associate at Health Leads. Formerly a managing editor at MedTech Boston, she has a B.S. in Journalism from Boston University and has worked with the New England Center for Investigative Reporting, Boston Globe, Social Documentary Network, BU Today and several nonprofit organizations. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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