Thoughts from Day One of the American Society on Aging Conference

I have been at the American Society on Aging conference for a full day. This is a big deal with more than 5000 attendees. This is evident in the number of people in line at Starbucks in the morning, the number of options one has regarding the sessions and the opportunities to hear and talk with smart, engaged, committed people. It is another reminder, too, that aging is not a monolithic topic. One of the major tracks focuses on technology, while others deal with care-giving, health, policy, diseases, and many others. Yes, aging is about everything. Given what I heard, overheard and saw yesterday, here are some reflections.

There are some amazing technological responses to the current and growing demand for maintaining one's independence. These include medication monitoring assistance - devices that keep track and remind one when and how to take the right medications. There are systems that pay attention to possible home dangers like stoves left burning, etc. Web-based camera and communications systems link care-givers or distant family with the individual and personal health records that lay out every health interaction for the physician and other health provider.

What strikes me about this is that these are largely not new technologies; they are adaptations of existing technologies to this context. It also seems that most of the examples are either speculative or small trials that have not realized much scale. Furthermore, there does not seem to be a deep base of empirical information about the actual lived experience of the older adult, the care environment or especially the community context.

I will try to pay attention to these things over the next days and am curious about what you think to be true about technology and the good, bad and ugly of it as a solution to one's long-term independent living. I will also weigh-in on the policy issues that grabbed me in a session yesterday.