Just returned from the Boomer Summit, sponsored by Mary Furlong + Associates, a local firm that provides Marketing and PR for companies working to reach and capitalize on the quickly aging population. Popular Aging In Place experts, like Lori Bitter, Susan Ayers Walker and even Jody Holtzman, SVP of AARP Thought Leadership. They had several seminars, most focused on “Better Design” and “Innovation and Design.” There was a fascinating MBA Student Business Plan Pitch, and an Elevator Pitch competition, all focused on products or services for the aging population. But the thing that really got me was all the talk about design. They talked about ergomic hand held devices, fall detectors, help for tracking Alzheimer patients and even wheelchairs, but not one word about Aging In Place Remodeling. It seems a bit like a ‘taboo’ subject, or just overlooked. This particular community of thought leaders only considered group housing or building new, Universal Design and Green Concept developments, assisted living centers, etc. What interested me was that they did not acknowledge the reality that many people will NOT be moving from their own home, for personal, or in today’s economy, economic, reasons.
I cringed a little when I heard the term “Geezer Technology,” but topics were mostly about bio-technology, web interfaces other than a standard browser, medical alerts, and other devices. For example, there is a remote that easily connects to Skype. There were also some cool conceptual designs of “wheelchairs of the future.” But not a word about remodeling the physical environment for maximum comfort. Aging In Place remodeling can do a great deal to keep someone delighted with staying in their own home.
I did learn a little about up and coming trends, like ‘slipcovers’ for wheel chairs designed to be changed even several times a day, like clothes - morning, casual outing, fancy dinner. My personal favorite new chair is the Fuel Cell WheelChair. Also, GM and Segway are working on the The Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility Project (P.U.M.A. for short). It is to be a two wheel self balancing vehicle.
The P.U.M.A. is powered by lithium batteries, two self balancing in-wheel electric motors controlled by gyroscopes, and a fly-by-wire system. While the original Segway reaches speeds of up to 12mph, the P.U.M.A. can cover 35 miles on one charge it is expected this range will quickly be extended to 50 miles or more. Digital network information on nearby parking spaces, charge points and coffee shops, as well as vehicle-to-vehicle communications can be displayed by the PUMA on connected devices such as the iPhone.
An enlightening, uplifting and hilarious talk from Guy Kawasaki, one of the original Apple guys, ended the day at the Boomer Summit. I was glad I to be there as an Exhibitor to talk about real world design and useability, educate people about retrofitting, and opening some eyes. This topic and solution for many aging ‘young people’ will become more important every day.