Austin Making Strides on the Aging & Innovation Front

More than 130 people attended AustinUP’s 2018 ATX Aging & Innovation Summit, an information-packed program held November 28th at the Sonesta Bee Cave Austin Hotel. 

The goal this year was to provide a creative space so that people with different talents and perspectives on aging could come together to help put Austin on the map in the emerging field of aging/longevity innovation. Our panelists represented community need, research, business opportunity and investment. 

A few highlights from the panels and presentations:

  • Andrew Levack, Senior Program Officer, St. David’s Foundation (SDF), talked about a new SDF program called CAPABLE, which will combine the services of RNs, occupational therapists and handy persons to help support elders in their homes.
  • Sarah Ortiz Shields, Program Manager, Austin Tech Alliance, spoke about the Senior Shuffle, which brought together aging-related service providers and Austin-Travis County EMS to brainstorm ways to provide comprehensive services to seniors in Austin.
  • Debra Umberson, Ph.D., Professor of Sociology and Director of the Population Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin, gave us a preview of UT’s Texas Aging & Longevity Center. Funded by 6 colleges/schools and the Vice President for Research, the Center’s official launch will be in January 2019. Their goal is to connect UT Austin with the city, state and national communities serving aging populations. Primary areas of expertise include aging in place/social isolation; technology and aging; health disparities; and Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementias.
  • Char Hu, Ph.D., CEO and Founder, The Helper Bees, and Leon Coe, Co-founder and COO, VoCo, shared their experience as startups in the aging space. 
  • José Colucci, Ph.D., Director for Research and Development, Design Institute for Health, spoke about the importance of intergenerational interaction for elders. One enlightening note that he shared was an unforeseen benefit of multigenerational living. He said that children and their parents go through difficult periods, often at the same time. The effects are actually mitigated by the presence of multiple generations.
  • Brandon Knicely, Co-founder, Third Drive, helped us envision an ATX Living Lab, combining services for elders, plus a technology incubator and coworking spaces.
  • Fred Lugo, Director, Coming of Age Austin and Steering Committee Member, Austin LGBT Coalition on Aging, talked about what these organizations do to combat social isolation and foster greater inclusion for older adults.
  • Debbie Hanna, President, Darrell K Royal Research Fund for Alzheimer’s Disease, shared a video outlining their grants to the “best and the brightest” (Dell Medical School, for example) for research of Alzheimer’s and cognitive impairment. Offering another perspective on the human brain, Jarrod Lewis-Peacock, Ph.D., Principal Investigator, LewPeaLab, The University of Texas at Austin, spoke about his research related to learning and memory.
  • Stephanie Hayden, Director, Austin Public Health, City of Austin, talked about the City’s age-friendly coordinator position and her vision for this new role. 
  • Henri Fontana, Technical Program Manager – Accessibility, Google, talked about how Google’s goal of accessibility across all of its products helps older adults.

Our afternoon Tech/Aging Startup Showcase included:

  • Clairvoyant Networks (solutions supporting Aging in Place, e.g., sensors, communication hardware, smart phone applications and cloud connectivity)
  • Iris Plans (technology to help families with advance care planning)
  • Guide Change (financial reporting and tracking for elders and their caregivers)
  • Remedy (medical house calls and on-demand video visits)

We also took part in a highly interactive “design thinking” strategy session over lunch, led by a team of IBM facilitators. The team shared with us a link that each of us could use to pursue our own skills certification in design thinking.

Needless to say, we learned a lot, shared a lot and were energized by the ideas and innovation happening right here in our community.

Huge thanks to our Summit steering committee:

  • José Colucci, Ph.D., Design Institute for Health
  • Diana Deaton, Aging 2.0 Austin
  • Char Hu, Ph.D., The Helper Bees
  • Susann Keohane, IBM (Chair)
  • Brandon Knicely, Third Drive
  • Jessica Lemann, AARP Texas
  • Shubhada Saxena, Aspire to Age
  • James Sulzer, Ph.D., UT School of Engineering
  • Kate Williams Carnevale, IBM

And a final note of thanks to our sponsors:

  • AARP Texas
  • St. David’s Foundation
  • Alzheimer’s Association
  • AnyPlaceMD
  • Senior Resource Guide
  • Aging 2.0 Austin

We are grateful to volunteer Jim Turner for the photographs featured on this page.

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