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Austin Making Strides on the Aging & Innovation Front

aging innovation summit sign

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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Ride Guide Offers Transportation Options

Many older Americans think that giving up the car keys means giving up independence. In the Austin metropolitan area, that does not have to be the case. The newly published Ride Guide will help you find the transportation option that best suits your needs or the needs of someone you know. The booklet includes common situations and suggestions for how older adults can remain mobile and actively involved in the community. Special thanks go to Ride Guide publishers, the Aging Services Council and the Central Texas Office of Mobility Management.

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City of Austin’s Age-friendly Action Plan is Officially Approved

The Austin City Council received a certificate of approval on Thursday, May 10, marking the official start to the implementation of the Austin Age-Friendly Action Plan. At the beginning of Thursday’s City Council meeting, community leaders recognized this achievement and presented City Council with a certificate from AARP and the World Health Organization.

This plan, designed to make Austin a livable community for people of all ages, was developed by the City of Austin Commission on Seniors, AARP, AustinUP, and other nonprofits working in coordination with the Austin City Council. Austin is the first city in Texas to receive approval from the World Health Organization (WHO) for its action plan.

The City of Austin is engaged in a collaborative effort across nine departments as well as the Commission on Seniors to turn the plan into reality. The City’s Departmental effort is led by interim Assistant City Manager, Sara Hensley, with leadership from Austin Public Health Director Stephanie Hayden. Departments currently participating include: Austin Public Health, Austin Public Library, Parks and Recreation, the City Manager’s Office, Economic Development, Neighborhood Housing and Community Development, Public Works, Planning and Zoning, and Austin Transportation.

Additional news coverage:
Austin is First Texas City to Receive Green Light for Implementation of “Age-Friendly” Action Plan

Photos from the event (click on photos to see larger versions):


Photo credit: Jacqueline Angel, Teresa Ferguson

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Recap: Livability for Longevity Symposium

livability_longevity_symposium_Austin_logo

The Bass Lecture Hall at the LBJ School of Public Affairs was a hub of ideas and activity on Tuesday, April 10, 2018 – all focused on improving the lives of older adults in our community. The event provided 1) context for a team of LBJ School students’ Policy Research Project, “Young, Hip Austin is Getting Old”; 2) information about the goals and strategies outlined in the Age-friendly Austin Action Plan, specifically in the areas of housing, healthcare and employment; and 3) an opportunity to discuss ways to change how we think about “aging.” Read more ›

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SXSW 2018 and Aging Innovation

Many people are surprised to learn that aging and longevity issues are widely covered at SXSW. We’re happy to report that the aging-related panels and speakers we saw this year were truly relevant and knowledgeable. As always, we learned a lot. Here are some random notes from just a few of the panels we saw at SXSW 2018.

Not Only the Lonely: How We All Can Be Happier

  • Millennials are approaching the same levels of loneliness as elders.
  • The panel spoke to a packed room, which illustrates that the issue of loneliness resonates with people of all ages. Their message: Put away the devices and just talk to people. And we’ll add…pick up the phone and call your mom, dad, grandma or grandpa. Today.

The Elder Boom: Aging Tech’s Explosive Growth

  • More than 111 million people in the U.S. today are over 50. And European countries are ahead of us on the aging curve. Note to businesses: You can do social good AND make money serving this market.
  • Investors (including one of the panelists, who works at GE Ventures) report what they’re seeing, e.g., 3D printing could possibly be used to make dentures, hearing aids and home monitoring devices. Could be a game changer. slide from Unity Biology presentation

Bracing for a New Age of Longevity

  • Panelist: Unity Biology, President, Ned David. Ned holds pending and issued patents in fields such as nanovolume crystallography, antibiotic resistance, aesthetic medicine, and cellular senescence. His company’s mission is to extend human health span.
  • Scientists have doubled the lifespan of a fly/mouse by deleting a gene. Aging is no longer a black box.
  • What they know: Senescent cells accumulate as we age. Senescent cells multiply, feeding on themselves. When you eliminate the senescent cells, healthy cells grow in their place, which leads to healthier animals. In their studies, mice without senescent cells are living 35% longer, without the traditional side effects of aging. Could alter the definition of what it means to be elderly.
  • Unity Biology’s drug (for humans) will go into a clinical trial this year.

Age of Ageless: Cultivate a Life of Reinvention

  • There have always been three stages of life: learn, earn and retire. That’s not working anymore. The “earn” phase (for today’s kids) will last about 70 years.
  • The modern elder concept: Be both a sage and a student. “I’m here to learn as well as to teach.” Intern publicly, mentor privately.
  • If you had 100 years to live, would you be doing what you’re doing now? As a society we haven’t addressed the answers to this question. We view life as if we have one tank of gas to get us all the way through. No wonder people are running on fumes later in life. At minimum, this is a two-tank life. Taking a break or changing paths mid-life is OK.
  • Why are most college scholarship programs only for young people? We may need to rethink that as well, so that older adults can go back to school, and retool their career. Because if you have a growth mindset, labels, e.g., millennials, boomers, etc. don’t really matter.

SXSW Community Service Awards

  • Char Hu, CEO and co-founder of The Helper Bees and AustinUP Board member, was a 2018 SXSW Community Service Award honoree. Upon receiving his award, Char encouraged other entrepreneurs to “build solutions that enhance the invigorating aspects of life.” photo of Char Hu
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Notes from the AARP Livable Communities Conference

aarp livable communities conference photo

The 5th Annual AARP Livable Communities Conference, held November 14-16, 2017, in Dallas, was an opportunity for local leaders and community advocates from across the U.S. to come together to share ideas, best practices and solutions for making towns, cities and communities more livable for people of all ages.

What is a livable community? Picture healthy, walkable, vibrant neighborhoods and downtowns; cities in which older adults are active and engaged; and communities where health concerns are addressed in a holistic way. This is what we’re working toward in Austin with the implementation of the Age-friendly Austin Action Plan.

Representatives from the City of Austin Commission on Seniors, Capital City Village, AustinUP and other local thought leaders attended the event – and we learned a lot.

The Longevity Economy
In her welcome address, Nancy LeaMond, AARP’s Chief Advocacy and Engagement Officer, talked about the power behind the Longevity Economy. She reminded us that the Longevity Economy is made up of older adults continuing to contribute to the economy by staying in the workforce, maintaining their role as consumers, participating in the gig economy (as rideshare drivers, Airbnb hosts, etc.), staying engaged in their community as volunteers, and demonstrating their political power by voting. (Voters aged 50+ made up 56% of the electorate in 2016.)

Note: For those who would like to learn more about the Longevity Economy, Joe Coughlin, director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) AgeLab, has just published a book called The Longevity Economy: Unlocking the World’s Fastest-Growing, Most Misunderstood Market. In it he describes how businesses can prepare for an aging world. We have posted an article about the book here.

Improving Transportation Options
A number of conference speakers focused on transportation issues. Their advice to communities for improving transportation and transportation options include:

Build partnerships with other jurisdictions. There is value in pulling together mayors of cities within a region to work on transportation issues. Focus on partnership, transparency, coordination and trust. We should strive for alignment (actual and philosophical) across community partnerships.

Establish a common vocabulary. For example, even the phrase “complete streets” may not mean the same thing in rural communities as it does in cities. Connotations may vary. Changing the terminology to “safe streets” may overcome this. We need to use words and phrases that convey the common interests and universal goals associated with a more connected community.

Harness technology, but don’t get in the way. Autonomous vehicles (AVs) could lead to an explosion in the number of trips on our roadways. The Senate is currently considering an autonomous vehicle bill that will allow car manufacturers to put AVs on the road, with no coordination with local government, police, etc. about pricing and policy. We need to pay attention, and encourage plans that will move people, not cars. Communities also need to create policies that are density-based, to encourage more and cheaper options for trips with multiple riders. Right now, many fees that support roads and infrastructure are tied to gas taxes, but as the technology advances, AVs and EVs (electric vehicles) will need to pay their fair share. Robin Chase, Transportation Entrepreneur and one of the conference’s keynote speakers, provided some really good insight.

Focus on equality. The largest barrier to economic equality is access to transportation. On average in the U.S., 18% of household income is spent on cars. For lower-income families, it’s 40%.

Other statistics:
–Transportation generates 26% of the world’s CO2 emissions.
–On average, 30% of a city’s real estate goes to cars. In Houston, it’s 65%.

The walk has to be as good as the drive. Another keynote speaker, Jeff Speck, author of Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time, said that more people will choose to walk if the experience is useful, safe, comfortable and interesting.

Other notes from his presentation:
–We will need to reverse a huge amount of planning and zoning to encourage walkable communities.
–People drive faster on wider streets.
–Buffered bike lanes (i.e., buffered by parked cars) is one example of what it’ll take to get older adults on bikes.
–Parked cars on the street help protect people on sidewalks.

Austin Represents
We were proud to see that one of the conference field trips featured Austin innovators. While exploring the streets and sidewalks right outside the conference hotel, participants digitally documented the experience of walking and bicycling (actually, tricycling) in the area. This activity was run by Heyden Black Walker, MSCRP, an urban planner with Black + Vernooy; John Simmerman, MS, a nationally recognized health promotion professional, urbanist and filmmaker; Katie Deolloz, creator of ATX Walks; W. Preston Tyree, BChE, MBA, author of The State of the Art: Bicycle Education in America and Ani Colt, co-founder (with Tyree) of Trike Neighborhoods.

Building Partnerships to Implement the Age-friendly Austin Action Plan
How do we engage under-represented community members as we implement our age-friendly initiatives? A few suggestions from speakers and panelists:

  • Put together a Steering Committee that reflects our community
  • “Aging is not the problem; a city that is not planning for an aging population is the problem.” We need to embed age-friendly ideas within the city’s planning processes, divisions and departments
  • Hold more town halls (regular and on social media) on a regular basis
  • Encourage churches, which often have programs supporting older adults, to solicit input from their congregants
  • Survey residents about what they need and want, then listen to their answers
  • Reach out to businesses, City government and nonprofits to ask for their input and ideas
  • Stress the importance of multigenerational input. The changes that we make for today’s older adults will benefit younger generations, too.

Additional Resources
2017 AARP Livable Communities National Conference (includes video highlights)

Shared Mobility Principles for Livable Cities

Hundred Million Healthier Lives campaign

Fort Worth’s “Town Halls for All”

 

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Chip Sampson Joins AustinUP Board of Directors

chip sampson photo2

AustinUP is proud to welcome Chip Sampson to our Board of Directors. Chip has more than 18 years of experience in the Professional Services and Project Staff Placement industry in Austin and throughout Texas. With a background in both public sector and private industry, he has developed long-term business relationships with a large number of employers in the central Texas marketplace and beyond. Prior to that, he served 11 years in management roles over customer service and sales-focused companies in the music and audio industry. He currently serves as the Internship Committee Chair for the Austin Community College Continuing Education Vendor Advisory Board.

Chip is an eternal optimist who has consistently been able to meet or exceed organizational development goals through perseverance, persistence, and a positive attitude.

Self described as a teacher and creator, Chip has developed a series of programs titled, “The Employment Puzzle” designed to help job seekers effectively reach their desired employment goals through a systematic approach with networking as a central principle. Chip has presented at most of AustinUP’s “55+ in ATX” Job Fairs. We look forward to learning even more from him in his new role as Board member. Welcome, Chip!

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Aging, the Longevity Economy and What it Means to You

Joe Coughlin, director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) AgeLab, has written a book called The Longevity Economy: Unlocking the World’s Fastest-Growing, Most Misunderstood Market. In it he describes how businesses can prepare for an aging world. As he explains, “The main purpose of this book is to help [leaders in] big businesses understand this brave, old world and succeed in it; to enable them to harness the heightened expectations of baby boomers craving a better old age; and to avoid being left in the dust of creative destruction as others do the same.” Read more ›

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Whitney Power Joins AustinUP Board of Directors

Whitney Power headshot

We are happy to report that Whitney Power has joined the AustinUP Board of Directors, effective August 2017. Whitney works with Seton Innovation and Virtual Care, where she helps connect Austinites to health care they need by deploying new technology solutions and programs.

Whitney has managed senior-focused health technology and remote care coordination programs, organized technology trade shows, and spoke at last year’s SXSW EDU conference about the use of affordable education technologies for educators who want to frame lessons as entertaining marketing campaigns. She is a designated Trendwatching.com consumer “Trend Watcher,” presenting on worldwide consumer trends to health executives and continuing education audiences. Whitney was formerly an Aging2.0 Austin organizer, and is an active supporter of health tech startups and companies dedicated to improving the lives of older adults. She also is a Drive a Senior volunteer.

Whitney believes innovative products, services and companies can intentionally market their solutions so people from different generations unite and integrate more regularly, resulting in improved lives for older adults, for Austin families and for our community at large. When Whitney is not working or volunteering, she spends time with her (Boomer) parents, (Millennial) sister, husband, two (Gen Z’er) little boys and niece.

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Recap: ATX Aging & Innovation Summit

investor panel photo

It was standing room only at the May 4 ATX Aging & Innovation Summit, presented by AustinUP and Dell Medical School at the University of Texas. If you were there, you heard Dr. Chris Callahan, Director of the Indiana University Center for Aging Research, suggest that given the diversity of older adults, we need a diversity of new technologies and innovations to support independence; Jeffrey Makowka, Director of Market Innovation for AARP, tell us that $7.6 trillion in annual economic activity is generated by people over the age of 50; and Dr. José Colucci, Director of Research and Development at the Design Institute for Health, point out that younger adults try to identify with their age group as much as possible, while older adults do not…unless that comparison reinforces a positive self image. This, of course, is excellent insight if you are working and innovating in the aging/tech space! Read more ›

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