A recent article described research being conducted by Joseph Coughlin, director of the AgeLab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The AgeLab’s goal: to develop new ideas and products to improve the quality of life for older Americans.
In January, the first of 78 million baby boomers reached age 62 and were eligible to collect Social Security. About 8,000 people in the U.S. turn 60 every day, and the 50+ population is the fastest-growing demographic worldwide. With advances in healthcare and technology, people are not only living longer, they are living better. Not only that, aging boomers—healthier, wealthier and better educated than past generations—are demanding such technologies. That opens up new opportunities for innovation, says Coughlin. “An aging society is the opportunity to invent the future of healthy, active living,” states the AgeLab’s website.
Since the first issue of The Peoria Woman in 1990, I’ve celebrated my 40th and 50th birthdays. Over the years, many loyal readers have expressed thanks at seeing their own thoughts and experiences validated by some of the observations expressed in this column. In that time, we’ve seen many changes in the workplace: after boomers, came Generation X, then Y, and now, Millennials. Sometimes we’re all working in the same office, shaking our heads in wonder at how our colleagues “think.”
For my 50th birthday, my children gave me an iPod loaded up with some of my favorite songs. It was a generous gift—not its cost so much as their confidence in me to actually learn how to use it! That was several years ago, and ever since, I have been fretting over how long that special gift has been hiding in my nightstand drawer.
The real issue, of course, was my lack of understanding and patience as to how to operate this piece of technology. So when a friend told me about a class at Illinois Central College called “iPods for Grown-Ups,” I called a couple of girlfriends and we all signed up. I chuckled as we entered the classroom, as the majority of the attendees were older than us, and some of them had yet to even extract the iPod from its packaging! At the end of class, I was satisfied with my new knowledge, and proud to have downloaded my first song—although transferring it to my “playlist” is still on the to-do list!
I still remember listening to the floor-model radio with my grandparents, later graduating to the transistor radio, then the Walkman, the Discman and now the iPod. In the last year, I’ve learned to text-message on my phone, in addition to playing music, games and videos on my iPod. The best part is, at this age, I am still learning new technologies.
I can’t begin to imagine what technologies will be popular by the time I reach my 60th and 70th birthdays! But whatever the future holds, I’m glad that I’m at least trying to stay current—“aging cool,” as Joseph Coughlin describes his work at the AgeLab. TPW