Aging? There's an App for That

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What were Airbnb, Uber, Walgreen's and Peapod doing at a White House Conference on Aging?

Giving us a glimpse of the future.

In case you missed it, 10,000 people are turning 65 years of age every day. That's expected to continue for the next 15 years - and the private sector is taking notice.

There was Seth Sternberg, CEO of Honor, one of a number of corporations that took part in the once-in-a-decade event designed to guide policies around aging. Honor's goal is a heady one -"to spark a revolution in solving the monumental problem of how we care for our aging parents." His well-funded company - investors include Marc Andreesen and Jessica Alba -- is using technology to build a new model to match people with caregivers; at the conference Sternberg announced plans to give away $1 million in free home care in ten cities.

During the day-long conference, interspersed with announcements of new administration initiatives, company after company demonstrated how the private sector is finding opportunity in the nation's changing demographics. From travel to grocery shopping to home care, there's a promising partnership between aging and technology on the horizon.

Uber announced pilot programs in partnership with senior community centers to provide technology tutorials and free or reduced-cost transportation services.

Airbnb talked about their research to support and understand the experience of older Americans, and is partnering with communities to enhance the population's user experience.

Walgreens discussed the technological advances that allow it to connect people with its telehealth services provider, which offers 24/7 access to US board certified doctors.

Peapod said it has adopted 'best in class' web accessibility standards to ensure everyone can use its website and mobile applications.

A recent USA Today article underlines the trend. Kai Stinchcombe, the 32-year-old CEO and co-founder of TrueLink, designed to protect seniors from financial scammers, is quoted as saying that as parents age "in a thousand ways we're going to be supporting them physically, financially, emotionally, and so I do think it's important to get as much in place as we can.''

Of course technological advances are not the sole purview of the private sector. The University of Washington School of Nursing and HEALTH -E are introducing an Aging and Technology Laboratory. The administration plans to make federal data sets that are relevant to aging easily available at Data.gov by September. The employer coalition ReACT, along with Care.com and MIT, plan to generate tools that help employers support their employees' caregiving responsibilities.

The Conference was also much more than hearing about new initiatives. Robin Diamonte is the Chief Investment Officer at United Technologies Corporation, which has an aggressive strategy to ensure their employees have a secure retirement; its program was one that was highlighted at the conference. Yet in a later exchange with me, she said, "I thought my job of trying to get young, well-paid employees to save for retirement was challenging until a caregiver asked the question, how we can save for retirement when we only make $13,000 in annual income?" She said she had no answer to that tough question.

This kind of exchange underscores the necessity of bringing all sectors - public, private, nonprofit --together. The government isn't going to make grocery shopping any easier; Peapod isn't going to launch a National Aging and Disability Transportation Center. Government can track and prosecute financial scammers; but it works best in partnership with companies like TrueLink and banks that train employees to detect unsavory practices.

So congratulations to everyone involved in the extensive planning that went into the White House Conference on Aging, from holding regional listening sessions to posting issue briefs for public comment, to the event itself. And here's to the next ten years of innovating together on behalf of long, vibrant, and independent living.