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Aging in Place and Technology #1

by Louis on September 24, 2008

What is new?

I have been to two conferences lately. I attended both with my great friend Jason Popko.

Jason on the C&O canal towpath near my house

We walked the floor of the annual AARP consumer show. Then we went to the International Federation on Aging Conference in Montreal. Montreal is a beautiful, fun and active place. It is also wonderfully exotic for being so close.

Now I am preparing my presentation for the annual fall HIRI conference (Home Improvement Research Institute) in Chicago. I am going to talk about Aging in Place, Universal Design and the future of this market for the remodeling products and retail industry. I feel inspired by some of the Montreal sessions as I prepare my remarks.

So, What nuggets did I bring home from Montreal?

Most exciting is heightened awareness of the need to include clients in the earliest stages of research tool and product development. To understand, think about TV remote controls. Most are very frustrating. There is rarely any sense to the layout. The buttons are hard to manipulate. Engaging older clients early in the process yields Universal Design products. The result is user friendly devices good for older consumers and everyone else. Similar results would be relished in cell phones, computers and many other tools and toys. One University researcher told about testing a completed product with consumers. They revised the user manual. He said it was “Okay, but a poor substitute for developing a better product in the first place.”

Naturally there was a lot of high tech interest among the first world nations. There is also a lot of no tech reality among those nations with fewer resources. The disparity is stark and disturbing.

My next few blogs will explain high tech’s role in Aging in Place. It is a critical part of the infrastructure that will make Aging in Place an efficient and valuable option for housing and care in the next decades.
BUT before I talk about high tech and Aging in Place I want to speak more generally about technology and Aging in Place. Grab bars, design solutions and assistive technology are technology too. Lower tech may be the best investment.

For example, reducing falls is a good investment. The standard techniques are low tech interventions like medical management, nutrition, exercise, grab bars, picking up throw rugs and contrast strips on the edge of the tub. The yield – cost savings and reduced misery – are substantial. See more about falls prevention at

An analogy to the sustainable building movement is helpful. In building– appropriate siting, good insulation and plugging leaks reap better and quicker payoff than solar collectors, wind generators and geothermal heat pumps.

Aging in Place is no different. High Tech is critical and important, but low tech must be used to best advantage first.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

yearns September 25, 2008 at 2:26 pm

Good to see you blogging again. I’m eager to read your ideas about technology and aging in place. I attended a conference earlier this week and was impressed by a speaker who talked about Home for Life Solutions, a new program to help elders stay safely in their own homes. They have done a great job of integrating technology from a variety of vendors–and making it easy for elders to use. See:
for details.


Age in Place September 26, 2008 at 7:01 pm


I would like to echo your assertion that ‘low tech’ might be the better investment. For older people or families on tight budgets it is definitely a way to take steps in the right direction with minimal investment. Much can be accomplished to assist a senior in their day-to-day life and provide a greater level of safety and comfort by implementing low tech solutions.


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