Why not use Behavioral Economics?

by Louis on February 20, 2015

Not being an economist I never really thought people act rationally. I don’t. I don’t know anyone who does. Most people go with their gut…otherwise we would all buy the same stuff, take the same vacations. That doesn’t mean we can’t know about buying patterns and decisions. The newish field of Behavioral Economics gets a lot of attention. I don’t think this is a fad though, because, though decision making may not be rational…this field is about research.

The first behavioral economics book I read was Dan Ariely’s  Predictable Irrational. The second was Nudge by Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler. Then the tome, Thinking, Fast and Slow by Nobel Prize winner in economics Daniel Kahneman. More recently I’ve read Habit by Charles Duhigg and Switch by Chip and Dan Heath.  These are all well written books based on research into human behavior a la the Malcom Gladwell books, but more focused on consumer behavior. I recommend them all. They show that outcomes can be more assured if you pay attention to research results.

You may be asking,”What does this have to do with aging in place?” The better question is: Why is our field paying so little attention to this really good information about consumers, decison-making and influencing it?

There is plenty of interest in getting people to change behaviors concerning their health and financial planning. Yet I don’t see this new and smart thinking being applied in our work.

Now this Washington Post series* about energy use behaviors comes along. Plenty of good, solid evidence it is not what we just think, and particularly what passionate advocates think. It is what works that is valuable.  The examples cited in the stories are really good analogs for the behavior change we seek. Read the series, then read it again substituting ‘self reliant aging’ every time you read ‘energy’. Then get back to me with strategies you KNOW we should try applying.

THEN we can think of other recent transformations for additional analogs. Think, Amazon, just in time manufacturing, Uber, Air BnB, Tesla, Buurtzorg. Don’t plan to copy. Learn.

This is in fact where I am heading following a meeting with 25 industry activists last November here in Washington DC. We are looking at market solutions to influence behavior that will prepare homes as better care sites so people can age the way they want to…in place. Look here for more or get in touch to join the effort to make Long Term Care at Home (LTC@Home) a real possibility.

* and one more article about terminology

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Eunice H. Nicusanti February 20, 2015 at 4:20 pm

I am glad to know that younger people are picking up the torch. I spent ten years in researching, designing products and programs for aging in place and know it is the ONLY answer. There will never be enough resources or caregivers to meet the needs of the large number of aging people. Many researchers have found that most people want to spend and end their lives in their own homes.
Adapting design and using technology will allow this to happen.
It is far cheaper and more conducive to quality of life than any other solution.


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