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Health & Wellness > And More Health & Wellness > HW 19

Successful Aging as a Complex System

From: AgeLab @ MIT

AgeLab views ‘successful aging’ for individuals and societies as dependent upon a complex system of three interrelated domains: infrastructure, information and institutions. AgeLab’s research addresses each of these, their overlap, and impact on aging and quality living.

Infrastructure addresses the power of places and ‘things’ in the physical environment on aging, e.g., home, stores, hospitals, automobile, community, airports, transit systems, consumer electronics, products and packaging, medical devices, mobile phones, furniture, etc. Selected questions include:

  • How might ambient intelligence, robotics, natural speech interfaces, and other technologies support caregiving, health & wellbeing, mobility, engagement, connectivity and independent living? 
  • How do older adults learn, trust, adopt and use new technology and related services?
  • What is the optimal design of everyday things and places to facilitate use as well as to excite and delight across the lifespan?

Information comprises how older adults allocate their attention, seek information and advice, and make sense, as well as choices, of important issues, e.g., health & wellness, financial planning, insurance, aging-in-place, long-term care options, end-of-life planning, major product purchases, etc.

  • How might mobile communications, social media, personalized interfaces, and other evolving technologies be used to engage the older user to inform choices, reinforce behaviors or simply to provide the right information, at the right time, to make the right decision?
  • Does age impact how people seek information, use their social networks, and act upon formal advice before adopting a behavior or making a choice?
  • How do people allocate attention and navigate information on websites, print materials and packaging to learn, choose and comply, e.g., medication adherence, financial choices, food products, service providers, housing options?

Institutional Innovation questions address how business strategy and government policies affect older people and ultimately establish the context for society aging to be an opportunity or a burden.

  • Does demographic transition change how business engages the consumer, develop products and services, and deliver value?
  • What government policies require new thinking to meet the demands of the next generation of older adults, e.g., if future older adults are more active than their parents what are the implications for pensions, workforce, and environmental sustainability?
  • What are new patterns of collaborative governance between government and business to creatively deliver services, to conduct R&D, or to realize aging as a source of economic opportunity?

 Copyright© 2011 Massachusetts Institute of Technology