Aging in Art

Aging Pride,” an exhibit at the Belvedere Museum in Vienna Austria explores aging through works of art.

The New York Times review of the exhibit reported that “Low birthrates from Spain to Slovakia, combined with increasing life spans, will see Europe’s work force shrink nearly 12 percent by 2060: a phenomenon with not only worrisome economic consequences but political ones, too. ”

The article questions what sort of lives will this generation live. It makes me question what will the quality of my life with my family be in our zip code and is there a location that will better suit our lifestyles in the future. We have a many years before this become a burning question. In the meantime I would welcome a visit to this exhibit.

*Photo credit to Joahnnes Stoll, Copyright Belvedere, Vienna.


So what do you call older people?

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NPR reporter on aging, Ina Jaffe, recently discussed a poll that asked – what to call the people that she covers in her articles. In summary, there was more enthusiasm for terms that were despised than enthusiasm for any term that people really liked.

The experience of aging has certainly changed, but our vocabulary to reflect that change has fallen short. Life expectancy is increasing along with the quality of life, and retirement is getting pushed to the horizon as “…nearly three quarters of baby boomers plan to continue working during their so-called retirement years.”

Perhaps we should ask the opinion of J.K Rowling, author of the popular Harry Potter series, who might modify her description of Lord Voldemort and offer us the term ” The-Experience-That-Can’t-Be-Named.” The vocabulary may not be available to describe the experience of later life but the opportunities to personalize and redefine it are available and growing. Let’s not stop the transformation and wait.  Keep transforming.


Older Adult – Acceptable with no enthusiasm

Elder – Most respectful

Senior – Fine

Geezer, old-timer, elderly – Obviously despised



Senior citizen – Forget that!

Positive Aging/Successful Aging – Thumbs down

Retirement – On its way out

Seth’s Blog: Thoughts on HugDug

Seth’s Blog: Thoughts on HugDug

From the POV of an adult caregiver or someone who is seeking support to adjust to a later-life stage in order to maintain independence; finding that specific support service – especially if family and friends are not available or even your first choice – can be challenging or almost impossible

4826835586_c4c0905309_zWhat could HugDug mean to you?

Recently Seth Godin announced HugDug, “…a place where you could help people discover stuff they didn’t even know they were looking for?”

I applaud the mission, the design and notably that half of their profits will go to charitable organizations.

But things from Amazon come in boxes and community-based care services for older adults, or those managing a transition from hospital to home, need the services of people not products in boxes.

Right now you can filter your product search on HugDug by: All Products, Apparel, Automotive, Baby, etc. What if we could insert the category “Age In Place” to find not only useful products but helpful local services that other recommend and endorse. For example very similar to the list of trusted service providers that the Beacon Hill Village, a member-driven organization for Boston residents 50 and over offers. In addition to access to recommended providers your purchase goes to help out others in such programs the Safe At Home program from Rebuilding Together in Oakland, CA. 

How might we (HMW) create a platform that makes it easy to raise your hand for help, reach out to offer assistance and  manage the ebb and flow of daily living needs at home?


Alzheimer’s Blood Test Raises Ethical Questions | WBUR & NPR

“Knowing their risk of developing cognitive impairment is very relevant to making plans around retirement and where they live,”

via Alzheimer’s Blood Test Raises Ethical Questions | WBUR & NPR.

Knowing one’s risk of an impending impairment would help one prepare for and possibly prevent it. But there is one life stage we will all experience in one form or another (barring death) that doesn’t require a blood test – aging and the physical adjustments and supports we may need to make daily life comfortable and feasible.  The tenets of universal design (UD) in our daily living environment are not meant to protect from future ailments of aging but rather to make today more comfortable.

You undoubtedly have already experience the pleasure of UD.  Recall an experience with that wide hallway, stepless entry, OXO kitchen tool or decorative grab bar in a hotel shower. Perhaps they blended so much into your experience that you didn’t even notice it. In contrast we all remember that uncomfortably small bathroom, the item on a cupboard too high to reach, or that scary slippery floor which we carefully skated across with nothing to grab for balance.

We may not need a test to tell us we will age so let’s not wait to make our daily living environment a bit more comfortable for ourselves or that visitor to our home that would surely appreciate it.

What If UBER added a Silver Ride button?

Taxi of Tomorrow

Learning to drive a car is a memorable experience of aging. Losing or giving up driving is another  experience of aging but memorable for many other, much less celebratory, reasons. In middle age I dream of giving up my car and replacing it with an electric assist bicycle for commuting, errands and family life. Even though I live in a climate and community that supports such a dream, my extreme commute does not, so I remain shackled behind the wheel watching the speedometer on the dashboard and visualizing the “waste-ometer’ in my head that is measuring wasted time, money, chances to be active, opportunities to minimize my carbon footprint, and the list goes on.

The newly redesigned NYC taxi cab brings hope to the world of useful automobiles and newly designed accessible and freedom for riders of all ages. Getting from A to B is important but diminished freedom for those who don’t have easy access to transportation for important events of daily life it can be daunting and even dangerous. Missing a doctor appointment could set off a string of medical mishaps, especially for someone frail and managing multiple meds and conditions. I hope the accessible design features of the widened door, expanded head room and hump-free flat floor of the new taxi cab brings freedom to those who may have shied away from traditional taxi cab experiences.

Now we just need UBER to add a “Luxury” or “Freedom” choice to their service (not vehicle) options to provide trusted assistance to accompany riders during their outings to offer that little bit of extra help – basically a Silver Ride button on the UBER App.

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Mashup: Uber + Silver Ride


“They say…we’re all dying…”

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The lyric  “they say..we are all dying” (2:05) from the performance of Typhoon at NPR Music Tiny SXSW Concert feels perfectly appropriate for my long overdue re-entry post, but it also seems rather inappropriate for a site dedicated to the positive aspects of the aging experience.

But perhaps there is inspiration in seeking balance between the fact of mortality with the art of daily life, especially when the amazing young creative force behind Typhoon himself faced a young death.

The radio program from which I learned of Typhoon describes this album as having sad, dire lyrics wrapped in massively joyful music. Well, this balance of extremes is a new lens from which to explore the aging experience.

More to come

Connecting older adults and caregivers online.

In a November 16, 2011 Fast Company article by Francine Hardaway, WeSprout was listed as one of 12 healthcare start-ups to watch because WeSprout launched a website to crowdsource children’s health information to the community of parents. Parent to Parent advice sharing happens already informally so why not codify and monetize it to a web platform? It reminds me of, which crowdsources answers from thousands of trusted physicians to answer submitted medical questions. Both of these remind me of an listserv I used to follow from from Family Caregivers Alliance. The family caregivers in this forum expressed their lonely desperation and stress, shared inspiration and offered solutions and information. The old user interface of the listserv limited the interaction to a string of linear conversations but the value of connecting and communicating with others in a similar situation was evident.

What would the next generation online experience look like that connected informal caregivers, older adults and their eco-system of care?

Funky Hipsters

Shared by Gretchen Addi of IDEO, a design thinker on aging that I follow and admire.

Imagine “…today’s young technophilic changesurfers as old farts in 2062, wearing out-of-date fashion and telling rambling stories about being embarrassed by videos of themselves passing out at dubstep gigs.” We all get old and will appear out of date to younger generations. A video from the future.


What Makes You Feel Connected?

Facebook touts it “…helps you connect and share with the people in your life.”  In what other others ways could technology connect you with the people in your life? Could a lamp or a pillow do that? alerted me to Pillow Talk by the design firm Little Riot, which is designed to connect two long distance lovers, but I change that to two long distance people who love each other.  “Each person has a ring sensor they wear to bed at night, and a flat fabric panel which slots inside their pillowcase. The ring wirelessly communicates with the other person’s pillow; when one person goes to bed, their lover’s pillow begins to glow softly to indicate their presence. Placing your head on the pillow allows you to hear the real-time heartbeat of your loved one.” Be sure to watch the video.

The first time I heard of techie, glowing, subtle connection innovations to connect people was in 2003 from Eric Dishman of Intel when he described the Presence Lamp,  “…a simple off-the-shelf motion sensor on a lamp. It could let an adult child know that Mom, who is 85 and living alone in another home or city, has gotten home safely and is sitting in her favorite room in her favorite chair. The system would turn on a lamp in the home of the person the elder chose to share that information with-and vice versa, because we found that the elders weren’t really willing to do this unless it was a two-way street. They wanted to know when the person they cared about was home, as well.”

There are many ways technology can connect us in our personal lives with those we love. How do you use technology to remain connected?