Themes and trends at Aging2.0 OPTIMIZE 2017

Aging2.0 OPTIMIZE, in San Francisco on Tuesday and Wednesday 14-15 November, annually attracts the top thinkers and doers in innovation and aging services. It brings together academia, designers, developers, investors, and senior care executives from all over the world to rethink the aging experience in both immediately practical and long-term visionary ways.

Looking at OPTIMIZE’s agenda, there are major themes that are on point for major industry trends.

Reinventing aging with an AI twist

What will aging be like during the next decades of the 21st Century? What must be done to support quality of life, active lives, and more independence? From nursing homes with more home-like environments (Green House Project) to Bill Thomas’ latest project–‘tiny houses’ that support independent living (Minkas)—there are many developments which will affect the perception and reality of aging.

Designers like Yves Béhar of fuseproject are rethinking home design as a continuum that supports all ages and abilities in what they want and need. Beyond physical design, these new homes are powered by artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning technology that support wellness, engagement, and safety. Advances that are already here include voice-activated devices such as Amazon Alexa, virtual reality (VR), and IoT-enabled remote care (telehealth and telecare).

For attendees at Aging2.0, there will be substantial discussion on AI’s impact and implications, highlighted at Tuesday afternoon’s general session ‘AI-ging Into the Future’ and in Wednesday’s AI/IoT-related breakouts. AI is powering breakthroughs in social robotics and predictive health, the latter using sensor-based ADL and vital signs information for wellness, fall prevention, and dementia care. Some companies part of this conversation are CarePredict, EarlySense, SafelyYou, and Intuition Robotics.

Thriving, not surviving

Thriving in later age, not simply ‘aging in place’ or compensating for the loss of ability, must engage the community, the individual, and providers. There’s new interest in addressing interrelated social factors such as isolation, life purpose, food, healthcare quality, safety, and transportation. Business models and connected living technologies can combine to redesign post-acute care for better recovery, to prevent unnecessary readmissions, and provide more proactive care for chronic diseases as well as support wellness.

In this area, OPTIMIZE has many sessions on cities and localities reorganizing to support older adults in social determinants of health, transportation innovations, and wearables for passive communications between the older person and caregivers/providers. Some organizations and companies contributing to the conversation are grandPad, Village to Village Network, Lyft, and Milken Institute.

Technology and best practices positively affect the bottom line

How can senior housing and communities put innovation into action today? How can developers make it easier for them to adopt innovation? Innovations that ‘activate’ staff and caregivers create a multiplier for a positive effect on care. Successful rollouts create a positive impact on both the operations and financial health of senior living communities.

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One Caring Team testing virtual reality for dementia and depression treatment, relief

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/vr-elderly-2_wide-af9c501d8fea7232e366e38b699ee41ee4040334-s1500-c85.jpg” thumb_width=”250″ /]A San Francisco-based company, One Caring Team, is visiting Bay Area seniors with a treatment that is also a treat–virtual reality headsets that recreate a beach or other relaxing environment. VR has been used with Microsoft Kinect in game-playing in assisted living communities, but the physician-founder Sonya Kim is seeking to give a break most to those older people with dementia or depression. They no longer can travel and their world has grown very small. VR gives them an opportunity to hear and see things they haven’t in a long time, if ever. Versions being tested have both a VR picture, narration on screen and audio; versions for dementia patients skip written ‘bubbles’. The point is to have the clients/patients feel safe, relaxed and welcomed. Some of the results have been that patients start to speak, interact with the pictures intuitively and be more alert, with lasting effects between VR visits. Formal studies have been done in other settings for pain management and for rehab, but this is a new company and concept. One problem is cost: $850 for each Samsung Gear VR headset plus the Galaxy smartphone, but if anything help on VR and social funding is easy to find the Bay Area; founder of the Virtual World Society, the University of Washington’s virtual interface pioneer Dr. Tom Furness, is now One Caring Team’s acting chief technology officer. Washington Post, NPR, F6S.com (Photo from One Caring Team via NPR)

Phobic? There’s an app for that.

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/phobia10.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]Everyone has certain fears or things that have a high ‘eeewwww’ factor (see left). Phobious, a new app, uses virtual reality on a smartphone that after several sessions of gradual exposure, desensitizes the user to potentially disabling fears such as dentists, insects, flying and dogs. (Can it work in the backyard when you’re about to be attacked by bees and Godzilla-sized weeds?–The Gimlet Eye) It was developed by a group from Barcelona by way of Charm City a/k/a Baltimore, Maryland, participating in the prestigiously backed DreamIt Health Baltimore accelerator’s 2014 class. The app is currently available for $49 in the Apple App Store and Google Play, with a 3D goggle device VR system due in September at $149–$299 with two psychology sessions. According to MedCityNews, the founders are seeking $750,000 in funding, plan to develop a clinical quality version and obtain FDA clearance and CE Marking. The progress in VR therapy made in less than four years is startling when this Editor considers the price of the CAREN system (Motek and Polycom) which was tested on Iraq and Afghanistan veterans back in June 2010: $500,000. (Ed. note: if you have a phobia about typos, don’t look at the Phobious website!)

Nintendo’s next move: entertaining healthcare

Nintendo, which has sold 100 million Wii consoles but is facing a shrinking market and increased competition in video gaming both from established companies like Sony and mobile gaming providers, has announced its intention to shift the notion of ‘entertainment’ into ‘quality of life’ (QOL) and health. This will be set up as a separate new business area. CEO Satoru Iwata said that Nintendo wants to “create an environment in which more people are conscious about their health and in turn expand Nintendo’s overall user base.” Although this sounds terribly vague, this Editor recalled that the Wii console had a brief vogue a few years ago in senior communities for fitness and that Editor Emeritus Steve had written about its use in rehabilitation and telehealth as far back as April 2008! (Additional articles here) One wonders what corporate imperatives discouraged the initial exploration of Wii for health. Now the field is thick with competitors from fitness bands (Jawbone, Fitbit, Misfit) to smartphones to Samsung’s new iterations of the Gear watch. Venture Beat.

Could virtual reality in games like Wii be useful therapy in relieving the phantom limb pain (PLP) from amputation? A recent Swedish study published in Frontiers in Neuroscience (abstract) indicate that it might. Researchers Max Ortiz Catalan and his colleagues developed an augmented reality therapy where muscle signals from the amputated arm activated a virtual arm that performed virtual tasks, and relieved the pain in a subject who had painful PLP for 48 years. “The patient reported that his pain gradually reduced, and he experienced pain-free periods over the course of his virtual reality treatments. He said his hand changed from feeling painfully clenched to feeling open and relaxed.” According to the article in Scientific American, the Swedish team has developed an at-home version if approved, and the technology may be adapted for other rehab such as post-stroke or spinal cord injury.  Also FierceHealthIT.