Eye-openers from the 2014 American Society on Aging Conference

Written by: MJ Lee. Posted: March 25, 2014. 


I attended my first American Society on Aging conference from March 11-14, 2014, in San Diego, CA. There were hundreds of sessions, but I was only able to attend 4-5 per day.

Following are highlights from the ones I attended.


Future of Aging

- Ken Dychtwald, CEO Agewave

  • Absolutely watch Hans Rosling's "200 Countries, 200 Years, 4 Minutes - The Joy of Stats". This four-minute BBC Four 2009 video shows a visual statistical display of changing lifespans over the last 200 years. This video really brings the message home of the future of aging for Planet Earth.

◦       http://youtu.be/jbkSRLYSojo

  • By 2030, worldwide 1 billion people will be over 60, and 1/3 of USA will be 50+
  • Become geriactive
  • Protect the vulnerable
  • Create a vision but remember that most of the job of steering is course-correcting


Future of Aging

– Fernando Torres-Gil, UCLA professor

  • Start the conversation. Ask your friends, “When you get old and can't take care of yourself anymore, who will take care of you?”


Major trends in aging

Katy Fike, Aging2.0

  • We are seeing increased longevity with acuity of disease, personnel shortage, and funding cutbacks
  • Digital and mobile health tech is bringing doctors into the home & giving people the opportunity to take care of themselves
  • Smart homes and the internet of things
  • New social/communication tools
  • Electronic records
  • Big data & predictive analytics
  • Wearables


Aging and technology

- Deb Citrin, Phillips home health

  • Tech tools have to be easier to use and respect privacy
  • Keep seniors active, involved, and independent as they age


Self-help with aging

- I forgot to write down speaker’s name

  • There are many new roles for para-professionals and family caregivers, who are backed up by a professional team.
  • Guide but not supervise
  • Coach but not manage
  • Facilitate and help clients gain the skills they need
  • Design systems that help with patient coaching. E.g., online coaching systems allow 1:400 coverage vs 1:40.
  • Young entrepreneurs are doing amazing things with technology in managed care.
  • A lot of career-changers are coming into the field (people like me!)


Hearing Loss

- Anna Gilmore-Hall (HLAA) and Noreen Gibbons (UHC Audiologist)

  • At 65, 1 in 3 have a hearing loss
  • Only 1 of 5 who need an aid actually use one; it takes 5-7 years for someone to do something about it
  • 40-45 million Americans have tinnitus
  • Studies have linked hearing loss with poor mental/social health, isolation, and even diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and dementia. Mild hearing loss doubled chances of dementia, moderate loss -> 3x, severe loss -> 5x. Mild loss often causes communication issues. Hearing loss could change brain structure. 
  • The caregiver often gets fatigued with speaking loudly to the care recipient.



– VtVnetwork.org and Andrew Scharlach, UC Berkeley prof

  • Although I have been skeptical about the village concept, this session made me think a village could be workable in my own community (Portola Valley). Because, like a community center or senior center, a lot of the value comes from the opportunity to volunteer and help others.
  • Scharlach reported:
    • 29% of members assist other village members
    • 41% of members talk to other members at least weekly
    • Bulk of the help is provided by other members
    • Key outcome is development of more social relationships
    • 77% feel they are more likely to be able to age in place
    • Villages appeal to people who are healthier; only 15-25% have issues with ADLs or IADLs
    • The real advantage of the village membership is the opportunity to volunteer and become engaged and participate in the community
    • Vtvnetwork.org only started in 2010
    • A lot of villages have only been open 1-2 years; membership is aging
    • Membership dues will never make the village self-sustaining. Generally 1/3 of funding comes from a grant, 1/3 from private donors, and 1/3 from membership fees.



– I’m not citing the speakers, because I did not find their financial abilities credible. However, there were a few good facts, which I also find very scary.

  • 80% of 1946 boomers were collecting Social Security by age 66
  • 20% of the 1946 boomers ended up retiring before they planned to
  • 25% of baby boomer women are single



– The Jewish Family Service on San Diego gave an excellent presentation on lessons learned from the successful transportation service they started back in 2004. They now have over 2,000 clients and 300 volunteers


Another good video to watch

  • 4-minute video “Coming of age in aging America” - produced by vital pictures in 2011. Another good way to get the message across about aging.
  • http://youtu.be/ZOA1v4-2Fos


Lessons Learned from Hurricane Sandy

– New York Academy of Medicine

  • Older adults (OAs) can be assets or vulnerable in a disaster
    • 70% of 44 deaths were 55+. Majority died by drowning in their homes
    • Tens of thousands of OAs were trapped in high-rise buildings without electricity, food, water, and medicine. Power was off for 10-15 days.
    • Most did not evacuate, even though told to do so
    • But, most of the first responders were OAs living in the community
    • Themes out of focus groups they conducted in 5 major areas 
      • ER services inaccessible to OAs
      • Couldn't get to lobby from high rise apartment
      • Couldn't get to distribution centers
      • OAs primarily used landlines, not cell phones
      • Sick OAs became sicker, healthy OAs got sick
      • Communication disruptions compounded isolation
      • Mental health symptoms related to financial loss
      • The best predictor of how a neighborhood responds and recovers in a disaster is how they functioned prior to the disaster. The best investment should be in increasing social capital connectedness.
      • Rand corp (2011) has a Community Resilience Framework. Email Lindsay Goldman goldman@nyam.org for a copy of the report.


I highly recommend this conference because it is oriented toward anyone interested in aging. It is not just for gerontologists, health professionals, or academics. Attendees and topics are broad and diverse. The 2015 conference is in Chicago; it is only on the west coast every 4 years.


Hope you found this mini-report helpful,

-mj lee


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Key words: 
trends, conference, video, statistics, hearing loss, villages, Transportation, disaster preparedness

Last Updated: May 13, 2020.

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