Joe Coughlin is the founder and director of the AgeLab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and author of The Longevity Economy – Unlocking the World’s Fastest Growing Most Misunderstood Market. This past fall I had the the chance to do a QRCA VIEWS Luminaries interview with him about his work and to visit the AgeLab.
During the 20th century the average lifespan in most developed countries increased by 30 years. In 1900 most people died before they turned 50. Today we live well into our 80s. However, the options for older people to help them stay engaged and live better remain very limited. This has created what Joe calls the longevity paradox “Perhaps the greatest success of humankind is living longer, but now the challenge is what we do with the time we have and the time we continue to gain.” Joe and team of engineers, designers, and researchers work with clients on finding ways to leverage technology to create products and services that give older people independence and help them live better.
Many organizations see aging as “a problem to be solved” vs. the fastest growing market in the world. They create utilitarian products for the disabilities associated with aging such as adult diapers and “help I’ve fallen and can’t get up” type devices, ignoring the wide ranging needs and desires of older people.
Joe described some of the research methods the AgeLab uses to gain a deep, accurate and humane understanding of older adults. Their methods are high tech and high touch leveraging many approaches from field studies, to focus groups to big data. Their Lifestyle Leader panel is comprised of early adopters, many of whom are well north of 90 year old. The panel helps with ideation and product reviews. The AgeLab team developed the “Agnes” simulation suit that helps designers experience how an older body with achy joints limited mobility handles products and navigates the world.
To learn more:
Here is a link to a print version of my interview with Joe from the QRCA VIEWS Magazine, Winter 2018
Here is a link to the podcast version
And a link to my book review of “The Longevity Economy – Unlocking the World’s Fastest Growing, Most Misunderstood Market”