Aging 2.0 Global Start Up Search – Toronto Winner!

How fortuitous that in our last blog post I mentioned Winterlight Labs – as they turned out to be the award winner of the May 24th Aging 2.0 Global Start Up Search – Toronto edition. Winterlight has developed a technology-based solution that “monitors cognitive health through speech recognition”.

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These four young entrepreneur scientists bring their collaborative insights and expertise with a technology focus to help people who suffer, not only from dementia, but also for those who have other mental or cognitive health issues such as depression, stroke or autism.

For the past five years, there has been steady global development/fusion of technology and science connected to aging and longevity and, in the Greater Toronto market, we have our own players to be proud of in this field, which in large part is an untold story in the public domain.

Back in April 2012, three of us on the Planet Longevity team attended a Business of Aging Summit at the MaRS Discovery District and there met the pioneers at U of T’s TAGLab (Technologies for Aging Gracefully). We also heard Joseph Coughlin of MIT”s AgeLab speak. All of this was a real eye opener to the opportunities emerging in the technology space and how it will unfold in a practical way for a future longevity society.

Since then in 2015, AGE-WELL launched as a technology and aging network and of course US based Aging 2.0, which also endorses the Stanford Center on Longevity: Design Challenge, established its Toronto chapter. The field of aging and assistive technology has a growing list of supporters, promoters and collaborators too long to mention here, but the list includes researchers, educators, developers, business and health care networks and government and not-for profit organizations.

What is compelling about this story is that we are only beginning to see the benefits of these technologies in application today. Can you imagine how more ubiquitous this will all be within the next few years? Not to mention how much more there is to ideate and develop over the next decade; not just with assistive technologies but technologies in biology and genetics that will help improve extended lifetimes. One of Google’s 2013 spin off businesses, Calico is a prime example of this type of venture.

So congratulations to Winterlight Labs. What I would like to see is more of a broad public education campaign where the Business of Aging could perhaps be better relatable if it were to be called the Business of Aging & Longevity. So in the short run, Planet Longevity will use its platform to further endorse this Canadian story which further demonstrates that we are an innovation economy in more meaningful ways for the future of a longevity society.

 

Mark Venning

Financial Gerontology: Fusion and Confusion of Terminology – Part 2

fusionIn part one of Fusion and Confusion of terminology, we presented a basic introduction of our individual professional backgrounds, Marie in the financial planning field and Suzanne in the field of gerontology. One thing in common that we both can say about each of these fields is that while practitioners do work on the front line with individual clients, there are also areas where professional services operate at a macro level. Almost like trying to explain – what is engineering? Likely several ways to drill that down (so to speak).

When it comes to our modern day discussion on aging, longevity, retirement, elder care and so on, there are many intersections where concerns such as health, mobility and financial security can, almost in equal measure, be found mentioned in the same sentence. We left you in our last post, pondering on the equation Financial + Gerontology=? So what do we get?

Financial Gerontology

A little history. According to the American Institute for Financial Gerontology, the term was first established as a discipline in 1988. The AIFG registered program is promoted to give a competitive advantage in the market to professionals that include accountants, lawyers, reverse mortgage lenders and of course financial planners. As one of its three value statements declares, it will help a Registered Financial Gerontologist (RFG) “deliver financial solutions in a comprehensive manner with increased knowledge of the older client’s broad based needs.”

It is from this point that broad terminology can really take the consumer on a ride, and to a certain extent beyond a fusion of jargon, it can lead to consumer confusion. Read a little more widely these days and you will hear newer phrases such as “wealth span planning”. Over the years as Marie observes, in Canada we’ve stuck to clumsy but realistic descriptors like “holistic retirement planning” or “financial and lifestyle retirement planning”.

For another turn of a term you can read on the Simon Fraser University Gerontology MA Careers page, how they describe that the “population bulge will have a big impact on the health care sector and a variety of companies and services as they begin to ‘gerontologize’ products and services.” Isn’t that exactly what is happening here with financial planning services?

Beyond legitimacy for marketers

As a researcher and social gerontologist, Suzanne sees this relatively new field of Financial Gerontology facing some challenges that include improving public awareness and financial education, as well as having those with this designation adhere to a professional code of conduct that puts client interests first as they develop innovative ways to better serve unique needs.

Yet, how more well-informed have consumers of financial planning services become over the last thirty years? From Marie’s point of view, perhaps not much, if at all. And for that matter how well understood is the field of gerontology, not to be confused with geriatrics? It would appear there is still a wide gap in understanding in each respective field, without even trying to couple the two.

As a financial planning consultant, Marie sees that as it stands the use of the term Financial Gerontology, especially in the U.S., is simply another technique for gaining legitimacy for the marketers of financial products – whether those products be insurance or investments.

While it may appear that it combines personal financial planning with gerontological data which is applicable to individuals; ideally and realistically, it is the application of corporate and government financial modelling from the data obtained through the study of gerontology. Its end purpose is to produce useful public policy for the benefit of citizens as they age.

Financial gerontology, if it is to be a useful concept, is the combination of financial considerations at the government level, with data obtained through statistically objective research methods employed by qualified gerontologists and demographers.

Big business of aging

Following on that as Suzanne points to here, during the last decade, issues at the intersection of gerontology and finance have come more into the mainstream since some large financial institutions have hired gerontology experts to better develop tools and resources and hone branding for their aging clientele. More recently, Financial Gerontology has been much discussed following the White House 2015 Conference on Aging in the United States, where policy on financial issues was addressed.

One of the best corporate examples of this fusion, Financial + Gerontology, is Bank of America Merrill Lynch. Cyndi Hutchins, is their director of Financial Gerontology who also created their internal Merrill Lynch Longevity Training Program, developed in partnership with the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology.

Yes. This kind of thing is now part of this “gerontologized” era, in the big business of aging. In part three of our series Fusion and Confusion, we will look at some of the gaps in understanding that still exist, some macro and micro aspects, and discuss the potential of realistic collaborations between these two professional areas.

 

Marie Howes & Suzanne Cook