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Living long enough to be a problem

July 5, 2018
Estherville News

We think of older adults as a problem. That's what Fanny Krivoy said at Columbia University in New York City June 1 during the Age Boom Academy. With her business partner Josh Goldberg, Fanny is co-founder of Analagous Design. Fanny said they create experiences that are inclusive of people of all ages and physical ability levels. Instead of IQ standing for Intelligence Quotient, to Fanny and Josh it means Inclusion Quotient.

"There's nothing wrong with elders. There's something wrong with the rest of the world," Fanny said.

Josh added, "We think of older adults as a problem to solve. What if the problem is that the world doesn't take in their high level of emotion, spirit and beauty? What if we can design useful things for their world with style and beauty?"

One of the big buzzwords today is Design Thinking. Design thinking has four rules: the human rule states that all design activity is social in nature, and social innovation will bring us back to a human-centered point of view.

The ambiguity rule preserves the freedom to see things differently. How will we arrive at new solutions if we are stuck in rigid pathways and doing things because it's the "only way"?

The redesign rule says there's nothing new under the sun, but a redesign to accommodate changing technology and changing needs can help us find ways to better meet the needs of humans.

The tangibility rule, with tangible meaning you can experience it with your senses, allows everyone to look at the same thing while talking about ideas, about creating, about prototypes.

What we hope is that this all leads to the a-ha moment.

It all has to start, of course, with inspiration: understanding the problem and having at least a thread of an idea of how it might be solved.

Fanny said, "A small change at the organizational level will make a big difference."

The team at Analogous Design worked with the World Bank of Latin America's Washington DC location on a way to make sure everyone: young, old, born in the U.S., from Latin America, in whatever circumstance, had a way to get to work. They created a ride share app for the bank's 2,000 employees called Nieves to serve all employees, connecting drivers with riders. Instead of solving a problem of older workers hesitant to drive the Beltway and not necessarily living close to public transportation, they created an opportunity for the entire company which served older workers along with people who might not want to drive all the way due to vision problems, anxiety, car trouble, no parking in their neighborhood, or those who just wanted someone to talk to on the commute.

Nieves built relationships, ideas, brainstorms, and better ways of working together.

"Instead of seeing elders as a problem, we can develop products that bring value to the much larger ecosystem, and include everyone," Fanny said.

Nieves is an example of innovation and design that goes beyond solving the problems of older adults to serving as a solution that's sustainable for everyone.

What does this all mean to us here in Emmet County?

As our economic development people are attracting new tech entrepreneurs and companies to Emmet County, maybe we should request, or insist, that some of these companies work on solutions that are sustainable for all of us. What if they could give us access to assistive technology that would help older workers stay in the workforce longer? What if they could teach older people in the community to use technology in a way they could understand and practice doing novel tasks? What if there was tech that could help people with disabilities of all ages be out in the community more and not deal with isolation?

Mental health is said over and over to be the biggest community health issue in our state, and it seems like no one is doing anything about it on a level that will help the many Iowans who deal with mental health issues. What if tech companies and entrepreneurs could make the mental health tech that's already available accessible while improving upon it and innovating new apps and devices that will help patients monitor and adjust their interventions to stay healthy?

Age Boom Academy opened up ideas for this community that go way beyond the situation of women farmers.

Speaking of women farmers, though, I'm still wishing to come out and interview women age 55 and older who are managing their family farms. This is a story that has a couple of very interested parties waiting and which, after months of deep reporting and hard work, could go from the Estherville News to national news. If you know of anyone, or you are one of them, please let us know.



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