[Editors note — this is a continuation of 12-part feature by The Wall Street Journal profiling “pioneers who are shaping the way Americans will live, work and play in later life.”]
Number 2 — Harnessing Technology
In the mid-1990s, before joining MIT, Prof. Joseph Coughlin was working for a federal contractor, studying the aging population’s potential impact on transportation.
“It was like unwrapping an onion,” he remembers. “We hadn’t thought about housing, [or] the future of work. And we certainly hadn’t thought about transportation.”
That epiphany led to the creation, in 2000, of AgeLab, where Prof. Coughlin and his colleagues are designing — and pushing companies to embrace — technology that will enhance older adults’ daily lives.
One of his favorite breakthroughs is a “personal adviser” that Procter & Gamble Co. has licensed, based on AgeLab research, to help food shoppers identify products that are healthy for them. The device, to be attached by supermarkets to their grocery carts, is like a minicomputer with a scanner. Shoppers insert smart cards that contain their dietary particulars. Then, as they shop, they swipe products past the scanner to get the device’s opinion. Let’s say you’re prehypertensive and scan a box of crackers; after reading the bar code, Prof. Coughlin says, the adviser may suggest trying a different product with a lot less salt.
Tomorrow — Helping People Stay Home.