The News Today
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11.14.19
Changing Perceptions

MIT Professor: “Old Age” Is Imaginary

August 21st 19__Dan Robitzski__Filed Under: Future Society
Victor Tangermann

65 Years Young

Old age, at least the way people tend to think about it, is outdated and harmful.

That’s according to Joseph Coughlin, the head of the MIT Age Lab. He writes in MIT Technology Review that many of the products designed for older people, like hearing aids, cell phones with oversized buttons, and ambulance-summoning help buttons, are either surrounded by stigma or otherwise don’t match what people actually want or need. And that problem, he argues, reflects an ageist bias in society that’s hurting a gigantic chunk of the population.

Skewed Demographics

Part of the problem, Coughlin argues, is that the workforce of the tech sector developing these products and therefore shaping how society views older people, tends to skew to the younger side.

Even that’s part of a vicious cycle, where older job applicants have a harder time convincing potential employers they can keep up because of outdated perceptions of what people can and can’t do. But the end result is products and services that provide what their designers think old people need, evidence be damned.

“By treating older adults not as an ancillary market but as a core constituency, the tech sector can do much of the work required to redefine old age,” writes Coughlin. “Luckily there’s a simpler route: hire older workers.”

READ MORE: “Old age” is made up—and this concept is hurting everyone [MIT Technology Review]

More on age: THIS SCIENTIST PREDICTED HE WOULD LIVE TO 150. NOW HE’S NOT SO SURE.