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Perspectives on ICAA and the Design Challenge: Q and A with Colin Milner


The following is a guest submission from Colin Milner, CEO of the International Council on Active Aging (ICAA). ICAA’s mission is to promote Active Aging as a solution to improving the quality of life for older adults; with efforts directed at helping businesses excel in serving the 50+ population, and at helping that population serve itself.

What is the mission of your organization?

ICAA connects a community of like-minded organizations and professionals who share the goals of changing society’s perceptions of aging and improving the quality of life for aging Baby Boomers and older adults within the seven dimensions of wellness (emotional, vocational, physical, spiritual, intellectual, social, environmental). The council supports these professionals with education, information, resources and tools, so they can achieve optimal success.

How does this mission fit in with SCL or the Design Challenge?

Both SCL and the Design Challenge are focused on ways in which to improve the lives of older Americans. This is a direct reflection of ICAA’s mission, which is to change the way the population ages by providing products and services to help them achieve a better quality of life.

Why did you choose to sponsor/participate in the Challenge?

The Challenge offers the opportunity to highlight work being done to help older adults lead a better quality of life by becoming more mobile and more engaged in life. Society needs not only to know about the Challenge, the work being done during the contest, and the outcomes—which have the potential to be transformative—but also to support the Challenge, as few currently put in the needed effort in this area.

What are the biggest areas of need or focus around mobility that you see in your experience at your organization?

One of the biggest issues is the result of inactivity in our lives, especially as we age. We lose strength, muscle mass, cardiovascular capacity, and flexibility, which all have an impact on our ability to be mobile and independent. Helping Americans to remain strong on their feet makes a significant difference to personal mobility. Solutions to inspire people to be more active are crucial to the health and well-being of the nation, families and individuals.

What would be some key areas you would urge contestants to design for?

  1. Sarcopenia (loss of muscle mass)
  2. Restoration or maintenance of capabilities (strength, cardiovascular capacity, balance and flexibility)
  3. Vision loss and hearing loss
  4. Parkinson’s disease and stroke
  5. Cognition’s impact on mobility
  6. Foot health and the ways feet impact mobility (shoes, socks, health issues, etc.)

Look at how these areas affect mobility and what can be done to address them.

What type of solutions would you like to see developed?

People need tools to preserve, protect or restore their abilities, which in turn supports their independence. Tools may range, for example, from simple tracking and monitoring systems, to systems that assess abilities, identifying loss early so action can be taken to address it.

Technology solutions such as avatars and holograms could be used for training purposes and for those who are unable to get out. There is also a need for solutions to help frail individuals move beyond their current capabilities, restoring mobility and independence—an example might include lightweight, nonintrusive exoskeleton suits. The goal: mobility and restoration of lost functions. Such a solution could also be used with stroke survivors and people with Parkinson’s disease, for example.

If you could give designers any tips or advice, what would it be?

  1. Take time to understand whom you are designing for—and the needs, capabilities, dreams, desires and expectations of these individuals.
  2. Ensure you build a product that is as inclusive as possible of all ability levels, physical and cognitive. When it’s impossible to be widely inclusive, target your product closely to meet the needs, capabilities and expectations of those you specifically want to address.
  3. Take health status into consideration.
  4. Make a product that is easy to comprehend, use and access, and does not intimidate potential users.
  5. Blend fashion and function.
  6. Make a product that is marketable and fun.

May designers or Challenge affiliates contact you with comments or questions?

Yes, please direct responses to my email address at colinmilner@icaa.cc
or call 866-335-9777 or 604-734-4466.

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