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The 2019 Keiro Symposium offered attendees more than access to industry professionals, groundbreaking research, and aging resources. The event held on October 5 in downtown Long Beach also challenged the more than 300 attendees to begin to think about their own interpretation of what it means to age.
opened with a video of various community members answering a simple question: “Do
you consider yourself old?” For some, it was far from a simple answer. Referring
to this video during his opening remarks, Keiro President & CEO Gene
Kanamori urged attendees to challenge their preconceived notions and open themselves
up to new ideas and concepts about aging throughout the day. The question is
deeply personal and unique, but the journey to finding an answer does not have
to be done alone. “Ask around,” he suggested.
Many at the Symposium
not only asked that question of themselves but to those around them.
mostly not,” said Kenneth Sato from Los Angeles, who explained that he keeps
active and shared moments where he was able to keep up with people decades
younger than him. While Kenneth, in his 60s, acknowledges the age gaps, he also
said it’s not just about the number. His friend, Norman Maehara agrees.
old as you feel,” said Norman, adding that when he spends time with his three
children he is reminded that he does have a young spirit. “Because of that, I
don’t feel old.”
and Norman agreed that the Symposium did give them opportunities to think about
what aging could mean for them.
This year’s Symposium
organized elements of aging into three unique tracks: Aging at Home, Social
Connections, and Whole-Person Care. During the Aging at Home track, technology
quickly became a focal point for many of the conversations. Davis Park, executive
director of innovation & wellbeing at Front Porch, spoke to attendees about
reimagining uses for virtual reality, Amazon’s Alexa, and other consumer
products for their personal benefits. These tools offer great access to
entertainment, but can also open doors for different kinds of engagement, and
even be helpful with our daily tasks.
to Davis’ presentation, Mitzi Toshima, who has been incorporating some
technology in her home, shared, “I’m glad I came, there’s a lot to learn and
more so with technology. I realized that there’s a lot of things out there that
I didn’t know but that I’m now aware of.” While she does run into trouble with
what she calls advanced products like Amazon Alexa, when it does work, Alexa
helps her with spelling. “I used to use a dictionary,” she said, with a laugh.
But Davis’ presentation
touched on more than smart living products to help people age well. He also introduced
innovative technologies on hearing. Loss of hearing is one of many contributing
factors to isolation and loneliness among older adults.
cautioned that as hearing declines, loneliness can intensify. During the talk,
he presented various companies and products working to change that. One
example, Apple Airpods even pull double-duty – the small earbud can help with volume
when watching videos to connected devices, and inform the user of an incoming
call or text message. In addition, Park said Bose is entering the market with “hearphones”
– not headphones. The conversation on enhancing ear pieces could be a great
alternative to high-cost devices that some older adults struggle to afford.
The morning keynote speaker, Dr. Candice Hall, shared with attendees her experience on working with patients who suffer from cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease. Although it is a difficult and deeply personal topic for many, Dr. Hall, a functional medicine practitioner, shared her belief that functional medicine can chip away at certain stigma around these diseases. She stated that the idea of becoming more forgetful as we age is not true, stating that, “it is not a part of normal aging.”
it was very informative,” Nadine Kakimoto said. Her mother has dementia and Nadine
said she could identify with a lot of things that Dr. Hall said. Nadine
admitted that it can be a little scary, but that the new information was eye-opening.
Social Connections track, Maureen Feldman, adjunct assistant professor at Los
Angeles Peirce College, touched on the importance of volunteering. It was just
one example of how to improve multi-dimensional issues like social isolation
It’s a point
that resonated with Norman. “Volunteering and aging do go together because you
have that interaction,” he said. He pointed at carpool arrangements and other activities,
adding that intergenerational interaction is important. “I think volunteering
is a good vehicle to expand your relationships.”
afternoon, Rich DeMuro, Emmy Award-winning tech reporter at KTLA, moderated a
panel with representatives from companies providing innovative solutions to age
is evolving, and is helping people stay independent,” DeMuro said. Joined by
company leaders from Narrative Foods, Hero, and Intuition Robotics, the panel introduced
innovative ways to better help people age at home, from meal delivery services to
devices helping patients manage medication.
Connections and Whole-Person Care tracks also allowed attendees to explore diverse
topics and services, including dating apps for older adults, searching for
roommates, tidying-up, and finding walking buddies. This year’s Innovation Fair
was a first for the Symposium as well. Many panelists and products were
available to all participants at the end of the day to take a look at the
various concepts introduced at all three tracks.
also took a personal and emotional turn during the afternoon keynote discussion
with Toyota’s Motor America CFO, Tracey Doi. Doi shared why the Asian and
Japanese American community is so important to her, a home for both Toyota and
for herself for decades. Those deep roots were captured in her conversation
with Douglas Moore, director of technology for human support at Toyota.
they unveiled Toyota’s breakthrough technology and how it will help generations
to move. From autonomous driving cars to helper robots, Moore wants to do away
with “being alone together,” a stigma that’s often associated with technology,
and instead use science to empower people to connect. Toyota is finding ways
for people to fulfill their potential, reduce limitations, and expand
Irene Fujimoto commented that “innovation is happening now… but we won’t be
here in 50 years.” Despite knowing that, Irene said she tries to keep herself
up to date – which is a big reason why she comes to the Keiro Symposium ever
year. Along with her friends, the community, and resources available, Irene
hopes to continue learning and plans on attending again in the future.
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