International Aging

USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology dean Gerald C. Davison, PhD and assistant clinical professor Aaron Hagedorn, PhD, were among the international experts chosen to pen a chapter for the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Ageing Society’s newest publication, Global Population Ageing: Peril or Promise?

Containing 22 essays by authorities whose expertise spans the globe—from the United States to the United Kingdom to the Netherlands and Japan—the book examines the interplay between ageing and multiple facets of the modern world, including urbanization, equity, media portrayal, leadership, economic security and, in Davison and Hagedorn’s chapter, gerontechnology: the interdisciplinary study of the interaction of technology and the unique challenges and needs of older people.

“We discussed how current and emerging innovations in technology and design can improve quality of life and, for older adults, extend the time they can ‘age in place’ rather than be consigned to residential settings for elders,” said Hagedorn.

“Technology can help level the playing field across the generations, enabling higher productivity for mature people who may be able to contribute productively for a longer time,” Davison said. “Aging societies will need to adapt, finding new roles for older people and supporting the sense of self-worth and self-sufficiency that enable them to maximize their physical and mental potential.”

The scope of gerontechnology’s ability to revolutionize the way we age is virtually limitless, and both Hagedorn and Davison see possible applications for every facet of life over time.

Look at what technology has done to the job market and general communication in just a few years, for example. The timing of technological expansion into the lives of older adults is excellent, since population aging and medical inflation are straining our existing framework for health and social services,” Davison said. “Implementing technological solutions across the board could result in improved quality of life and potentially save an extraordinary amount of money. Gerontechnology is changing the face of what it means to age.”

“I hope this chapter gives insight into the network of scientists behind technology designed for older adults, and a sense of how the field has developed in recent years,” said Hagedorn. “Specific technologies are often out of date before they get fully adopted, but the concepts that are at the heart of the products often live on in a new form. Our chapter gives insight into the major concepts that form the basis for products that can support aging in place.”

The most universal of human experiences, aging has increasingly become a crucial topic of study, policy and practice in terms of the future of our planet. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) believes it to be of such vital importance that they selected aging as the theme of World Health Day 2012.

“I welcome this timely book, which deals with some of the many other perspectives of population ageing,” said Margaret Chan, Director-General of WHO. “The diverse chapters within it can help us invent the kind of society we might want to be part of in the 21st century.”

The full text of Global Population Ageing: Peril or Promise? is available online at the World Economic Forum’s website.

Aaron Hagedorn, PhD & Dean Gerald C. Davison, PhD