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Helping seniors harness the social media revolution for their increased health and happiness is a major component in USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology dean Pinchas Cohen’s plans for the future of the institution.

Dubbing this phenomenon “Digital Aging,” he held a competition for USC Leonard Davis School students and staff to help design the best possible aging-friendly mobile app. Awarding winners an iPad and runners-up iPods and iPhones, Cohen announced the results at the School’s annual holiday party.

With a slew of exciting proposals that included medication reminders, home and environment modification safety alerts, end-of-life care assistance and memoir-creation technology, honorable mentions went to doctoral students Jeff Laguna and Patrick Beck, staffer Jana Peretti and undergrads Carin Wong and Cameron Chalfant.

“This was a wonderful opportunity for students to engage in innovative approaches to helping the aging population,” Beck said.

Second runner-up was doctoral student Alison Balbag, who suggested an app called “MyTunes” that would provide musical therapy for patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. First runner-up was undergrad Sahar Edalati, who proposed an app to help older adults locate any lost item, from pill bottles to keys, using GPS technology.

Dean Cohen with App Competition Winner Marguerite DeLiema.

The winners were doctoral student Marguerite DeLiema and grad student Allison Young, who teamed up to propose an app to aid first responders to elder abuse, as well the older adult impacted by it.

“We’re hoping this tool can be used to help guide whether or not the case meets criteria for elder abuse and help first responders identify the nearest agencies to connect older adults for assistance and support,” DeLiema said. “We want to help a vulnerable person become more embedded in their community as well as to help people become more knowledgeable about detecting elder abuse and what to do.”

This concept sparked so much interest from USC Leonard Davis School faculty members that DeLiema and Young are hoping to expand the idea to include a cognitive screening for older adults who may seem to be self-sufficient but may actually be vulnerable to certain frauds and scams.

“In the spirit of interdisciplinary collaboration for which our School is famous, I plan on bringing in USC’s computer science, art, design and engineering experts to help make these apps a reality,” Cohen said. “Social media and cutting-edge technology offers older adults such amazing opportunities and assets, and I am so proud of the creative, ingenious solutions our students suggested.”

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