Overcoming Barriers to Innovation in an Aging Marketplace

Surgical maskAugust 20, 2013 – In my recent Disruptive Demographics article I discuss both the need for real change to meet the needs of global aging and how innovation might be implemented to develop new markets, novel approaches to public policy and creative community partnerships. From the micro level of everyday things such as product packaging to rethinking the macro opportunities touching markets and public policy  - retirement, education, transportation, housing, etc.  -  new thinking and action is necessary to make a world living longer one that lives better. Read my piece How to Implement New Ideas for a Better Old Age on

Working Past Retirement & Staying Competitive in a Multigenerational Workplace

August 1, 2013 – I had the pleasure of being interviewed on FoxBusiness to discuss my work and the research of the MIT AgeLab on the multigenerational workplace and working past ‘retirement’. Most surveys and behaviors of people nearing retirement age suggest that working longer is the new retirement plan. So how do we maintain our personal competitive advantageFoxBusiness Coughlin on Multigenerational Workplace to stay in the workplace, full-time, part-time, or even on a project basis? Watch this video as I describe the new strategic importance of health, education and flexibility in the multigenerational workplace. View interview

Retirement Planning Advice from People ‘Who Have Been There, Done That’

Retirement coupleAugust 1, 2013 – To many, retirement planning is perceived as an exercise of numbers, what ifs and discussing how much? These are not incorrect questions, but they are incomplete. In addition to professional advice that addresses these issues, what might the advice be from people who are living in retirement? I asked ~200 MIT Alums and their spouses who average nearly 20 years of ‘post-work’ experience what advice they would give people planning retirement – read my recent piece on WSJ/MarketWatch and find out what they said.

Does Age Predict Technology Adoption?

shutterstock_90597973July 27, 2013 – Older consumers are not readily identified as lead adopters of new technology or services. However, is it age or experience and expectations that makes the difference in what a consumer chooses to buy, use and finally adopt? My recent post on Disruptive Demographics looks at the amazing similarities in adoption rates (or lack thereof) across the generations of e-readers and suggests that birthdays may matter less than we think in adopting new technology. Read my article on Disruptive Demographics.

Investing in the Age-Ready City

age-ready cityJuly 22, 2013 – Two trends are converging — urbanization and aging. Significant investments are being made to make cities sustainable, less congested, competitive, even smarter.  Today Americans over 65-years-old comprise 13 percent of the population. In a few short years one in five people will be over 65.  How well are cities and their leaders anticipating the new needs of an aging society? Read my recent article on Huffington Post – Is Your City Age-Ready?

Early Retirement: A Bad Idea Back Again

Early retirement bad idea
June 17, 2013 – Youth unemployment has reached crisis levels in several European countries: 39% in Italy, 55% in Spain, and 60% in Greece. Now, early retirement, a so-called economic fix that I’d hoped was dead and buried, is being exhumed and put forward as a viable solution. It’s a zombie idea, and we need to leave it six feet under or two meters down for our EU friends. Read more…

Old Age, New Technology & Envisioning the New Opportunities of Living Longer Better

UnknownMay 23, 2013 – Many nations see aging as a crisis of healthcare and pensions. Instead, this keynote address at Nova Scotia’s
Silver Economy Summit highlights the new opportunities of old age for government and business. Aging presents new possibilities for public-private partnerships, business innovation and rethinking the services that add independence and quality of life across the lifespan.

Understanding the Changing Context & Consumer Attitudes Towards Retirement Planning

May 22, 2013 – How is the idea of retirement evolving in the consumer’s mind? Delivering the luncheon keynote at the Financial Communications Society in New York this talk addresses how consumers are envisioning life after 60-something, using social media as trusted advice and what the new business of longevity management means to financial services.

Investing in Our Future: Best Cities for Global Aging, Milken Institute Global Conference, Los Angeles, California

Coughlin - Best Cities for Successful AgingApril 29, 2013 – What makes a city a good place to age? Joining AARP’s EVP Nancy Leamond, Stanford Longevity Center Director, Laura Carstensen, Civic Ventures Marc Freedman and former Secretary of Health & Human Services Henry Cisneros we discussed elements of livability, social engagement & the new opportunities of preparing for an aging society as a strategic advantage for the city. (Milken Institute Global Conference 2013 video)

BBC World News Horizons Interview on Aging, Technology & Business Innovation

BBC Horizons Interview with Joe Coughlin
April 26, 2013 –  BBC World News’s Horizons, a global television program that features insights into the future of business, recently featured the MIT AgeLab and conducted an in-depth interview with me on aging, technology and business innovation. BBC Horizon’s anchor Adam Shaw and I discuss the opportunity of global aging to drive business, rethink the social contract around longevity and how we might leverage technology to live longer better. Adam takes a spin with Miss Daisy and goes shopping with AGNES with two of my AgeLab colleagues. Selected clips of the program may be found on the BBC Horizons website.

Three Questions to Predict a Quality Retirement

April 21, 2013

- Even if you have your health and your wealth – are you prepared for retirement? Often taken for granted are issues such as how will you age independently and maintain a home on your own, do you live in an age-ready community where there interesting things to do and ways to get there as well as have you maintained in a network friends that will make old age fun and healthy. In a recent WSJ MarketWatch article I ask three questions that financial advisors should pose if they really want to engage their clients and the rest of us should ask to reveal if we have really thought about living well in older age.

Technology, the Older Consumer & Envisioning the Future of the Pharma Industry, Gerontological Society of America, Washington, DC

April 16, 2013 – What is the future of the pharmaceutical industry? Speaking before a roundtable of pharmaceutical executives we explored how global aging and new technology will transform the pharma industry bringing new ideas for medications as well as services responding to the demands of older patients and caregivers.

Innovation and the Future of Healthy Aging

April 15, 2013 – Joined industry and academic leaders in aging to speak at the American Federation for Aging Research (AFAR) Annual Dinner & Global Coalition on Aging-sponsored forum on Innovation and the Future of Healthy Aging addressing the successes and failures of new ideas to successfully penetrate an global aging marketplace.

NBC Nightly News Interview Featuring MIT AgeLab Study on Driver Fitness

April 1, 2013  The MIT AgeLab recently reported the results of an exploratory study conducted in partnership with The Hartford Center for Mature Market Excellence on the use of tele-exercise by older adults to improve the overall well-being and capacity, comfort as well as confidence to drive safely. The preliminary results reveal that the participants reported improved performance in a variety of areas, e.g., ingress and egress of the vehicle. NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams featured the study as well as other footage showing one of the participants exercising and driving one of AgeLab’s test vehicles. Click here to view the interview and additional footage of the exercise in action.

Joe Coughlin Named to the Wall Street Journal’s Experts in Retirement Panel

March 19, 2013 - Received the privilege to participate on the Wall Street Journal‘s online panel The Experts—an exclusive group of industry and thought leaders who will engage in in-depth online discussions of topics raised in March 2013 Unleashing Innovation Report and all future Reports on WSJ Online. My first contribution was answering the WSJ question – do we all need bucket lists? Click here to view my response and online video interview.

A World Where You Own Nothing: Welcome to the Usership Economy

February 20, 2013 - Imagine a world where you own nothing. No, this is not an aging baby boomer flashback of a John Lennon tune, it is the evolving economic and social reality of ‘usership’ that is set to transform markets, consumer behavior — even retirement planning. A trend is emerging. You can have it all and own none of it. Rather than ownership, more and more consumers are seeking ‘usership.’ While ‘sharing’ is often linked to usership they are not the same. Usership economics is characterized by transactions between the user (consumer) and provider. While the provider, typically a private company, may describe a ‘community’ of users, there is little if any real community, shared consideration, or relationship between the users. Read my essay on usership on Huffington Post Business.

Four Questions to Ask Before Downsizing Your Home in Retirement

February 20, 2013

The numbers are not clear, but the topic of baby boomer downsizing from larger home to smaller housing options features prominently in the real estate business news. The leading edge of boomers are now between 57 and 67 years old. With their lifestyles changing, many are rethinking where they want to live in retirement. But before excitement about a new lifestyle in older age overtakes you, answer the questions I pose on WSJ/MarketWatch RetireMentors

What Cancer Tells Us About Chronic Disease: Are We Living Longer But Sicker?

February 5, 2013

Cancer deaths in the US are down 20% since they peaked in 1991, a new American Cancer Association study reports. Some types of cancer are becoming more like manageable, chronic conditions that doctors and patients keep at bay for years, even decades. That is, for an increasing number of people, cancer is becoming something less to die of than to live with. Cancer, of course, isn’t the only chronic condition that tends to appear with age – other common culprits include heart disease and diabetes. And although life expectancies are on the rise, conditions like these change the equation: we’re not only living longer, but also living sicker. Read more on Disruptive Demographics

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Transportation: Retirement on the Move, WSJ MarketWatch

January 29, 2013

Beginning January 2013 I will be contributing to Wall Street Journal MarketWatch’s Retirement Mentors with observations and insights into the ‘what we will be doing in retirement’ alongside discussions of how much it might cost. My first piece addresses transportation planning in retirement. Mobility is an assumption of quality retirement, but poor health, an isolated home and a dearth of mobility options can make retirement a prison sentence rather than life’s reward. Here are five tips to make sure you can keep moving in retirement. (click here)

Are Our Cities Age-Ready? US Conference of Mayors, Washington, DC

January 18, 2013

My MIT AgeLab colleagues and I presented at the US Conference of Mayors annual meeting in Washington, DC. We discussed and demonstrated the challenges that an aging society presents to today’s cities. Several US Mayors put on AgeLab’s Age Gain Now Empathy System or AGNES to feel the friction and frustration that many older adults managing chronic conditions experience using transit, accessing public facilities or simply walking down the sidewalk.

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Technology, Aging & Independent Living: Keynote at Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences

December 19, 2012

Invited to deliver the keynote lecture for the Institute of Medicine National Academies Forum on Aging, Disability & Independence in Washington, DC. Coughlin’s talk “Technology & Independent Living: Can We Move Ideas in the Laboratory into Innovations in the Living Room?” identified current barriers to technology deployment and adoption by older adults and the disabled. I advocated a systems approach to product/service development that integrates adoption and delivery to users and caregivers alike is necessary if we are to see many of today’s technologies make a difference in the lives of older people tomorrow. To view video (click here)

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Can Big Data Enable Population Happiness & Well-Being?

November 26, 2012
Earlier this month I had the opportunity to speak at the MIT SENSEable City Lab‘s UrbanCode Symposium. The symposium, co-sponsored by The Economist, addressed the big potential of ‘big data’ to improve the city. While big data does offer amazing possibilities to improve operations such as public transportation, sanitation, even health delivery, I asked the global audience of researchers, policy makers and technologists to consider that we may not be demanding enough from big data. Instead, can we use big data to envision new ways to improve population happiness & well-being. Read more of my remarks on Huffington Post Science Big Questions for Big Data.

Named Money Magazine’s Retirement Game Changer

November 1, 2012

Money Magazine’s Penelope Wang profiles me as a Game Changer in retirement in her article Planning for a Very Long Retirement. The profile examines many questions that are part of the new retirement – planning for longevity not just financial independence, e.g., how will you maintain your home, ensure transportation, provide care to others?

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Is 75 the New 65? Imagine Retirement at 75

October 27, 2012

Are we ready to work six-plus decades? A recent study of baby boomer retirement readiness suggests that many will have to work another decade past traditional retirement age to be ready for life after work. How might a longer work life affect how we view health management, lifelong education and financial engagement? Read more about the new future of old age and retirement planning in my recent article “Is 75 the New 65?” on Disruptive Demographics.

Engaging & Advising Across the Generations

October 25, 2012

Today there are at least three generations of workers that employers and financial advisors must successfully engage. Who are these generations? Can behavior be neatly cut and named into one or more decades? Birth cohort does not predict with precision, but it does give patterns into possible engagement strategies for financial advisors and human resources professionals seeking client/employee attention and action. My recent article in Bank Investment Consultant – ‘Talkin’ About Your Generation’ describes today’s three-generation workplace and marketplace describing their different learning styles, patterns of technology use and what each cohort believes makes ‘good’ advice. (Read article)

Keynote Presentation at LeadingAge 2012: Old Age, Technology & Envisioning the New Futures of Aging Services

October 23, 2012

I delivered Tuesday’s keynote presentation to LeadingAge 2012 earlier this week. LeadingAge’s members represent the nation’s aging services network of 6,000 organizations that touch 4 million individuals, families, employees and volunteers every day. Speaking to the more than 8,000 attendees my talk described the new demands of the next generation of older adults and how technology as well as creative partnerships with business, novel services and the development of a next generation workforce will reinvent and re-envision the future of aging services to care for tomorrow’s elderly baby boomers. To read a summary of my remarks see my post Innovation & the Future of Aging Services on Disruptive Demographics.

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Is Retirement About to Be Retired?

October 21, 2012

A new study was published by the National Research Council (NRC) — Aging and the Macroeconomy: Long-Term Implications of an Older Population. The NRC report addresses the issue of the day and this election year, the cost of retirement, more specifically social security and related health entitlements. Among its recommendations it points to pushing retirement beyond 19th century German Chancellor Bismarck’s pick of 65 years old being the ideal year to call it a day. For well over a century governments and people have been following these dated actuarial tables. Organizations loathe change, even when you can see it right in front of you. In Bismarck’s day life expectancy was closer to 50 so 65 was…well, let’s just say ‘fiscally prudent’. Today people are very likely to risk their lifespan outpacing their wealthspan with life expectancy well into the eight decade and more for many. Read more on Disruptive Demographics on how the Future of Retirement Looks Like Work.

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Retirement Education & Planning in Transition

October 18, 2012

The National Pension Education Association is a national organization of public retirement systems that focuses on educating members about the importance of and the need for retirement planning. My keynote at NEPA’s annual meeting discussed how retirement education and planning must change to meet the emerging needs of future retirees. This is not your father’s retirement. The next generation of retirees must navigate unsure and unclear benefits as well as complex issues that were once managed by larger supportive families. For example, caregiving was rarely discussed let alone given a name…giving care was simply being a loving spouse, daughter or son. Today, surveys suggest that even the mass affluent are transferring savings once marked for children’s college education to purchase eldercare services. Greater complexity, more issues to consider and self-directed retirement will generate far more demand for information and education. But, more is sometimes just more, not better. The MIT AgeLab’s research indicates that the unique learning styles and education needs of employees across the lifespan must be fully considered to ensure effective engagement. Moreover, generational cohort and gender influences financial information seeking and processing behaviors. If retirement is in transition, so should retirement education.

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Keynote Care Continuum Alliance: Providing Care or Confusion

October 18, 2012

I delivered the keynote lecture before the global audience gathered at the 2012 Care Continuum Alliance (CCA) annual meeting in Atlanta. CCA’s mission is to realize the highest achievable health status through the promotion and alignment of population health improvement through patient-centric models of care, innovative practice and care models, as well as the cost-effective application of technology. My talk, “Care or Confusion? A Consumer’s Perspective of the Healthcare Delivery System” identified how changes in public trust, an evolving patient-doctor relationship and the implementation of countless technologies may be providing great promise but may also be wrought with potential challenges ahead. For example, sensors and systems are available today to provide cost-effective patient monitoring by providing more data, e.g., 24/7 monitoring of blood pressure, blood glucose. However, data alone does not necessarily provide the understanding nor sustained engagement that ultimately leads to better health behaviors and outcomes. Moreover, given the limited face-to-face time physicians have with patients, ‘high-tech’ may substitute for ‘high-touch’, but it may also risk diminishing the trusted patient-doctor relationship critical to healthy behaviors, especially in older patients. I described a future integrated systems approach that demands the development of new generation of health systems professionals and easy-to-use, easy-to-visualize tools to monitor, manage and motivate well-being behaviors across the lifespan.

Why More Information May Not Lead to Public Engagement

September 26, 2012

Financial services and health organizations as well as many other often believe that info-therapy alone can be a call to action. Sometimes more is not better, sometimes more is just more. Today’s consumer is juggling demands on their time and attention as well as sorting through a never-ending onslaught of complex and often conflicting information. For organizations seeking to understand, let alone nudge, consumer behavior they must consider that ‘more’ information may be more confusing rather than an enticement to engage. Read more on my Huffington Post Science & Technology article “Eat Less, Live More? Science, the Media and Health Behavior” to see how even ‘hard science’ must struggle for clarity, guard against conflicting meanings and navigate the new media world of public engagement.

Simple Thinking & Design – Key to Consumer Engagement

September 22, 2012

The engineering KISS principle, ‘keep-it-simple-stupid,’ applies to more than technology design. It is powerful guidance to all innovators who want their products or services to excite and delight their target users. So consumer products, no matter how cutting edge, need to be designed with busy, preoccupied people in mind, or else it’s not going to be used effectively or overtime not used at all. Whether you are in the business of financial services or building a new widget to remind grandma to take her meds — simplicity is key to engagement. Making a product or service simple to understand and use for the consumer is hard work. Read more on Disruptive Demographics to learn how ‘simple thinking’ can be applied across markets and translate ideas into innovation.


Caregiving & Going It Alone: When Life at Home Impacts Productivity at Work

September 11, 2012

I delivered a keynote address to the annual meeting of  College and University Professionals Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR), a group of human resources professionals who serve institutions of higher education. Rapidly changing demographics will be a major source of grief – and opportunity – for HR professionals in the not-too-distant future. Two major demographic disruptions are already affecting employee well-being and productivity. First, a generation of peak wage-earners is sandwiched between caring for children and aging parents. And, second, more and more people are living alone, which presents its own unique set of challenges. Read more on my post “Caregiving & Going It Alone: When Life at Home Impacts Productivity at Work” on Disruptive Demographics.

Will Robot Cars Get Stuck in Traffic?

August 19, 2012

Translating invention into innovation takes more than good technology. Even after the considerable technological development is complete, it is unlikely that any of us will be jumping into our robotic roadster anytime soon. The technological barriers are likely to pale in contrast to the policy, market, and consumer challenges to the driverless car. Here is a partial list of issues and questions that should be on government, industry, and researcher agendas today if we are to ever realize the promise of the driverless car tomorrow.

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Casting A New Dream of Old Age

August 18, 2012

Taking a new look at advertising and old age. Images of ‘aging’ have been on television for years. The famous, some might say infamous, ‘help I’ve fallen and can’t get up’ commercial for Life Call’s personal emergency response system has shaped much of the public’s perception of products for older consumers. Other less dramatic commercials aimed at older consumers include a litany of assistive technologies, such as scooters, and the pharmaceutical industry’s direct-to-consumer campaigns for countless medications to manage debilitating conditions. These images have done more than sell a product they have reinforced an image of aging.

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State University of New York Awards Joseph Coughlin Honorary Doctorate of Science

May 12, 2012

Joseph Coughlin, a 1982 graduate of SUNY Oswego who is internationally known for his work in gerontology, business innovation and public policy, will receive an honorary doctor of science degree from the State University of New York on May 12 at Oswego’s 151st Commencement.

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The Retirement Touchstone

May 1, 2012

Advisors must realistically assess their clients readiness for life after work. For successful engagement financial advisors must be realistic, relevant and responsive to the changing needs and personal agendas of their clients managing midlife.

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Retiring Retirement & Crafting a New Story of Financial Services & Longevity

April 11, 2012

Featured presentation at the Financial Communications Society’s Education Summit – Baby Boomers… or Bust: How to Market to and Influence the 50+ Consumer in New York City. Audience includes chief marketing officers and strategists across the financial services industry. Coughlin will be discussing MIT AgeLab’s research on the future of retirement planning across the generations identifying innovative strategies firms can implement to engage younger adults and aging baby boomers in planning for financial security across the lifespan.


Longevity Creates New Business Opportunities

March 1, 2012

Cover Story in Bank Investment Consultant discussing the new business of longevity management and retiring retirement

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Time Magazine Money: Drug Prices Up — or Not? Either Way, Treatments Will Chew Up Retirement Savings

March 8, 2012

Estimating the real cost of health in older age. Retirement planning must consider the cost of health versus the out-of-pocket cost of well-being.


On Wall St, The Financial Calculus of Aging Helping clients identify and separate sources of income to face the challenges of getting older

March 1, 2012

Story describes Coughlin’s research and approach to helping clients identify and separate sources of income to face the challenges of getting older, e.g., housing, transportation, caregiving, healthcare.