QRCA Views Magazine, Winter 2018

38 QRCA VIEWS Winter 2018 www.qrca.org n Luminaries n J oseph Coughlin is the founder and director of the AgeLab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Joe and his team study the impact of global demographic change and technology trends on con- sumer behavior, business innovation and public policy. The Wall Street Journal named Joe one of “12 pioneers inventing the future of retirement.” I talked with Joe recently about the AgeLab and about his new book, The Longevity Economy: Unlocking the World’s Fastest-Growing, Most Misunderstood Market, where he describes how business- es can create a new narrative for old age. Kay: Let’s get started by talking a little bit about what the AgeLab is and its mission. Joe: The AgeLab is a multidisciplinary program at MIT that’s based in the School of Engineering but draws from the Schools of Architecture and Planning to really understand how we can invent Life Tomorrow and to solve what I call the longevity paradox. And the paradox is this: perhaps the greatest success of humankind is living longer, but now the challenge is what do we do with the time that we have and the time that we con- tinue to gain. The AgeLab is trying to develop new ideas, new products, new services, new approaches to understand- ing and developing Life Tomorrow. Kay: What kinds of products and services have you created so far? Joe: We started with the auto industry to learn how can we use new technolo- gies in the car, in transit and other things to enable people to stay mobile, safe, and seamlessly secure throughout their lifespan. As we move to the auton- omous car, we have started to redesign the interfaces of the cars that are out today so that people can learn, use, and eventually trust and adopt new technolo- gies that will be used by 20-year-olds and by 80+ year-olds as well. We’ve worked with the insurance industry to come up with new product riders to improve homeowner insurance to keep older people safe and secure, and making it possible for them to age in place. We’ve worked with retailers to rethink the design and the layout of their stores, not just to be age friendly but also to make it a better consumer experience. Because if I make it better for an older adult, removing that friction and frustra- tion and that fatigue that older adults are not particularly fond of, guess what, I’ve made it more attractive for every con- sumer out there. So, our work is across transportation and retail and housing and health, and we’re having great fun with a great team. Kay: How do you do qualitative research at the AgeLab? Joe: One of the fun things about a multidisciplinary team is you have By Kay Corry Aubrey User Researcher n Usability Resources Inc. n Bedford, MA n kay@usabilityresources.net Joe Coughlin of the MIT AgeLab on Product Development for Older Adults