SXSW 2018 and Aging Innovation

Many people are surprised to learn that aging and longevity issues are widely covered at SXSW. We’re happy to report that the aging-related panels and speakers we saw this year were truly relevant and knowledgeable. As always, we learned a lot. Here are some random notes from just a few of the panels we saw at SXSW 2018.

Not Only the Lonely: How We All Can Be Happier

  • Millennials are approaching the same levels of loneliness as elders.
  • The panel spoke to a packed room, which illustrates that the issue of loneliness resonates with people of all ages. Their message: Put away the devices and just talk to people. And we’ll add…pick up the phone and call your mom, dad, grandma or grandpa. Today.

The Elder Boom: Aging Tech’s Explosive Growth

  • More than 111 million people in the U.S. today are over 50. And European countries are ahead of us on the aging curve. Note to businesses: You can do social good AND make money serving this market.
  • Investors (including one of the panelists, who works at GE Ventures) report what they’re seeing, e.g., 3D printing could possibly be used to make dentures, hearing aids and home monitoring devices. Could be a game changer. slide from Unity Biology presentation

Bracing for a New Age of Longevity

  • Panelist: Unity Biology, President, Ned David. Ned holds pending and issued patents in fields such as nanovolume crystallography, antibiotic resistance, aesthetic medicine, and cellular senescence. His company’s mission is to extend human health span.
  • Scientists have doubled the lifespan of a fly/mouse by deleting a gene. Aging is no longer a black box.
  • What they know: Senescent cells accumulate as we age. Senescent cells multiply, feeding on themselves. When you eliminate the senescent cells, healthy cells grow in their place, which leads to healthier animals. In their studies, mice without senescent cells are living 35% longer, without the traditional side effects of aging. Could alter the definition of what it means to be elderly.
  • Unity Biology’s drug (for humans) will go into a clinical trial this year.

Age of Ageless: Cultivate a Life of Reinvention

  • There have always been three stages of life: learn, earn and retire. That’s not working anymore. The “earn” phase (for today’s kids) will last about 70 years.
  • The modern elder concept: Be both a sage and a student. “I’m here to learn as well as to teach.” Intern publicly, mentor privately.
  • If you had 100 years to live, would you be doing what you’re doing now? As a society we haven’t addressed the answers to this question. We view life as if we have one tank of gas to get us all the way through. No wonder people are running on fumes later in life. At minimum, this is a two-tank life. Taking a break or changing paths mid-life is OK.
  • Why are most college scholarship programs only for young people? We may need to rethink that as well, so that older adults can go back to school, and retool their career. Because if you have a growth mindset, labels, e.g., millennials, boomers, etc. don’t really matter.

SXSW Community Service Awards

  • Char Hu, CEO and co-founder of The Helper Bees and AustinUP Board member, was a 2018 SXSW Community Service Award honoree. Upon receiving his award, Char encouraged other entrepreneurs to “build solutions that enhance the invigorating aspects of life.” photo of Char Hu