Interview with Dr Karen Fingerman, PhD, Director of TALC (Texas Aging and Longevity Consortium) at University of Texas, Austin.
GAIL joins rank as a new affiliate with TALC and I also had the fantastic opportunity to interview Dr Karen Fingerman, PhD, Director of TALC, who represents students from all departments at the University of Texas who are pursuing pathways that touch aging in some way.
The TALC every fall has a networking opportunity for the students in aging to meet affiliates of the consortium. At the last meet and greet, some brilliant new minds are working on some really great projects in aging and the Agetech space. I asked Karen, as the leader of TALC, what do you see as the largest barrier for students going into aging careers in 2023?
“Gaining student interest in pursuing careers around aging. BUT, I have been seeing a huge increase in numbers of students with interests in older adults- so I am optimistic.”
Working with other universities and colleges, I hear about the same challenges. The assumptions are that working in the area of aging has to be only working in nursing homes and only for nurses. As a part of the GAIL working alongside institutions such as UT’s TALC, we hope that the students can get involved with the Agetech community and benefit from the collaborations just as much as the innovators and benefit from their expertise. As Dr Fingerman noted we need to try and "gain student interest in pursuing careers around aging. many young adults are afraid of old age." I couldn't agree more that the stigma and fear of the unknown, if not exposed, can hold young adults back from pursuing studies alongside aging. TALC is doing a great job working to break down this stigma and bring more connections with affiliates in the Austin area and beyond to broaden the horizon for students to experience many aspects of aging and not just what they may or may not already know or perceive.
As far as the role of Agetech and how Dr Fingerman sees it playing into the future of caregiving and senior care, she stated that “there is an emerging literature on this- particularly post COVID. I think the biggest issue is that Medicare is now paying for telehealth.”
A very large barrier for Agetech for so long was the reimbursement. Historically innovation has not been a priority for payers of healthcare and other services for older adults. The pandemic has perpetuated innovation to expand and realize the untapped market in Agetech as well as the benefits it can have on society.
As you have heard here before, Dr Fingerman addresses the “gap” the GAIL strives to fill, which is collaborating with experts, innovators, regulators, caregivers and older adults themselves to help build the products and services emerging so that disparities of accessibility do not keep Agetech from benefiting everyone who is aging. Dr. Fingerman states, “One of the dilemmas is the lack of design considerations (of products and services) to make things friendly to an older use audience. Larger fonts are needed, user friendliness that involves less dexterity demands and I also hear requests for simpler designs. There are a lot of features that most people don’t use and that make things look messy and/or difficult to find the functions that are most common.”
GAIL’s members help break down these barriers by establishing direct collaborations between all parties, providing a safe, professional space for ideas to flow, experience to be shared and insights to be gathered through conversations and partnerships. The students at UT interested in aging have expressed interest in internships, research collaborations, onsite project opportunities and conversations with real world professionals that can help students understand the challenges older adults face when trying to access products and services to increase their quality of life. Dr Fingerman, as an affiliate, can connect members of the GAIL to students upon request for particular opportunities. If you or your company have any opportunities for collaboration, internships or employment for students of the TALC, please communicate this through myself (email@example.com) or on our private GAIL facebook page (link provided upon completion of membership profile in personalized email). I look forward to seeing how these bright minds will shape our future in Agetech! Go Longhorns!