As the GAIL continues to grow in membership since it’s release in October 2022, it has been such an honor getting to know some of the new members and helping them on their journeys to boost Innovation in an aging society.
One of these new members in our academic membership, Yijung Kim, PhD., is a Population Research Center Postdoctoral Research Scientist with the University of Texas. After connecting through the Texas Aging and Longevity Consortium of UT, it became apparent the need for the GAIL and how it can make a difference to the future of Agetech.
Dr Kim has completed several research studies in aging that are absolutely fascinating for those working in Agetech in all industries. Her studies include: Daily Social Media Use, Social Ties and Emotional Wellbeing in Later Life; Older Adults’ and Family
Caregivers’ Technological Arrangements on Risk of Institutionalization; and Older Adults With Functional Limitations and Their Use of Telehealth During COVID-19. In her published study, Daily Social Media Use, Social Ties and Emotional Wellbeing in Later Life, Dr Kim found that social media is a distinct form of social resource in later life that may complement other offline social encounters and compensate for the general age-related reduction in social network size. This was published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships in 2022 (Vol. 39(6) 1794–1813).
Across all three of her research projects, Dr Kim concluded in an interview with me, that the most surprising finding about technology use in aging was “the role of social support in all three studies. It is well-known that family members and friends provide key instrumental, emotional, and practical support in later life. Although there is some research on how social ties provide key motivations and pathways for older adults to gain access, utilize, and maintain usage of information and communications technology, far less work is done on empirically demonstrating this effect. In all three studies, I found that older adults’ technology use had some effect in the context of their everyday social encounters, informal technology support, and family care network.”
Dr Yijung Kim got into aging studies as an undergrad majoring in psychology. She stated she has “always been fascinated by different theories on human development, especially the ones that highlight the opportunities for continued growth and fulfillment in later life” She also worked as a student volunteer for the Peace Drum Project, an after-school program that uses arts and community service to promote positive intergenerational interactions between older adults and teens residing in five Boston neighborhoods. She stated, “I was looking at grad schools around that time, and I had the opportunity to attend the Massachusetts Healthy Aging Collaborative conference, where the University of Massachusetts Boston research team presented a comprehensive report on healthy aging indicators for every city and town of Boston. Seeing how academic work, policy, and community actions inform one another, I became aware of how evidence-based research could promote healthy aging for diverse individuals and directly inform clinical care.” These experiences shaped her initial research focus and led her to pursue graduate work in aging, which she continues today at the University of Texas.
As a seasoned researcher in work surrounding Agetech, Dr Kim was asked what she thought was the challenge that most academia struggle with when performing research on aging studies today. She stated, “The biggest challenge that I see is understanding what is really happening in the field. There are at least two barriers. First, is understanding how fast the needs of this population change; particularly in the context of rapid societal changes that we have all experienced in the past few years. Because many researchers in academic settings lack the opportunities to interact with older adults and their family members, failing to closely follow all the recent changes could create a disconnect between academic research and the everyday lives of older adults. Relatedly, those of us in academia often lack access to the type of data that better reflects people’s choices and behaviors. Being able to work only with ‘clean’ data (i.e., de-identified, publicly available) also puts our work at risk of dealing with information that is already ‘old’ by the time it becomes accessible to us researchers.. I hope that there will be more future opportunities for collaboration between practitioners, academic researchers and innovators in the agetech space.”
This is exactly why the GAIL was developed to create that space where collaboration can take place and less competition. The “gap” in Agetech that I have mentioned in some of my previous articles, Dr Kim validates stating that there is “absolutely” a gap. She further explains, “That’s where I see all the challenges and inefficiencies stemming from. The biggest problem I see is that it’s really hard to know what ‘other people’ need/want, because there really isn’t a space for these different stakeholders of the aging ecosystem to come together and discuss their interests.” When asked if this gap could prevent innovation in an aging society from her perspective she mentioned that it is not just a challenge in academia with relation to innovation, but from other perspectives as well. “I just mentioned the potential disconnect that academic research could face in the absence of an adequate understanding of the population and access to data, but the problem goes both ways. Without proper evaluation of a new program or policy change, where to spend the limited resources becomes a very difficult question to answer. I see that this is where academic research could step in.”
As we all know and try to prove in the Agetech world, technology could assist our society with better meeting the needs of all older adults. As Dr Kim found in her research, technology can benefit older adults in finding many solutions to challenges, but we, in all areas of the Agetech space (i.e. innovators, researchers, older adults, and caregivers) need to continue “making sure that the technology remains accessible to different physical, psychological, and cognitive needs of the diverse older adult population, as it will be challenging yet essential.”
It was such a pleasure discussing research and the aging society with Dr Yijung Kim. Her talent is going to be a huge asset to the membership of the GAIL as well as all other new members from all over the world. Dr Kim will continue her passion for addressing solutions for older adults and stated that she is always interested in gaining access to a unique set of data. “As a member of the GAIL, I am seeking opportunities to collaborate with innovators, researchers, or operators interested in distilling.”
Join Dr Kim and others today in your free membership of the GAIL. The magic of the GAIL is that in order to receive as a member, you must also come to the table with something to offer the other members. Collaborate not compete is our motto. We are 100% virtual and looking forward to seeing you there!
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Written by Founder/Director of GAIL, Amy S Chidester, MS, LNHA