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Robots, The ‘Silver Tsunami’ And Making Vegetables Sexy – Aspen Ideas Festival Wrap Up


The Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado just wrapped up its opening week devoted to health issues. What were some the top takeaways? Here’s three: robotics, aging and making vegetables sexy.

A Robotics Boom

It seemed like everybody was talking about the potential of robots to transform hospitals and surgeries at the Ideas Festival. Right now robot-assisted devices are used in various operations, but that’s likely to grow exponentially in the next few years. Dr. Catherine Mohr – she’s Director of Medical Research atIntuitive Surgical, the company that makes the da Vinci robot – says she’s most excited about how robots will make it easier for older people to live at home longer:

“If you’ve got a little robot in your house and you’re an elderly person who has a fall risk, and you sometimes get confused and don’t always take your medication,” she says, “Well, a robot can have a conversation with you in the morning and if you’re a little bit impaired it can alert somebody that you’re not doing so well this morning.

A robot, Mohr says, can pick up things on the floor so they’re not a trip risk, even take your blood pressure.

“The combination of these things are going to extend people’s ability to live independently.”

The ‘Silver Tsunami’

The U.S. is facing what’s being called a “silver tsunami.” Think grey hair, and lots of it. Every day, ten thousand Americans turn 65, that’s a person every eight seconds. With that comes a major caregiving challenge.","_id":"00000174-20e2-d47e-a1f7-72e7bffe0000","_type":"035d81d3-5be2-3ed2-bc8a-6da208e0d9e2"}">" target="_blank" title="Share link">","_id":"00000174-20e2-d47e-a1f7-72e7bffe0000","_type":"035d81d3-5be2-3ed2-bc8a-6da208e0d9e2"}">

Ai-jen Poo, the director of the National Domestic Workers Allianceand co-directer of the Caring Across Generations Campaign, says we have to start talking about how we’re going to care for the largest older population we’ve ever had.

“The DNA of our culture has historically been to resist the notion of aging and to take caregiving for granted,” Poo says.

“So there’s so many changes that are afoot and we haven’t embraced all that’s to come, and we really do need to do that in order to seize the opportunity side of this – which is, the opportunity to create millions of new jobs, to support the growing aging population and to really innovate in the health care field.”

Making Vegetables Sexy

If we want kids to grab an apple instead of a bag of hot Cheetos, we’ve got to start marketing healthy products in a more appealing way. That’s what Sam Kass, the Executive Director of Let’s Move! and Senior Policy Advisor for Nutrition Policy at the White House argued at the Aspen Ideas Festival.

He says the way we currently go about trying to get kids to choose vegetables, for example by emphasizing their vitamin content, needs to change.","_id":"00000174-20e2-d47e-a1f7-72e7bffe0002","_type":"035d81d3-5be2-3ed2-bc8a-6da208e0d9e2"}">" target="_blank" title="Share link">","_id":"00000174-20e2-d47e-a1f7-72e7bffe0002","_type":"035d81d3-5be2-3ed2-bc8a-6da208e0d9e2"}">

“Marketing is here and it’s going to be here and we need to leverage the same power and creativity that soda is getting or chips are getting for apples and oranges and broccoli,” Kass says.

“And there’s research to the ceiling about how when you market broccoli a kid will pick broccoli over a brownie.”

Lauren Silverman was the Health, Science & Technology reporter/blogger at KERA News. She was also the primary backup host for KERA’s Think and the statewide newsmagazine  Texas Standard. In 2016, Lauren was recognized as Texas Health Journalist of the Year by the Texas Medical Association. She was part of the Peabody Award-winning team that covered Ebola for NPR in 2014. She also hosted "Surviving Ebola," a special that won Best Long Documentary honors from the Public Radio News Directors Inc. (PRNDI). And she's won a number of regional awards, including an honorable mention for Edward R. Murrow award (for her project “The Broken Hip”), as well as the Texas Veterans Commission’s Excellence in Media Awards in the radio category.