screenshot of a teenager using a skype-like application with his elder English-speaking partner in a thumbnail screen in the corner

I'm at a conference on aging and design, hosted by the Institute For the Future's Health Horizons research group. It's just beginning, but I already have a favorite project I hadn't seen before: Speaking Exchange, a simple social arrangement between high school students in Brazil, who want to learn English, and older adults in Chicago retirement communities who are happy for this socially engaging labor. The exchange just requires a basic video call application and teacher oversight.



So many technologies for aging that make the news focus on biomedical health: apps to promote exercise and good eating habits, social robots for rehabilitative care. But many adults in the US name social isolation as a big part of their experience in later life, and it affects not only their qualititative wellbeing, but also their risk factors for physical health problems. Speaking Exchange is an elegant way to match the existing knowledge base of these elders with eager partners across the world, and across generation gaps.

Hat tip to Brad Kreit.