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sUMMer 2013


the newsletter for healthy aGinG diGital aGinG sUMMer sUPPleMent

a PUbliCation of the UsC davis sChool of GerontoloGy



APP CONTEST USC Davis students create powerful new apps to help older adults


SOCIAL MEDIA SAFETY Empowering older adults to use technology the smart and safe way


MANAGING PAIN VIA A MOBILE PHONE A new app promises to help patients in palliative care manage their pain better

Professor elizabeth zelinski will head the UsC davis sChool of GerontoloGy’s Center for diGital aGinG.

Zelinski named Head of Center for digital aging BY Jonathan Riggs

s part of USC Davis School of Gerontology A dean Pinchas Cohen’s major initiative, the School

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Message from the Dean


USC Davis School

5 Opinion 7

Faculty Profile: John Walsh

announced the creation of its Center for Digital Aging. “As our world becomes more and more digitized, I am proud to say that our School will continue its position as a global leader by embracing this exciting frontier,” said Cohen. “There are tremendous opportunities for researchers as well as older adults and their caregivers to embrace this new technology.” Citing increased availability of resources, a heightened ability for people to connect around the world and room for unbridled creativity, Cohen said that he hopes the Center will unite the best ideas and practices of faculty, students and community members who will all work towards a common goal.

USC Davis School professor Elizabeth Zelinski, an expert in gerontechnology, neuroscience and cognition, has been named to head the Center. The Rita and Edward Polusky Chair in Education and Aging and the principal investigator of the Long Beach Longitudinal Study, Zelinski is well known for her work on how cognition, memory and language comprehension change with age. “We are dedicated to finding, creating and developing technology of use to older adults in their daily lives as well as clinicians and researchers. We have multiple audiences and many platforms,” Zelinski said. “No matter how sophisticated the technology, it all comes down to this basic concept: we want to improve the quality of life for the older adults of today as well as of tomorrow.”

Message From the Dean




ello, I’m Pinchas Cohen, M.D., and I’m the dean of the USC Davis School of Gerontology as well as the Executive Director of the Ethel Percy Andrus Gerontology Center.


Jonathan Riggs LAYOUT & DESIGN

Trevor Nelson Anthony Gaeta

Jeff Kliewer

Associate Dean of Development & External relations

Maria Henke Associate Dean

Kelvin J. A. Davies

Vice Dean, Dean of Faculty & Dean of research, & Director of the Ethel Percy Andrus Gerontology Center

I’m so proud to invite you to enjoy this special digital aging-themed summer supplement of Vitality. You might be wondering to yourself, “What exactly is digital aging?” I think of it this way: everything we do these days has a digital component, whether it’s communicating with friends and family or managing our finances and purchases. Whether you want to plan a trip, buy a movie ticket or look up the side effects of a new medication, more and more of us depend on electronic solutions. Why should aging be any different? “Digital aging” is one of the initiatives most important to me as dean of the USC Davis School of Gerontology. It’s so important to me that we are in the process right now of establishing our own Center of Digital Aging. Our goal is to harness the power of social media and cutting-edge technology to help not just older adults and caregivers but also businesses and services.

Pinchas Cohen, Ph.D.

We started this journey by holding a competition among our students to create a new smartphone “app” to serve this community and are reaching out now to other USC Schools (including engineering, policy and graphic design) to help turn these into reality. The purpose of our Center of Digital Aging will be to empower older adults to use technology while also creating new innovations while raising awareness of this crucial yet all-too-often-ignored audience.

DaVis sChooL oF gERontoLogY University of Southern California 3715 McClintock Ave. Los Angeles, California 90089-0191 (213) 740-5156

Of course, with any exciting new venture, we must be aware of the risks as well as the rewards, and it is important for older adults to be informed of ways they can increase their online and technological safety, especially if they are suffering from cognitive impairment or an unfamiliarity with the products and services. As always, education and awareness are the key to empowerment, and we are proud to be leading the charge of harnessing the power of the digital revolution to the benefit of the aging revolution.

Dean and Executive Director William & Sylvia Kugel Dean’s Chair of Gerontology

Visit Us on thE WEB

Mission statEMEnt The USC Davis School is devoted to improving the lives of older persons through education and research.

I hope that you enjoy this supplement and that you will consider helping us continue this conversation, on Facebook, Twitter or by sending us an email. Social media and digital technology can be as fun as they are useful, and it’s our pleasure to connect with you in as many ways as possible as we all explore the young science of growing older. Fight On! Pinchas Cohen, M.D.

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a PUbliCation of the UsC davis sChool of GerontoloGy

USC Davis School

UsC daVis sCHool stUdents sHine in older adUlt-friendlY aPP ComPetition BY Jonathan Riggs


elping seniors harness the social media revolution for their increased health and happiness is a major component in USC Davis School of Gerontology dean Pinchas Cohen’s plans for the future of the institution. Dubbing this phenomenon “Digital Aging,” he held a competition for USC Davis School students and staff to help design the best possible aging-friendly mobile app. Awarding winners an iPad and runners-up iPods and iPhones, Cohen announced the results at the School’s annual holiday party. With a slew of exciting proposals that included medication reminders, home and environment modification safety alerts, end-of-life care assistance and memoir-creation technology, honorable mentions went to doctoral students Jeff Laguna and Patrick Beck and undergrads Carin Wong and Cameron Chalfant. “This was a wonderful opportunity for students to engage in innovative approaches to helping the aging population,” Beck said. Second runner-up was doctoral student Alison Balbag, who suggested an app called “MyTunes” that would provide musical therapy for patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. First runner-up was undergrad Sahar Edalati, who proposed an app to help older adults locate any lost item, from pill bottles to keys, using GPS technology. The winners were doctoral student Marguerite DeLiema and grad student Allison Young, who teamed up to propose an app to aid first responders to elder abuse, as well the older adult impacted by it. “We’re hoping this tool can be used to help guide whether or not the case meets criteria for elder abuse and help first responders identify the nearest agencies to connect older adults for assistance and support,” DeLiema said. “We want to help a vulnerable person

dean Cohen with Contest Co-winner MarGUerite delieMa

become more embedded in their community as well as to help people become more knowledgeable about detecting elder abuse and what to do.” This concept sparked so much interest from USC Davis School faculty members that DeLiema and Young are hoping to expand the idea to include a cognitive screening for older adults who may seem to be self-sufficient but may actually be vulnerable to certain frauds and scams. “In the spirit of interdisciplinary collaboration for which our School is famous, I plan on bringing in USC’s computer science, art, design and engineering experts to help make these apps a reality,” Cohen said. “Social media and cutting-edge technology offers older adults such amazing opportunities and assets, and I am so proud of the creative, ingenious solutions our students suggested.”

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sUMMer 2013


USC Davis School

UsC daVis Joins World Congress on digital aging BY Jonathan Riggs

As befitting its status as the world’s oldest and largest school of

gerontology, the USC Davis School was well represented at the 20th International Association of Gerontology and Geriatrics (IAGG) World Congress, held from June 23-28 in Seoul, South Korea. Highlighting the Congress’s theme of “Digital @geing: A New Horizon for Health Care and Active Ageing,” USC Davis dean Pinchas Cohen and associate dean Maria Henke were on hand to discuss the School’s own proposed Digital Aging Center. “We are deeply honored to join this global conversation on how to apply cutting-edge technology to the study of aging and to the service of the aged,” Cohen said. “Aging is the most universal of human experiences and it is our great pleasure to discuss the future


mike Yamano Honored for innoVation in digital aging edUCation BY Jonathan Riggs

t the USC Davis School of Gerontology’s fourth annual interdisciplinary symposium “What’s Hot in Aging Research at USC,” USC Davis dean Pinchas Cohen honored longtime friend of the School Mike Yamano, chancellor of Tokyo’s Yamano College, with the Dean’s Medallion for his innovative digital aging education initiatives. “This is the greatest honor we can give to our partners and supporters, and I am honored to recognize the distinguished career and contributions of Mike Yamano. A true gerontology ambassador, he has helped revolutionize the field with his innovative recognition of the link between aging and aesthetics,” Cohen said. “To quote Mike’s lifelong friend and the head of the USC Davis School Board of Councilors, Dr. Richard King, ‘Mike is a visionary, an entrepreneur and, most of all, a person with a fine spirit. I am so proud to have him and Yamano College associated with the USC Davis School.’ ” Said Yamano: “Dr. Cohen, USC and attendees: I am so honored. Thank you —this is indeed a surprise. I have been surprised many times in my 77 years, but the best and most beautiful surprise is to see so many wonderful people studying gerontology.” Cohen went on to add, “On behalf of the friends, colleagues and members of the USC Davis School of Gerontology, I am proud to bestow upon you the Dean’s Medallion, which is given in recognition of exceptional individuals who demonstrate outstanding commitment to the highest ideals of our School. Previous recipients include Leonard Davis, son of our School’s namesake, and James Birren, our School’s founding dean.” In addition to the groundbreaking Yamano courses, this award also honored the family’s enduring impact on science, service and scholarship, exemplified by the unparalleled vision and leadership of Yamano’s mother, Aiko, as well as that of his daughter, Jane. 4 vitality |

of this exciting field with our international colleagues.” Established in Belgium in 1950, the IAGG boasts organizations in 64 countries, a worldwide membership of nearly 50,000 and a consultant position to the United Nations. Its mission is to improve the global quality of life for older adults by serving as a network dedicated to sharing research results on health, welfare and rights. “The ageing society is now a global challenge faced by not only advanced countries, but by the entire world,” said Heung Bong Cha, president-elect of IAGG in his invitation to attendees. “With the full support of the Korean government, I am confident that the Congress will be a successful global academic festivity of exchanging relevant research findings from all five continents and six oceanic regions of the world.”

a PUbliCation of the UsC davis sChool of GerontoloGy

Mike yaMano, ChanCellor of tokyo’s yaMano ColleGe, reCeives the dean’s Medallion froM PinChas Cohen (Photo : Christine MCdowell / the iMaGe artist)

“We here at the USC Davis School are especially proud of the international collaboration between our school and the Yamano College of Aesthetics, and the extraordinary educational courses we have created together which foster a greater universal understanding of the challenges and opportunities of aging,” Cohen said. “By championing this idea and raising the bar, you have ensured that we have created a vibrant, ever-growing enterprise. Your innovations regarding the link between aging and aesthetics have helped revolutionize the field, and we are all immensely grateful for your tireless work as a global gerontology ambassador.”


Headed toWards tHe fUtUre of aging, safelY and sUCCessfUllY BY PatRiCk BECk

UsC davis sChool doCtoral stUdent and sGa President, PatriCk beCk


ageist facsimiles of your face. While some organizations have begun to develop apps for a variety of health and home management functions, these apps have not garnered the widespread attention that we would like to see. The USC Davis School, as a whole, is very interested in pursuing digital aging. Starting with our dean’s app contest last year and the continuing work of our various research centers, we are positioned to play a leading role in the future of digital aging. So what does this mean for you? Well, the opportunities for creating apps are endless, but the hard part is getting people to use them. While it seems like most people have downloaded or played “Angry Birds” at least once, this usage does not translate into apps designed to improve or track the health of older adults. We need apps and services that older adults, loved ones, care providers, lawmakers, and so on can use a daily basis,

we are posItIoned to play a leadIng role In the future of dIgItal agIng.


s a doctoral student at the USC Davis School and president of the Student Gerontology Association, I have had many conversations with my peers and professors about digital aging. Technology may pose a variety of risks to any users. Have you heard news reports of children racking up thousands of dollars on in-game purchases without their parents’ knowledge? It can be as easy as the click of a button to make a purchase or designers may knowingly point users in the direction of spending a little extra cash. This points out that there is not an age problem with technology use, but a knowledge issue with technology use. Someone of any age can be taken advantage of using technology. For better and worse, the many technological advances that have become a part of our daily lives allows us to access the world more easily, and for the world to more easily access us. We’re all familiar with the stereotype of older adults as distrustful of or unable to use “newfangled” technology, but we know, of course, that this is not universally true. There is also an age bias that works the

other way—older adults may assume that younger people are superfluent with technology. This bias may encourage someone unfamiliar with technology to place an inordinate amount of trust into a salesperson based on their appearance, and may be sold equipment or technology not appropriate to their need. So what are some universal safety rules we all should keep in mind? As with any age group, it is crucial to not use social media and technology while performing other activities, such as driving. Also, avoid putting too much personal information in public places; if you wouldn’t leave personal information on the street, then don’t leave it on your Facebook wall. If you are unfamiliar with what your technology actually does or is capable of, search online for more information, or ask a trusted friend or family member for assistance. Additional research may be an even better bet—every new technology or app that arises comes with instructions, descriptions and feedback available for anyone to read. Maybe you feel as if you shouldn’t care or that these tools have no impact on your life. I’d urge you to reconsider, however, since you are depriving yourself of a wonderful opportunity to learn, explore, connect and have fun! The increased usage and adoption of technology and social media into our daily lives has likely exceeded the expectation of their creators. We now have an app for almost anything we can think of, with the exception of one genre: aging. If you search for aging apps, most will do no more than produce

like those for news, weather, email or texting. We need to make “digital aging” a phenomenon that touches everyone because, after all, so does aging. If you have any creative ideas or suggestions, we’d love to hear them! Connecting to the School or dean on Facebook or Twitter are great places to start and a lot of fun, too. Wherever digital aging takes us, it’s going to be a fascinating ride, and I urge you to come along and let your voice be heard!

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sUMMer 2013


USC Davis School

managing Pain Via a mobile PHone BY Jonathan Riggs

While there are many programs to manage pain, many

seriously ill patients find that their pain is frequently unrecognized and untreated. While palliative care efforts are documented as an effective intervention, they function best when the caregiver or clinician is attuned as possible to the patient’s varying state. Obviously, this is a challenge for all involved. “We decided to look at the use of a smartphone to monitor the pain and symptoms of seriously ill patients,” said Jeff Laguna, a USC Davis School doctoral candidate who worked closely with his advisor,

pain management and palliative care places the focus on end-of-life, the opportunities are there to enhance the quality of life for older adults in every season and state of health.

dIgItal agIng has the potentIal to help everyone.

USC Davis assistant professor Susan Enguidanos. “We wanted to empower patients, caregivers and the palliative care team with the latest technology to give a voice to their needs and how they can be met.” Utilizing an interdisciplinary approach that involved the USC Davis School, the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, the USC School of Social Work and HealthCare Partners, Laguna and his team remotely monitored at-risk patients using the smartphone app, ManageMyPain. The app allowed patients to describe pain characteristics, including intensity, location, character, timing and factors that either aggravated or alleviated the pain. Participants took 5-10 minutes to input their pain on a daily basis, and this data was transmitted to the research team. “We found several potential barriers, including the ability of participants to use the touch screen successfully, read the font and navigate the phone and app in general,” Laguna said. “These barriers can be frustrating, but identifying them helps us make the app more user-friendly and successful for all potential users.” By putting this powerful tool literally in the hands of patients, caregivers and the palliative care team, Laguna hopes that other researchers will follow his lead and design more technology for older adults and for all their changing needs. While

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a PUbliCation of the UsC davis sChool of GerontoloGy

UsC davis sChool doCtoral stUdent Jeff laGUna

“Digital aging has the potential to help everyone: older adults who can benefit from increased services and solutions as well as those who care for them and people who are looking to the future and their own aging,” Laguna said. “We found that older adults have an interest in learning new technology, especially if it’s intended to help their care, but there aren’t enough products for them yet. We’re calling for hardware and software innovations so we can best serve this population with this technology, and we’re looking to a wide variety of USC experts to make this dream come true.”

JoHn WalsH

Faculty Profile

BY Jonathan Riggs

Long recognized as an enormously effective and creative

leader both in the classroom and in the lab, John Walsh, an associate professor of gerontology at the USC Davis School specializing in neuroscience, saw his exceptional work recognized with two major awards. Earlier this year, he won one of only two Associates Awards for Excellence in Teaching given out annually at USC. In her remarks on his selection, provost Beth Garrett highlighted the flair for innovation that helped make Walsh a standout throughout his twenty-plus years as a Trojan. “He capitalized on the multimedia revolution, realizing that it offered an opportunity to further his connection to students and to develop cutting-edge instruction tools and methods. Professor Walsh’s students esteem him for his enthusiasm, kindness, approachability and easygoing style, and his stellar reputation attracts students not only to his classes, but also to his movement disorders laboratory,” she said. Receiving this high-profile award helped pave the way for Walsh to earn another, in fact, when he won a nearly $200,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to pioneer the use of multimedia, social media and gaming to teach neuroscience via mobile devices. “‘Digital aging’ is an important focus for the USC Davis

School, but we have to remember that it’s not just digital aging— it’s digital everything. Current and future generations will expect easy and reliable access to digital information and resources on

I’m proud to help the davIs school advance Its mIssIon of beIng the world’s best source of InformatIon on agIng-dIgItal and otherwIse.

retirement, housing, disease and cultural support,” Walsh said. “I have always been dedicated to using the latest technology and innovative approaches to further both my science and my students’ understanding, and I’m proud to help the Davis School advance its mission of being the world’s best source of information on aging—digital and otherwise.” “John Walsh manages to be that extremely rare combination: a world-class scientist as well as a world-class teacher. We are so proud to see his creativity and vision recognized with these awards,” said Pinchas Cohen, dean of the USC Davis School. “His passion for science and students inspires us all. It is amazing to realize the impact he has had on the field, both through his own work and that of the many gifted alums who spent time in his lab or his classes.” As grateful as he is for the recognition as both a scientist and a teacher, Walsh says that success in one area helps inspire him in the other. “Research in education is a means for keeping teaching fresh and exciting, and it means so much to me to know that my methods are not only effective but also enjoyable for students,” Walsh said. “Teaching, like science, is an ever-changing art form, and I feel rewarded every day when I see the impact I can have on my students—and that they can have on me.”

UsC Provost elizabeth Garrett Presents John walsh with his award PHOTO CREDIT: STEVE COHN

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University of Southern California Davis School of Gerontology Los Angeles, California 90089-0191


ConneCt online WitH tHe UsC daVis sCHool of gerontologY

t the USC Davis School, we believe knowledge and community are cornerstones of longevity. Through our various social media platforms we hope to provide you with greater access to major research breakthroughs and emerging trends in creativity and technology while building a community that will support you in all stages of life. If you have any questions related to our social media efforts, please email Facebook We want you to have options, which is why we have two Facebook pages: the official USC Davis School page as well as a mascot page for Ethel Percy Andrus. Our dean, Pinchas Cohen, has his own as well. LinkedIn usc-davis-school-of-gerontology Visit our company page, and if you’re a member of the Davis School Connection, send us a request to join our networking group.

Twitter - @USCDavisSchool Strapped for time? Catch up on the latest research in just 140 characters or fewer at our School’s or Dean’s Twitter accounts. Pinterest Looking for something specific? Follow our “pins” to find news and research organized by topic.

YouTube Visit our channel regularly for fresh scientific discoveries, trends in biomedical research and education, profiles of thought leaders, conversations on health policy and more.

Vitality Summer 2013  
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