Digital health: The Golden Globes, the UN, and your best pitch

When Hollywood notices a trend, it’s a reasonable bet that it has become mainstream.

So, as shown by this year’s Golden Globes extravaganza, digital health has officially joined diversity, climate change, and social equity as one of the premier celebrity issues of our time.

Indeed, healthy aging — a positive outcome of digital health, especially during the pandemic — took center stage all night, as nearly 20 million viewers watched 80-year-old Jane Fonda receive her Cecil B. DeMille award, recognize 98-year-old Norman Lear for his longevity, and celebrate I Care A Lot, a comedy about two tough ladies and the Russian mafia making money off of elder caregiving, which also seems to have entered the pop culture psyche.

But then, there was also that sidebar celebration of ingenuity, innovation, and hope in the outpouring of how otherwise decrepit health systems are finally improving through an explosion in the use of telemedicine.

The Globes’ production decision to underscore the transformation of telehealth and telemedicine, forced by the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, was as clever as it was insightful about the elevation of innovative technology to help us manage daily living.

Healthy aging will indeed require innovative solutions — but not just from Hollywood and its celebrities.

Digital transformation for a growing demographic

None other than the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the UN agency on IT, digital, and telecommunications, is stepping up action on digital health, as reflected in their annual World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). This year, the WSIS Forum 2021 will partner with the Global Coalition on Aging (GCOA), the world’s leading business voice on aging, to make sure digital transformation supports healthier, more active aging for the fastest growing demographic on the planet.

This demographic, of course, is those of us over 60, which will reach 2 billion by mid-century, and, within the decade — declared by the UN and the World Health Organization (WHO) as the Decade of Healthy Ageing: 2021–30 — create a world of more old than young.

The over-60 demographic is most at-risk of COVID-19, as well as the demographic at the center of the Silver Economy.

As the Golden Globes’ producers understood, telemedicine is a central part of this market, here to stay and good for all of us, young and old.

Calling innovators of all ages 

Just as the Golden Globes reached viewers of all ages and generations, GCOA’s collaboration with the WSIS Forum 2021 will engage innovators of all ages to recognize and support further development of digitally enabled solutions for older people — in fintech, in health, in entertainment, transportation, and across retail:

· Ageing Better Through ICTs Hackathon. This first-of-its-kind global hackathon will virtually bring together participants from around the world and of all ages to develop ideas to design digital solutions — or information and communication technologies (ICTs) — for the needs of older people. The hackathon will focus on four challenge areas: Alzheimer’s disease, frailty, transportation, and financial tools. A panel of expert judges from the UN, WHO, and industry will award prizes to a winning idea from each area.

Want to participate? Registration for the Ageing Better Hackathon runs through March 15.

· Healthy Ageing Innovation Prize. The WSIS Forum is currently accepting submissions for this “exceptional international recognition of WSIS stakeholders as leaders for their excellence in supporting innovation that brings sustainable solutions for the ever-increasing global population of older people.” The prize will recognize digital solutions that “support older people to stay healthy, connected and independent, physically, emotionally and financially,” which will also be showcased at the end of the Forum.
Think you have a winning idea or project? Read more about the guidelines and complete the submission form here.

· Special Track on ICTs and Older Persons. The hackathon and Innovation Prize are just the beginning. The WSIS Forum 2021 will feature an entire track of programming dedicated to digital solutions for older adults. Events will include panel discussions on topics like health system resilience and Covid-19, AI and the next decade of ICT innovation, digital health and the Decade of Health Ageing, high-tech/high-touch caregiving, ageism and the silver market opportunity, and more.

Want to attend an event or view a recording? You can see the agenda and pre-register here.

Whether you’re 22 or 82, a lesson from COVID-19 is that the new digital economy is here, from shopping online to tele-visiting your physician to producing the Golden Globes across multiple geographies and venues.

Join us virtually for this year’s WSIS Forum 2021, where the megatrends of aging and digital will come together to explode innovation, improve lives, and grow economies. Not bad for a pandemic.

 

* This article first appeared on the Global Coalition on Aging blog and has been republished with permission. The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of ITU.

Image credit: Todd Williamson/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images