SOAR to focus on emerging tech for seniors

By: Jonathan Shead | Farmington Press | Published March 3, 2020

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FARMINGTON HILLS — The Society of Active Retirees nonprofit will spend time this winter looking ahead at some of the emerging trends and technology coming down the pipeline that may affect their older adult population.

The program, titled “The Promise and Enigma of Technology: Anticipated Benefits, Unanticipated Consequences,” will explore topics such as artificial intelligence, autonomous vehicles, the genetic risks of cancer, the evolution of higher education and the future of journalism.

The four-week series will run 10 a.m.-3 p.m. March 11-April 1 at the Birmingham Temple, 28611 W. 12 Mile Road, with two lectures occurring on each date. Starting the morning of March 11, Ford Motor Co. Chief Futurist Sheryl Connelly will discuss the social, technological, economic, environmental and political impacts that may arise in the future from current trends and events. Retired Wayne State University Chief Privacy Officer Geoff Nathan will dive into a discussion of artificial intelligence in the afternoon following Connelly’s lecture.

Also on the docket to speak are Dr. Burton Brodsky, history and technology buff Dave Tarrant, professor and University of Detroit Mercy School of Architecture Dean Emeritus Stephen Vogel, former Wayne State University Head of Journalism Jack Lessenberry and former Wayne State University Provost Margaret Winters.

The series will close out with a viewing of the film “Ad Astra,” starring Brad Pitt.

“Some of our members really aren’t up on the latest technology, so we thought it may be something of interest to look at how far we’ve come from when computers just came out all the way to autonomous vehicles or medicine and how things are rapidly changing,” SOAR Executive Director Dionna Lloyd said.

SOAR hosted a similar seminar on emerging technology roughly four year ago. While some of SOAR’s members — primarily those from the silent generation — are not interested in futuristic trends, the topics are a big hit for the nonprofit’s baby boomer population.

Whether it’s learning how to navigate the internet, online shopping and social media or hearing where the world of medicine is headed, Farmington Hills Commission on Aging Vice Chair Dr. Marian Schulte said there are plenty of advantages that come from seniors using and understanding new technologies, especially in the medical field.

“I think a big thing is fear of the unknown and that they’d have to learn something new that seems too technologically involved, but I think more seniors are even seeing something as simple as an Alexa or any one of those remote communication devices can give them what they need,” she said. “If they were to fall down, they could talk across the room to that (device). They wouldn’t have to be using a keyboard.”

Lloyd believes all members can benefit from learning about the changes to technology that may be coming in the near future.

“I’m really hoping they can look and see what’s coming down the road, and even if it doesn’t affect them personally, that they will understand what their children and grandchildren are going through, and maybe that will also foster conversations within their own home.”

Schulte said there are even health benefits — decreased loneliness, fewer chronic conditions and help with memory by being able to set digital appointment reminders — that impact seniors who use technology to connect with others.

“They may be focused less on themselves and happier when they’re able to connect with friends or family in some form through technology,” she said. “It fosters communication much better and even lowers depression. It’s a good thing to get connected, be connected and remain connected.”

The key to reducing that fear and bringing more seniors on board with emerging technology, Schulte said, is having an emphasis on patience, simplicity and building confidence.

Admission to the SOAR 2020 winter program costs $70 for members and nonmembers. Nonmembers who sign up will automatically be registered as new members and will receive future newsletters from SOAR. Coffee and cookies will be provided between lectures.

For more information, visit or call (248) 626-0296.