Joseph Coughlin Profile

In the eighteenth century Benjamin Franklin wrote that there are two things certain in this life: death and taxes. Three centuries later Dr. Joseph Coughlin says that we can’t be too certain about death.

Director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Age Lab, Dr. Coughlin is a pioneer researcher in unprecedented territory. He specializes in the growing 45+ population; the continuously rising life expectancy in developed nations; and the effects of technological and demographical changes on senior citizens’ quality of life. Governments, businesses, and international councils frequently seek his advice and insights on future consumer trends related to the expanding aging demographic.

Dr. Coughlin is author of over 100 publications, including the online publication Disruptive Demographics as well as articles for Wall Street Journal MarketWatch. He teaches policy and systems innovation in MIT’s Department of Urban Studies & Planning as well as the Sloan School of Management Executive Education Program.

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    Joseph F. Coughlin is founder and Director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology AgeLab – the first multi-disciplinary research program created to understand the behavior of the 45+ population; the role of technology; and, the opportunity for innovations to improve the quality of life of older adults and their families.

    Dr. Coughlin’s research focuses on how the convergence of baby boomer expectations and technology will shape the future of public policy and drive innovation across global industries — including the financial services, transportation, foods, insurance, health, IT, telecommunications, and retail sectors. He has published his work in a variety of business, engineering, product design, behavioral science and policy journals. Dr. Coughlin’s insights on the impact of technological and demographic change on business and government are captured in his on-line publication Disruptive Demographics.

    He is one of Fast Company Magazine’s ‘100 Most Creative People in Business’ (June 2009). The Wall Street Journal (February, 2008) named him one of America’s 12 pioneers inventing the future of retirement and aging. Dr. Coughlin was recently recognized by the Visiting Nurse Association as a Home Health Hero for his research in technology-enabled innovation in home healthcare services for the elderly. Dr. Coughlin is the 2008 recipient of the Gerontological Society of America’s Maxwell A. Pollack Award for Productive Aging for demonstrated excellence in translating research into practical application or policy improving the lives of older people. In 2012 he was awarded an honorary doctorate of science from the State University of New York for making great strides in meeting the needs of an aging society through advances in public policy and technology.

    A Fellow of Switzerland’s World Demographic Association, he is currently contributing to a number of national and international initiatives examining the impact of demographic change on business strategy and public policy. For the World Economic Forum Dr. Coughlin advised the development of scenarios for the “Financing Demographic Shifts Report” addressing health and pension policies in aging societies. He is a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Demographic Shifts.

    In 2005 President Bush appointed him to the White House Conference on Aging Advisory Committee where he served on the group’s Market Innovations sub-committee. Dr. Coughlin was also a member of the National Academy of Sciences Steering Committee on Technology and Adaptive Aging and the Board of the American Geriatrics Society Foundation for Healthy Aging. Previously he served as the Chair of the Organization for Economic Cooperation & Development’s (OECD) Task Force on Technology and Transportation for Older Persons. Dr. Coughlin has presented testimony on aging and innovation before the US Senate Committee on Aging, National Governors Association, OECD and at the European Commission.

    He is a member of the National Research Council’s Transportation Research BoardAdvisory Committee on the Safe Mobility of Older Persons. He recently chaired for the National Academy of Sciences and US Department of Transportation’s Research & Innovative Technology Administration the national symposium Impact of Changing Demographics on the Transportation System which examined the impact of aging, gender, immigration, and changing racial and ethic patterns on the nation’s transportation system.

    Within MIT’s Center for Transportation & Logistics, Dr. Coughlin leads the New England University Transportation Center, a US Department of Transportation-sponsored education, research and technology transfer program that funds an MIT-led consortium of schools that includes Harvard University and each of the six New England state universities. A major focus of the consortium is understand how the disruptive demographics of aging and new technology will impact the formulation and implementation of national transportation policy.

    A frequent guest on news programs, his work has been featured in both print and on television – ABC, BBC, CBS, CNN, NBC, News Asia, Economist, Financial Times, The Times, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and other media outlets throughout the world. Prior to joining MIT Dr. Coughlin was with EG&G, a Fortune 1000 science and technology company, where he led the transportation technical services & logistics consulting practice serving industry and government worldwide. He is a graduate of the State University of New York at Oswego, Brown University and Boston University.

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Joseph Coughlin's Speech Descriptions

Today’s retiring Baby Boomers don’t want the same things as their parents; Dr. Coughlin works with businesses and organizations to help them re-envision their products, marketing, and strategies when it comes to first world nations’ largest growing demographic. Dr. Coughlin is one of the few researchers nationwide dedicating his career to the “translation of old age into new opportunity.” He addresses audiences of all types about adapting infrastructure, transportation, healthcare, disease management, financial strategies, telecommunications, and even food shopping to an aged market.

Suggested speech topic areas:

  • How framing influences decision-making across generation & gender, e.g., health, well-being & retirement.
  • What impact the media has on Millennial, Gex X & Boomer trust.
  • How global longevity disrupts the current economy and create new investment opportunities.
  • Impact of generational lifestyles on the future of transportation and community/real estate development.
  • Factors affecting human-machine interaction/technology adoption across age and gender, e.g., IoT, autonomous vehicles, robotics, telecare.

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