Hack Aging with Senior Planet


About Hack Aging

On Tuesday, June 27, Senior Planet will host its first hackathon, a forward-thinking event that will challenge older people to become quick studies in design thinking, bringing their wisdom, creativity and knowledge of what it is to be older to a one-day contest. Design students from universities in the city will also participate.
Our members responded so enthusiastically that we had to form a waiting list. There are still a few seats for people who bring design skills or hackathon experience. Apply here.
WHEN Tuesday, June 27 10am–6pm
WHERE Senior Planet Exploration Center, 127 West 25th Street, Manhattan
WHAT Let’s come together to solve issues of aging in our society. Hack Aging is about brainstorming creative solutions—ones that have a good chance of succeeding. We’ll provide breaks, lunch and an afternoon snack. Plan on being there for the whole day.


Why “Hack”?

Hacking isn’t just for crooks. “Hacking” also means problem-solving—coming up with fixes for big and small problems.

What will we hack?

We’ll be coming up with ideas for platforms, campaigns, products and other structures that can help us change the face of aging—from new ways to connect with people and new models for where we’ll live, to how we see ourselves and how others see us.

How will the event work?

We’ll divide into small teams to brainstorm ideas and figure out how the best of them can be implemented. We want to see a lot of white hair! Our teams will be filled with members of Senior Planet as well as policy makers, design students and anyone interested in the problems of aging.

What will the teams do?

First we’ll learn a little Design Thinking, which is a fancy term for looking at problems in teams and brainstorming solutions together. Then we’ll break into issue-based teams and let everyone toss their best ideas into the hat! Each team will choose its favorite idea, consider how it might actually come into being, and sketch out how it would work in the real world. By the end of the day, each team will present its idea to a panel of judges using posterboard, PowerPoint—or hand puppets for all we care! We’ll give out prizes, celebrate our collective genius and then start planning to bring some of these ideas into existence.

Related Events

Mark your calendars! We’ll let you know when registration opens for these related events via our regular events email. (Not getting the Senior Planet weekly events email? Subscribe here.)

  • Monday, June 12 3:15–4:45pm. Get prepped with this one-time workshop, Hackathons 101: How to think big, play on a team, and enjoy your first hackathon. Register here.
  • Monday, June 26 4–6pm: We’ll have an optional (but highly-recommended!) pre-hackathon session to talk about the issues we’re tackling and start forming teams.

Schedule for the Day

9:30 to 10 am Registration

10 am Speakers and instructions

11 to 11:45 am Create and join teams. All teams limited to 6 people

11:45 am to 12:30 pm Start hacking

12:30 Working lunch (provided by us)

1 to 3:30 pm Continue hacking

3:30 to 3:45 pm Load presentations to Google Drive

4 to 6 pm Presentations, judging and prizes

Hack Aging Judges & Speakers

How to Work Well in Teams

These guidelines come from IDEO, a design firm that’s heralded as the leader in design thinking.

Defer judgment

Creative spaces don’t judge. They let the ideas flow, so that people can build on eachother and foster great ideas. You never know where a good idea is going to come from, the key is make everyone feel like they can say the idea on their mind and allow others to build on it.

Encourage wild ideas

Wild ideas can often give rise to creative leaps. In thinking about ideas that are wacky or out there we tend to think about what we really want without the constraints of technology or materials. We can then take those magical possibilities and perhaps invent new technologies to deliver them.

Build on the ideas of others

Being positive and building on the ideas of others take some skill. In conversation, we try to use and instead of but…

Stay focused on the topic

We try to keep the discussion on target, otherwise you can diverge beyond the scope of what we’re trying to design for.

One conversation at a time

Always think about the challenge topic and how this could apply.

Be visual

In live brainstorms we use coloured markers to write on Post-its that are put on a wall. Nothing gets an idea across faster than drawing it. Doesn’t matter how terrible of a sketcher you are! It’s all about the idea behind your sketch.

Go for quantity

Aim for as many new ideas as possible. In a good session, up to 100 ideas are generated in 60 minutes. Crank the ideas out quickly.


How Might We Hack Aging?

As the Harvard Business Review wrote in 2012, there are three little words that innovators all over the world use to launch new products, social movements and ideas. How might we? The article goes on to quote Tim Brown, CEO of the design firm IDEO, explaining why.

HOW: Assumes there are solutions out there. Instills creative confidence.

MIGHT: The ideas we dream up might or might not work. That’s okay. We’re willing to take chances.

WE: We’re going to do it as a team and build on each other’s ideas.

When we break up into teams on Tuesday, June 27, each table will begin by framing a how might we statement. We’ve suggested some of our ideas below. But we’re also opening it up to the world. Starting with the big question — how might we create innovative solutions to the opportunities and challenges  of aging? — we ask you to suggest How Might We statements that are more specific.

Add your#HowMightWe


It can be hard to feel part of a community when when friends or spouses pass away, when getting from point A to point B is an overwhelming hassle and especially if you never had kids.

  • How might we change the paradigm of independence to one of interdependence?
  • How might we change housing to create more community?
  • How might we enhance mobility so we don’t become housebound?
  • How might we create ways for us to fall in love — or simply date — later in life?


Our nation is youth obsessed. Advertisers act as if 35 is life’s endpoint. Workers in the Silicon Valley start getting plastic surgery in their 20s.

  • How might we celebrate longevity rather than fearing age?
  • How might we  feel less invisible? Help older women feel beautiful?
  • How might we reinvent retirement as a time of renewal and growth, rather than merely cessation of work?


Health care is on the chopping block in Washington. Benefits meant to improve the lives of older people are ridiculously difficult to sign up for. Planning for the future is impossible as the assumptions about government help change.

  • How might we become change agents?
  • How might we organize an effective “elder march” in Washington?

Whether you’ll be in the room or joining us virtually, add your #HowMightWe.

Join Us Remotely

We’ll be live streaming Hack Aging on June 27.

Tune in to watch our opening speeches in the morning, and come back to watch the presentations and judging.



If you’re following remotely on June 27, feel free to add your comments on our Facebook or Twitter. On Twitter, use #hackaging to make sure we see your comments.

Add Your #HowMight We

You can also contribute “How Might We?” statements on Facebook or Twitter (use the #howmightwe hashtag)


Ruth Finkelstein
Ruth Finkelstein

As Associate Director of the Robert N. Butler Columbia Aging Center, Ruth translates interdisciplinary scientific knowledge on aging into policy-focused practice. She was named one of the nation’s “Game Changers” by Metropolis Magazine for her leadership on the Age-friendly NYC initiative.

KT Gillett

KT Gillett is in charge of community outreach for Blue Ridge Labs at Robin Hood, which has just begun a five-month initiative to improve the lives of seniors through creative uses of technology. They have worked for MoveOn.org and began their career as a documentary filmmaker.

Penny Arcade

Penny is an internationally respected writer, poet, actress and theatre maker with an artistic career spanning almost 50 years. She is also co-creator of the award-winning documentary, The Lower East Side Biography Project: Stemming The Tide of Cultural Amnesia.

Lauren Weisenfeld

For more than 16 years, Lauren has been at Samuels Foundation, where she uses her business experience to help not-for-profits develop programs to enhance the quality of life of older adults.. Prior to joining Samuels, she was Director of Business Development at Mount Sinai Medical Center.

Richard Eisenberg

Richard is Managing Editor of PBS’ Nextavenue.org, a site for people 50 and over, and has worked for Yahoo!, Money, Good Housekeeping and USA Today. He is also the author of the books “How to Avoid a Midlife Financial Crisis” and “The Money Book of Personal Finance.”


Matthias Hollwich

Matthias Hollwich is at the forefront of a new generation of groundbreaking international architects finding new and exciting ways to create dialogue and relationships between people and buildings. He is also author of New Aging: Live Smarter Now to Live Better Forever.

Julie Samuels

Julie Samuels is Executive Director of Tech:NYC. Previously, she was Executive Director at Engine, a nation-wide nonprofit focused on technology entrepreneurship and advocacy, where she remains a member of the Board.

Tom Kamber

As founding executive director in 2004 of Older Adults Technology Services (OATS)—the largest municipal technology program for senior citizens in the country—Tom provides the vision and leadership for Senior Planet. He’s also teaches social entrepreneurship at Columbia University.

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