NIC Talks: Boomers Envisioning the Aging Revolution

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2026 Boomers: Envisioning the Aging Revolution

Industry innovators and outside disruptors addressed the future of aging at “NIC Talks,” a series of 12-minute presentations spread over three days at the 25th NIC National Conference. NIC Talks asked 12 respected experts to respond to the same question: “What do you envision happening over the next 10 years that will revolutionize the aging experience of the first baby boomer turning 80 in 2026?”

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Here are snapshots of their answers:


  • Christopher Jennings, founder & president, Jennings Policy Strategies, and former health policy advisor to President Clinton and President Obama, introduced the speakers by noting his own status as a baby boomer and caregiver for his 92-year-old father.
  • Chris Edell, CEO, Elevar, took the “NIC Talks” stage and addressed the fundamental questions facing the health insurance industry. Though baby boomers control much of the nation’s wealth and can expect to live longer than those of previous generations, they also will suffer from costly chronic conditions, such as diabetes and obesity. As an innovator, Edell works with insurance companies to create digital tools to help caregivers manage health concerns. Imagine a smart phone avatar that helps people understand and follow doctor’s instructions. Perhaps end-of-life planning tools could help reduce the staggering cost of health care. “We can personalize the experience and make it better,” said Edell.
  • Brenda J. Bacon, president & CEO, Brandywine Senior Living, kicked off the first series of “NIC Talks” by speaking for herself as a baby boomer. “I want to write my own story,” she said, crystallizing the spirit of her generation. Bacon challenged the audience to think like a baby boomer and then reimagine how that perspective will influence housing decisions. Today, boomers are the demanding buyers of housing for their parents, and tomorrow they’ll be seeking homes for themselves. But boomers don’t want to be told where or how to live. “I want to choose, not be chosen for,” she said.
  • Debra A. Cafaro, chairman & CEO, Ventas, Inc., questioned whether baby boomers are realistic about the challenges they face. While they grew up calling all the shots, the boomers are now second in numbers to the millennial generation. “Will millenials rebel against the never-ending demands of the baby boomer crowd?” asked Cafaro, who suggested a series of policy prescriptions. Immigration reform could be one way to generate additional tax payers to help fund Social Security and Medicare, the programs that will support most boomers. But as health care and other costs continue to rise, both generations must determine priorities for the allocation of finite resources. “Insuring quality of life will require us to share resources and craft sensible solutions,” Cafaro said.
  • Ryan Frederick, founder & CEO, Smart Living 360, left Silicon Valley at age 29 and moved into a retirement home in Atlanta. It was the beginning of his education about how older people live. He discovered the retirement home was expensive and isolated, cut off from everyday community life. Frederick envisions something different for baby boomers. “You would have infrastructure around you to live life on your own terms,” said Frederick. That translates into a home with universal design features, on-demand services (think Uber for elders), and doctors on call through tablet devices. “We need new options that are affordable, attractive, and take advantage of all the innovations in our broader society,” he said.

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  • Arnold Whitman, chairman, Formation, LLC, highlighted the 25-year evolution of the industry, and then suggested that future opportunity belongs to technology. Industry stakeholders—seniors and their families, caregivers and providers, technology experts, and investors—should take the lead to create a web-based innovation community to solve aging-related issues. He envisioned hackathons, pilot programs and industry challenges. “We can create an infrastructure,” he said. As an investor, Whitman believes that venture capitalists and crowd-funding sources will play an important role in financing new ventures. The industry has built an incredible foundation, he said. “We need to leverage off of it.”
  • Thomas J. DeRosa, CEO, Welltower Inc, remembers his grandfather who already seemed old at the age of 60. He was retired and followed the same routine everyday. DeRosa’s life at age 57 doesn’t resemble that of his grandfather’s. DeRosa works full time and is very healthy, and he wonders how society will adjust as people live to advanced ages. “We need to create opportunities for people to have encore careers,” he said. Health care should be redesigned to promote wellness, not acute care. And “home” needs to be redefined as “community”—a place where elders are surrounded by friends, family, familiar shops, and places of worship. The industry also needs to tackle the issue affordability. “We need to design better community solutions,” he said.
  • Loren Shook, CEO, chairman, Silverado, asked, “Where’s home?” He defined home as the place where you find people who love you and you love them. home is where you find social engagement and peace. But living alone with dementia doesn’t meet that definition of home, he said, adding that housing options for those with memory impairments have improved over the last few decades. At Silverado, Shook said, residents are engaged in activities and exercises that actually help slow the progress of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, clinical tests show. “That’s a quality of life improvement,” he said.
  • Lindsey Conner Mosby, executive strategy director, frog Design, Inc., noted that 26% of baby boomers say their biggest fear is losing their independence.And 90% would rather stay at home more than anything else. “What they want is control,” said Mosby. Her research shows that boomers prefer care and services that are provided in an unconventional way—a great opportunity for the industry. Young seniors are already comfortable with new technologies that improve their quality of life, such as the connected home, sensors, and wearables. Home health care is positioned for a “magnificent boom,” she said. Though Mosby foresees a substantial disruption for the industry, she views the changes as a “heroic call to arms.” She said: “You can do it.”

NIC Talks Day 2 Illustration


  • Dr. Bill Thomas, author, founder of the Green House Project & Eden Alternative, reminded the audience that it takes social capital to build a true community. A well-known activist who has spearheaded the movement to personalize care for elders and create homelike environments, Thomas said he grew up in a wealthy family. They didn’t have a lot of material possessions, but he was surrounded every day by relatives who loved him. “The older people in my family were valuable human beings,” he said, adding that “belonging” is the idea that matters most. He thinks future elders will embrace the newly emerging community models, such as co-housing and pocket neighborhoods. “It’s not about the real estate, but the ‘feel’ estate,” he said.
  • Lynne Katzmann, president & CEO, Juniper Communities, grew up feeling like an outsider, invisible. She compared her early experiences to that of elders who encounter ageism. Birthday cards often carry the message that getting old means a downhill slide. Retirement is considered the end of an active life. And senior living is associated with the negative aspects of aging. “A third of the population does not see senior living as their future,” said Katzmann. But, for boomers, she envisions senior living as something like college with intellectual discussions and companionship. “It won’t become a reality if the stereotypes of aging persist,” she said.
  • Mike Townsend, founder, COO, HomeHero, noted that the country faces a severe caregiver shortage. The coming wave of senior boomers doesn’t have as many children as previous generations, and their children tend to be scattered across the country. At the same time, workers aren’t eager to become caregivers because of the low pay and working conditions. The answer? Townsend has developed HomeHero, a software application that allows families to schedule and pay caregivers. Similar to other on-demand services, such as Uber and Airbnb, Townsend said HomeHero recently hit 1 million hours of care. “This is only the beginning,” he said.
  • Jacquelyn Kung, founder/consultant, Altruya, believes older people can revolutionize the workforce. And they’ll be needed because of the coming caregiver shortage. Kung used her grandfather as an example. He was still running his chain of noodle shops at age 85. “Could we have 100-year-old workers?” she asked. Kung believes it’s possible if we make work physically possible, give it meaning, and get creative. New technologies, such as special strength enhancing suits, could give seniors more physical capabilities. Work culture that engages employees will result in people wanting to work longer. And splitting jobs can also help fill the gap. “We can do this,” Kung said.

Graphic Content Capture NIC Talks Day 3
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