Taylor Patskanick and Julie Miller presented research on student debt, intergenerational programming, and social robots at the Society for Social Work and Research (SSWR) Annual Conference in Washington, D.C.
Miller’s presentation, titled “Does Student Loan Debt Pose a New Economic Shock to Retirement Savings?” took place during a conference session about debt in later life for those nearing or already in retirement. A majority (60%) of respondents ages 50 and older from the MIT AgeLab’s student debt study said that student loans had impacted the timing of paying down other debts, 47% said they impacted the timing of retirement, and 36% said they impacted the timing of home maintenance. Sixty-three percent of women and 56% of men said that student loans impacted the amount they contributed to retirement.
Patskanick gave a presentation drawing on findings from the AgeLab’s Lifestyle Leaders Panel titled “Intergenerational Programming and Productive Aging Among the Oldest Old.” A key theme that emerged from the panel was that accessibility may be a major impediment to the success of intergenerational programming for those ages 85 and older. For example, increasing severe physical limitations often associated with advanced older age may serve as a barrier to participation in intergenerational programs among the 85+. Another finding that Patskanick discussed was that intergenerational programs would be particularly beneficial to older adults who are “solo aging,” that is, those without a spouse or nearby adult children.
Patskanick also presented a poster titled “An Exploratory Analysis of Social and Care Robotic Agent Adoption with the Oldest Old.” Again drawing on research with the MIT AgeLab Lifestyle Leaders, mixed attitudes emerged toward social robot technologies , even among those who described themselves as early adopters of technology. Participants raised concerns about barriers to usability, threats to privacy, and the specter of the loss of independence by giving over some level of autonomy to a machine.