Eye Contact is the Fountain of Youth
I traveled half way round the world for this epiphany.
I want to thank my parents who trained me to look everyone squarely in the eyes. Failing to do so often lead to a quick tap on the, luckily closed, soft spot in my head to remind me to of this obligation to really see other people.
Now fast forward the many decades of my life to last week where I enjoyed an amazing walk up and down the Viale Della Vittoria from the Passetto on the coast of Ancona Italy to the Mole Vanvitellianna where REUNIONCare exhibited and presented at the Innvo-Aging international conference.
The Ancona visitor map provides the best description of this amazing region:
"To the heart of "Bel Paese" to the center of Italy, to Marche region and to its capital Ancona, in a multiform relaxing territory where the quality of life is at the highest levels in Europe. Throughout the centuries, Ancona has been a landing place of great civilizations: Piceni, Syracusan Dorians and finally the Romans who favored its vocation as door to the East."
More centenarians can be found in this region than anywhere else in Europe. I was staying in a rare Blue Zone. The Fountain of Youth Juan Ponce de Leon sought in Florida was hiding to his west in Italy.
My parents taught me to look everyone in the eyes. The local centenarians met my eyes with equal and sharp intensity I perfected over a lifetime. I met the same faces sitting on the same benches every afternoon. I made up stories of their lives and as they did mine as we sized up each other. I felt accountable to them as they did to each other. It was an exception to see anyone of any age with their eyes down on a screen when walking the promenade. In fact, cars crossing over the grand tree lined walkway failed to mow down a single pedestrian without a traffic light compelling them to stop. These brief and significant engagements extend the length and quality of all of our lives.
So to my epiphany. We are concentrating on building the best senior friendly technologies that will monitor and maintain us with a caregiver shortage, we must recognize that human eye contact is inherently preferred to the best artificial intelligence or virtual reality. Technology must facilitate our ability and willingness to engage with each other to live long healthy lives in communities accountable for everyone in our view.
The Italian pace of life, with lengthy meals and conversations, reinforced the high levels of human contact. Slow cooking and garden fresh ingredient required keen eyes to find the perfect combinations turning simplicity into pleasure. All experience through and between the eyes of each other.
Thanks Mom and Dad. You made Italy come alive right before my eyes.