Top 100 - 2011

Joseph F. Coughlin

Joseph F. Coughlin is on a mission to improve the quality of life of older adults and their families. He is the founder and Director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology AgeLab.

The AgeLab, created in 1999, is a multidisciplinary research lab devoted to using technology to help the 45-and-older population live a better life. The lab has been behind projects to improve driving for the elderly, leading BMW, Ford, Nissan and other manufacturers to redesign the controls on some of their sedans. They have also worked with Proctor & Gamble to develop the Smart Personal Advisor, a device placed on a shopping cart to help people choose groceries based on their dietary needs.

Coughlin has been recognized on several occasions for his research and work. In 2005 President Bush appointed him to the White House Conference on Aging Advisory Committee. In 2008, The Wall Street Journal named him one of “12 pioneers shaping the way Americans will live, work and play in later life.” He was also named one of Fast Company Magazine’s “100 Most Creative People in Business” in 2009.

In addition to his work with the AgeLab, Coughlin teaches strategic management, planning and public policy in MIT’s School of Engineering’s Engineering Systems Division and the MIT Department of Urban Studies & Planning. He produces the online publication www.disruptivedemographics.com on aging, technology and innovation.

His grandfather Timothy Coughlin was born in Ireland and settled in upstate New York, outside of Watertown in Chaumont and Dexter, on the snowy shores of Lake Ontario. Coughlin is commonly seen wearing a signature bow tie as he makes speeches, gives interviews, and consults businesses and governments, helping them to understand global aging and technology.

Of his Irish heritage, Coughlin says: “To be Irish is to enjoy a heritage of storytelling and telling a good story can change the world.”