BY JUDY CARMACK BROSS
“Be bold, follow your dreams, invest in yourself, and go for it.”
With enthusiasm for the power of a great idea, Dianne Campbell, the founding executive director of Lincoln Park Village, summed up the advice of the “ageless innovators” who filled the Chicago History Museum on December 6 for the Chicago Innovation Award’s “Innovation for the Ages” rapid-fire presentation.
The panelists that evening included nationally lauded financial expert Terry Savage; Howard Tullman, CEO of 1871, where so many digital start-ups get going; Tawfik Sharkasi, Wrigley’s former Technology Officer; and Campbell. All spoke passionately about pivots in their lives that challenged them to re-invent themselves and the joy of starting new careers over the age of 60.
Savage commented, “The thing that struck me about the panel was its universal optimism, and the belief in the opportunities that lie before us, regardless of chronological age.”
Tullman—who couldn’t possibly be logging in many hours of sleep at all due to his tireless work for the city, state, Kellogg School of Management, and many high tech companies—shared that he organizes his life around “passion, perspective, preparation, principle, and perseverance.”
Sharkasi, a co-founder of Long Shot Innovation, credits diversity of people and ideas for his inspiration and motivation. One of his latest inventions is a spoon that measures your intake of protein, calories, fat, and carbohydrates in every bite you take.
The president of Kuczmarski Innovation and co-founder of the Chicago Innovation Awards, Tom Kuczmarski, lobbed spirited questions at the panelists, whom he praised for their innovation and imagination.
Truly putting things in perspective, Savage offered this staggering statistic: while there are now 65,000 centenarians in the United States, in 40 years there will be 900,000 people over 100.
She is sure she inherited the energy genes of a mother who never stopped doing what she could to help others.
Following the presentation, Lincoln Park Village Communications Chair, Laurel Baer, remarked:
“Even though it celebrated the innovation of older adults, interest was clearly transgenerational, judging from the varied ages of the audience. The power of creativity is so transcendent that it is leading the way to a post-generational world.”
Even the animated panel couldn’t compare to the effervescence of the networking afterwards. Audience members of all ages dealt business cards, sharing inventions (including portable tennis courts) along with alcohol free hand sanitizer, downsizing tools, exercise routines, and opportunities to re-write the classics.
As Luke Tanen, Executive Director of the Chicago Innovation Awards explained:
“It’s all about inspiration, not so much specific products or services, but realizing that there is this big community out there coming together to help one another—that everyone is rooting for you.”
Began in 2002, the Chicago Innovation Awards has grown from a single award ceremony to a year-long series of events and activities designed to celebrate innovation in the Chicago region, educate people and organizations about the principles of innovation, and forge relationships that strengthen companies, grow the economy, and create jobs.
“Fellow journalists Tom Kuczmarski and Dan Miller teamed up because they were tired of hearing about all the technology on both coasts only. They wanted to shine the spotlight on Chicago startups, be they high-tech, low-tech, or no-tech.”
“This year, 643 award nominations were received, and 12 judges were challenged to interpret the need, new values created, the uniqueness, and the impact. This year’s awards included a producer of nutritious, high-quality food, which can be delivered to children who require a feeding tube, and an auction bidding system which has raised $290 million for non-profits.”
The ageless innovators from the “Innovation for the Ages” program are among the groups now part of the yearly programs that include the Women Mentoring Co-op, to support female innovators; a partnership with Illinois Tech, to provide innovation MBA scholarships; the Chicago Neighborhood Award, to celebrate innovation in Chicago’s diverse neighborhoods; and the Innovators Connection, to foster relationships between large corporations and start-ups.
Co-sponsors of “Innovation for the Ages” were Lincoln Park Village and the Retirement Research Foundation.
Lincoln Park Village is a grass roots, not-for-profit membership community that connects members—from Edgewater to the South Loop and beyond—to each other and to trusted resources that support vibrant and secure later lives.
The Retirement Research Foundation, headed by Executive Director, Irene Frye, is devoted exclusively to improving the quality of life for older adults through grant-making programs that support innovative advocacy, direct service and education.
Sean Su, CloudSpotter