Today, populations in many countries worldwide are undergoing an aging process. As members of the Baby Boom generation approach the silver tip of their lifespan, they are representing a rapid growing portion of the driving population.
In the US, the figure is expected to triple in the coming 20 years and this is fast becoming a case for concern. Statistics reveal that drivers about the age of 65 are increasingly exposed to the danger of getting into a car accident. Elderly drivers beyond the age of 75 find themselves in greater peril, with a sharp rise in the likelihood of driver fatality.
With age come visual, response, and cognitive deficiencies. These can result in behavioral factors that include lane-drifting, weakened reaction ability in unexpected circumstances, and poor judgment in left turn manoeuvres, thereby endangering the lives of other motorists and pedestrians on the road.
Yet, with the continual expansion of elderly care market, assistive devices with visibility, comfort and control enhancements could potentially be the solution for elderly drivers in the future. Auto-makers such as General Motors (GM) are even contemplating with designs of cutting-edge windshields that utilize lasers, infrared sensors and cameras to enhance the visibility of a car’s surrounding.
As for now, it is important that the elderly balance between independence and safety before making the decision to drive. Although counter-measures such as deficit reporting laws and compulsory driving tests have been meted out to tackle the growing problem, road safety itself begins with every road users.
Experts caution family members to initiate the topic sensitively over a comfortable period of time. Alternate transportations are also recommended to provide their loved ones with other means to get around places.
(Image source: The New York Times)
Falling in your own home is a great worry for elderly living by themselves. With this worry in mind, and as part of a project aimed to develop future health care at home, the engineers at the Stockholm-based Centre for Health and Building, CHB, have constructed a wheeled walker with a built-in camera eye, guidance computer and videophone function.
If the user of the wheeled walker falls in his home and presses his alarm button around his wrist, the camera can be navigated with a joystick from a terminal to search for the fallen person and once found he can communicate with nurses through a video call. The device is not only a great security for the senior himself, but also for worrying close family. None of the technology used is new but it is an innovative way of bringing communication devices to the homes of elderly to increase their safety.
So far, the high-tech wheeled walker is only available in CHB’s Full Scale Living Laboratory where R&D projects are undertaken to find cost-efficient and innovative ways to improve and enhance the usage of the normal home as a place of care.
Source: Interview with Professor Tore J Larsson at the Centre for Health and Building 16th of November 2011
A Geneva-based elderly research has shed light on the benefits of exercising to music. Swiss doctors revealed that music-based exercise routines can enhance the strength and balance of the elderly people, hence decreasing the rate of falls.
The year-long research required elderly participants to execute a series of exercises to piano music for an hour weekly. These include a variety of balance-challenging movements where the difficulty level was progressively raised. After 6 months, the number of fall cases was found to have dipped by 50%, prompting suggestions that music-based exercises may be useful for falls prevention services.
This is good news for the NHS and social care in UK where medical expenditure of fall injuries and deaths by the elderly are amounting up to £6m daily. It is estimated that 7,000 unnecessary deaths via falls can be avoided every year should all the elderly participate in a customized exercise program.
As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth as much as a pound of cure. The price of cure is already costing the British government millions of pounds, and they are now on a steep learning curve to recognize the importance of enhancing the standards of falls prevention services.
(Image source: Remain Active)
Many of our best innovations originate in problems. Actual challenges that people have faced in their own lives that they have started thinking about and innovate around. One such great example is the work of Sam Farber. He saw his wife, Betsey, who suffered from arthritis, struggling with the vegetable peeler. The peeler’s grip wasn’t wide enough for her to achieve a steady grip. So in 1989, at the age of 61, he launched a new company, OXO International, to create ergonomically correct household gadgets for people of all ages. The couple started innovating around the regular kitchen appliances and launched 15 products in 1990. The sales of the products experienced a growth of over 35% per year from 1991 to 2002. The line now has over 500 products and has received over 100 awards.
Now, at the age of 83, Sam Farber still is a driving force in the world of design “I try hard to get away, but I’m still involved,” Farber says with a laugh. “The world is full of bad design, so there is a lot to do.”
The advent of internet technology has paved the way for online dating. The “younger” and the “feeling young” generation had joined the bandwagon if not once but twice to try out their luck in finding their Mr. and Ms. Right. With a point and click and a fast bandwidth, finding a partner is as easy as heating a pizza in the microwave oven.
The whole Philippines were captivated and deeply inspired by this picture posted in the famous social networking site Facebook this week. Here was a picture of an old woman, Lola Aurelia looking for her 78 year old forgetful husband Lolo Luis. It had been two weeks that Lola Aurelia would go out of the streets from dusk till dawn to look for Luis and hand over some flyers to their neighbors in hope that she could find her partner for decades.
Alas, after almost 65,000 shares in the users’ walls, two of the biggest media networks in the country had featured the old woman’s search in the television and radio. And a day after the picture’s release, Lola Aurelia was reunited with Lolo Luis looking forward in sharing one or two more decades together.
Technology is shaping our society’s ways. The old practices of serenading and courtship may soon phase out. But the core human values of love and family remain; may it be offline or online.
Dementia is one of the pressing health problems of the elderly population. It refers to a class of mental disorders characterized by the progressive decline of the brain functions such as memory and cognition. During the latter phase, older persons with dementia have difficulty in
performing simple everyday tasks and retaining short term memory. Unfortunately, there is no cure for dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. On a positive note, patients with early dementia can use cognitive activities to preserve viable brain cells. These activities include playing chess, dominoes, crossword puzzles, bingo, Sudoku and scrabble.
Recent researches suggest that the lifetime use of a second language delays the progression of Dementia. Bialystok et al. (2007) showed that bilingualism delays the onset of dementia 4.1 years later than monolinguals. However, the study results can only be generalized to people who have mastery and usage of another language and not to those who only knew one or two conversation phrases. These findings are especially promising for Asian countries who have at least two or more native languages like the Philippines. But still further studies are needed to determine the effect of multilingualism in the progression of dementia.
So if you like to start a new hobby of learning another language, here’s a jump start to the Filipino language. “Kumusta! Kapag ako ay matanda na, ako ay hindi magiging makakalimutin.” (Hello, when I become older, I will not be forgetful.”)
Source: Bialystok E. et al. Bilingualism as a protection against the onset of symptoms of dementia. Neuropsychologia Volume 45, Issue 2, 2007 pages 459-464
Singapore, being the country with the world’s second fastest aging population is making strides to prepare for what lies ahead. In the Marine Parade estate, residents can expect to see the addition of larger signboards, better seats, and strategic rest stops in the near future. This is part of the 5-year pilot announced by the government in 2010 to establish an elderly friendly Marine Parade estate.
To be rolled out in 3 phases, the first phase involved identifying the needs of the elderly to better locate the amenities accessed frequently by them.
Approximately 2,500 elderly residents were surveyed, and the popular requests on flats improvements include the fitting of non-slip tiles within bathrooms, bigger peep-holes on the main door, and switches at reachable height. A majority also reckoned that the construction of sheltered walkways, fitness corners, and lifts for the overhead bridge would bring greater convenience and benefits to the elderly community.
Currently, work on phase 2 is underway to develop and pilot interventions based on these surveyed results. The idea of situating clinics under flats is under consideration to respond to rising healthcare needs of the elderly population. Social challenges faced by the seniors will be tackled by the introduction of initiatives aimed at spurring social participation and inclusion.
The results drawn from the evaluation phase in 2015 will offer insights as to how an inclusive environment encompassing both physical infrastructure and community facets for aging-in-place could be shaped and be replicated to other estates. This will better brace Singapore for the imminent impact from the silver tsunami, and sustain its elderly population in a more effective manner.
Research suggests that elderly should waltz three times a week to reduce their risk of falls. Even if walking or cycling is good for health as well it doesn’t bring the advantages of a dance.
Professor Tracey Howe, of Glasgow Caledonian University, said: “Interestingly, we found that walking and cycling generally do not improve balance, although they have many other beneficial effects. What you have to do is combine activities, such as carrying things while walking or dancing which involves using various parts of the body. It is well worth the elderly putting their favourite music on at home and having a little jig.”
To achieve the effects the exercise should be repeated at least three times a week. ”Falls involving the elderly often result in fractures and lead to victims losing their confidence and independence, so as we get older we must do more to retain our balancing skills.”
The key to good mobility is keeping your balance, which is a complex task which requires the co-ordination between a person’s muscles and sensors within the nervous system.
Silverevolution found this beautiful example of how it can be done:
Proving that good can come from any situation, researchers have found that people tend to create less carbon dioxide emissions as they reach old age.
By looking at how residents spent their money, the researchers were able to figure out what each elderly person’s carbon emissions were. Once people reach retirement, they are producing more carbon dioxide than at any other time in their lives. After retirement, however, this level begins to drop. According to the study by demographer Emilio Zagheni of the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock, Germany, the level drops from 14.9 metric tons per person annually at age 65 to 13.1 metric tons at age 80.
Why is it so? Elderly people tend to drive less and take public transport more, burning less fossil fuels. They also spend more on health, which is a low-carbon industry. On the other hand, they also spend more time at home, consuming more electricity and gas through living.
If electricity and home living can be made more carbon-neutral, society could reap the benefits of an aging population with a better, cleaner climate.
Dementia is one of the most feared aspects of aging. Losing mental strength can be distressing, socially isolating, and make it difficult to live independently.
Thankfully, specialists in aging minds say that most dementia can be prevented, even for the very old. By changing lifestyle and taking time and effort, almost anyone can avoid the worst of dementia. In fact, there is evidence that lifestyle plays a larger role than genetics in the mental health of the aged. As the population ages, and more and more people live long enough to worry about dementia, the need for this kind of prevention will only grow.
Strangely, the answer to keeping mentally fit is not the obvious one – crosswords and brain-teasers don’t actually help much, according to experts. Let’s go through the most important ways to keep the brain working perfectly.
Exercise is an essential part of staving off dementia. Scientists have found that exercise, even only modest amounts, can actually increase the size of the hippocampus. The hippocampus is partially responsible for forming memories and is necessary to keep the whole brain working well. Other studies have found that elderly people who exercised had better blood flow to their brains. Even better, the earlier you start exercising, the more healthy your brain will be by the time you reach old age.
Not only will eating more healthily reduce risk of heart disease and many cancers, it can also keep the brain sharp as we age. Eating a diet with lots of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes is excellent for mental health. There are a number of vitamins and minerals that have been shown to stave off dementia – eat foods rich in vitamin B12, omega-3 fatty acids, and curcumin.
Keep mentally active
The main part of keeping mentally active is to constantly learn and be engaged. Traditional types of mental exercise, like crosswords, can be mastered in a short time and stop helping the brain improve. Learning a new language, studying a new field, or playing a musical instrument is much better at keeping the brain engaged. Staying social is a big part of this – talking to friends provides excellent mental stimulation and has been proven to lead to lower rates of Alzheimers disease.
Keep stress free
Lowering stress keeps the brain supple and healthy. High levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, can actually damage the hippocampus and increase the risk of dementia. A study of people that meditated for 30 minutes a day even found that they increased the size of their brains.
As we age, we can stay significantly healthier, happier, and more independent if we are still mentally acute. One of the major challenges of this century will be staving off mental illness while we still can. If we can reduce the rates of dementia just through lifestyle changes, it will lead to a better life for all.
It is not only the policy makers in Asia that are enabling innovation for the elderly through large-scale programs. In Europe, the Steering Group of the pilot European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing just agreed on an overarching plan with joint actions in response to the challenges of an aging European population. The group is an integral part of the Innovation Union, one of the seven major initiatives of the Europe 2020 Strategy, which aims to create smart, sustainable and inclusive growth by 2020. The group includes stakeholders from the health and social sectors, the private sector, civil society and public authorities.
In this year’s Strategic Implementation Plan, the Steering Group sets out priority actions to meet the challenge of aging through innovation. The defined objective is to ensure that the average European citizen has two more active and healthy years to live by 2020. To achieve this the group will work towards health literacy, patient empowerment, personalized health management, prevention and early diagnosis of functional and cognitive decline, and extending active and independent living through open and personalized solutions.
The elderly centric approach will harness the potential of all forms of innovation – from technology, process, and organizational to social. The expected outcomes are not only improvements of health status and quality of life of older Europeans but also an improvement of the sustainability and efficiency of health and social care systems. The third expected outcome is a boosted EU competitiveness through an improved business environment for innovation – new exciting opportunities for European businesses.
Dating back to myriads of years, the idea of immortality has always been one of the core fascinations of mankind. Mystical locations and potions such as the legendary fountain of youth and the fabled elixir of life have added weight to the possibility of living forever in the past. Yet today, it appears that longevity remains a more realistic target than the very much mystified immortality; and we are now living longer life spans.
According to UN statistics, global life expectancy is presently 68 years. Romans during the Roman Empire only had life spans of 22 to 25 years. This steep contrast in figures can be traced to the improvements in hygiene and nutrition, and the advances in medical and disease control worldwide over the centuries. With education, individuals are also seeking for the scientific composition of a healthy body, marrying the elements of healthy diet and lifestyle to push the barriers of longevity.
In the Balearic Islands, doctors studied the lifestyle of a man who lived till the age of 114 years. He led a physically active life, cycling to work in his family orchard until the age of 102 years, and considered the intake of his local diet as the key ingredient to his longevity. Various cultures however, differ on what they perceive to be the secret recipe to a lengthened life span. The Japanese swear by their vegetables while the Greeks and French remain adamant that olive oil and red wine respectively, are the essentials. Majority of Americans are faithful to their regular exercise routines in contrast to cigars, which the Cubans believe is the secret recipe to longevity.
Because the genetic makeup of an individual is so sophisticatedly diverse, the real secret recipe to longevity may never see light. On a brighter note, we as mankind have that innate ability to forage and process knowledge to our advantage; through proper diet and hygiene, regular exercises, smoke-free lifestyle, and stress limitation, we are already very well accustomed to the fundamental bricks for building a healthy body.
Researchers at the University of Alberta, in collaboration with IBM, have set up a high-tech condo where elderly people can live, watched by hundreds of sensors. Why? To understand the way the elderly work.
Elderly people have different needs, different abilities to move, and different behaviours. These differences, even though they have been around since the dawn of man, are not actually well understood.
In order to better understand the needs of the growing elderly population, the university has created this facility. It tracks every aspect of the elderly person’s life – from their heart rate to body weight to the use of doors, furniture, and appliances. It does this using an array of smart sensors attached to almost everything in the home. This allows the exact behaviours of elderly people to be tracked without intrusive cameras or microphones.
This behaviour is then mapped onto a virtual simulation, which students and researchers can then use for training.
The facility is also being used to test new devices. Already, the researchers have been able to improve a medication monitoring device by looking at how the elderly were actually using it.
The data collected by the program could be useful in helping to create and design new systems for aged care. But overall, it’s mainly about understanding just how the elderly actually work.
This furry fellow might look like a cuddly toy but is in fact an FDA approved robot with the potential to be the future in treatment of dementia patients. The PARO robot, developed in Japan, uses sensors that enables it to respond to touch, temperature and voices. It even develops its own “personality” based on the interaction with the owner.
In Queensland, a study with elderly dementia patients showed that the patients’ contact with the robots was linked to the patients becoming less anxious, demonstrating more happy behaviours and being less likely to wander off.
Why a seal? Well, the inventors claim it is less likely to scare patients. Very few have bad child hood memories with a seal whereas a cat or a dog might have a counter-productive effect…
The National Public Radio presents the changing demographics of the world with this playful illustration:
Now the question is whether the glass should be seen as half-full or half-empty. More brilliant minds on planet earth, more inventions and progress but also more mouths to feed, more fuel to be burned and more people who need care. How do we manage the population growth more responsibly?
The world’s population is growing fast. In the coming months we are expected to hit a population of 7 Billion and it doesn’t stop there. The United Nations estimate that we will be 10 Billion people on this planet by the end of the century. At the same time the world’s population is not only increasing in numbers, it is also becoming older and older. Increased longevity, decreased infant mortality and better health standards are giving us 30 – 40 years extra beyond the golden limit of 65. The demographic pyramid is shifting and the pressure on the younger generations is increasing to care for more of the elderly, longer. Are the societies prepared for the silver crowds that will be wandering, or perhaps rolling, on our streets? Are entrepreneurs realizing the golden opportunity – investing in smart solutions for our new lives where 30 is the new 20 and 80 the new 60 but with the same physical and mental challenges as before? This blog is not intended to reflect scientific research, neither is it supposed to push for an ideology or a political or religious view. This blog intends to explore the silver evolution in order to prepare us for the silver revolution. Readers are most welcome to contribute with links, reports, view points and personal reflections. Let us together gear up for what the future beholds…