Think AT&T and cellular devices such as iPhones as well as Blackberries would spring to mind.
These days however, the American telecommunications giant is also venturing into telehealth devices and a communication network that could potentially expand its wireless business. A slew of prototype connected health products have already been developed by AT&T’s scientists who are seeking to make everyday household items “part of the network cloud.”
One particular innovation that is still under clinical trials aims to reduce fall rates among the elderly. Statistically in the US, about one third of the elderly over 65 fall each year and 10% of these cases result in serious injury or death. The “smart slippers” designed by AT&T’s scientists may be the solution to this growing problem. With built-in pressure sensors in their soles to record gait, stride, and pace measurements as elderly patients walk, these information will then be transmitted over AT&T’s network to healthcare providers. By noting changes in the elderly patient’s walking pattern, the device will notify a doctor via e-mail or text message of a problem before they take a tumble. This could reduce the chance of a fall and a costly trip to the hospital. In the UK, medical expenditure of fall injuries and deaths by the elderly are already amounting up to a staggering £6m daily and the government is looking to promote music-based exercises to build strength and reduce falls among the elderly.
In addition, the other pilot programme initiated by AT&T covers the aspect of diabetes management while its ‘telehealth solutions’ involve the use of high-definition video and audio conferencing technology to offer patients in underserved regions access to higher quality care. Vitality Glowcaps that run on AT&T’s wireless network is also an interesting feature to aid elderly patients with medication reminders.
With a swelling elderly population nationwide, AT&T is one of the few companies that are working on a technology solution that not only lower costs but enhance medical care at the same time. According to AT&T’s Xavier Williams, ”If we do what we think we’re capable of doing, we think we’re able to change healthcare the way ATMs changed banking.”
And with forward-looking innovations such as the “smart slippers,” they are certainly taking the right ‘step’ forward.
(Image source: Business Week)
(Video source: ATTBizSolutions)
Several weeks ago, I had a bathroom mishap where my smartphone was in the thick of the action. Seemingly beyond my control, the Nokia E72 tempted fate and took a nosedive straight into the toilet bowl. Why it was so keen to pick up swimming at that particular moment, I will never know. But one thing for certain was that an iPhone beckons as the ‘little swimmer’ was pronounced dead on the spot. In the meantime, I was now in the market for a short-term mobile replacement.
Some serious pondering later, I made a decision and bought myself a senior-friendly phone.
Interestingly, there are a variety of names attached to this mobile. In the Americas and Europe, it is called the Just5 phone. Over to the east, Russians are also dubbing it as the ‘Babushka’ (grandmother) phone while in Singapore, it is commonly known as the iNO CP09 phone. To avoid confusion however, we will simply call it the Just5 phone.
Quite frankly, the Just5 phone is simplicity at its best. It takes the shape of a candybar and has elderly friendly features such as large keypad buttons, SOS button, torchlight and build-in speakerphone specifically designed for elderly mobile users to have a better experience. The FM radio function comes as a surprise as it does not require an earpiece to be plugged in in order to use it. Conveniently, the keypad can also be unlocked via a single button while the torchlight can be activated through a slide switch by the side. And if you are sharp enough, you would notice a woman and man icon at the bottom left (*) and right (#) keys. These are speed-dialling keys and they supposedly represent the daughter and son of the elderly to allow easy recognition and convenient access to their loved ones. For myself however, these two icons could represent my wife and boss in the near future.
From an adolescent point of view, the Just5 phone is also practical in a couple of scenarios;
What if I am surrounded by a bunch of thugs along a deserted alley?
By pressing the SOS button, a sharp siren pierces the air and wails in a desperate plea for help. At the same time, all the 4 emergency numbers that I have configured receive an emergency SMS text. The siren continues as each of the emergency contact numbers are being dialled in cycles until someone picks up. The wailing ceases and the Just5 phone goes into hands-free talk mode.
What if I have a bad sore throat and a lady asks for my number over the phone?
I simply select the ‘human voice’ tone for my keypad. Then by pressing the digits of my number, the ‘human voice’ reads out the corresponding digits.
On top of being elderly-friendly, the Just5 phone is brilliantly simple for seniors to use. Indeed, it has fulfilled its purpose as a basic phone with practical functions. Yet, the future elderly will be different. In Singapore for instance, we have identified that they will possess plenty of energy and experience, as well as varying needs and aspirations. They may not only be socially active but also technologically savvy. Thus, it is important that the next generation of Just5 phones take into account these factors and tailor their products to suit the varying demands of the future elderly.
(Video source: Just5)
It was yet another mundane night to pass for the folks in a little diner when the door slowly creaked open. All eyes were curiously locked onto a towering beefcake as the man trudges forward expressionlessly. What was astonishing about him was the lack of clothes from head to toes. The man advances in the buff across the diner, approaching the billiard table where he sizes up another man. The movie screen brilliantly switches to a transparent red visual ‘dashboard-like’ display with multiple rows of flickering alphabets and figures by the side. The diagnosed result showed high relevance in terms of ‘similarity.’ What will ensue in this popular eighties action film is the delivery of an old-fashioned beat down by “The Terminator” before he obtain his clothes, boots and motorcycle.
Despite the date of the film release however, it has hinted slightly as to how futuristic technology will shape out to be over the years. In fact, the transparent red visual ‘dashboard-like’ illustration featured in the blockbuster is what we now call a “head-up display.” (HUD) It enables users to view data in their line of vision. Several auto makers such as BMW, Toyota and Lexus have already adopted this concept into their range of products. Many contemporary systems are able to display data from the speedometer and tachometer onto the windshields.
General Motors (GM) on the other hand has set their sights on developing a new generation of HUDs on their windshields. These windshields will combine the use of cameras, sensors and ultraviolet lasers to enhance the driving experience of an elderly. They will highlight objects in the roads and paint the road edges to aid elderly drivers in poor visibility conditions. Another function also involves tracking the driver’s position in order to align the images to be displayed on the windshields.
As the silver tsunami sweeps across the globe, there will be a surge in the number of elderly drivers and auto makers must start catering to this swelling group of consumers worldwide. In addition, ageing deficiencies will pose as an obstacle to elderly drivers (as I have mentioned a couple of months back) and there will be emerging issues concerning with the safety and independence of the seniors that must be addressed.
(Source: NY Daily News)
(Image source: Switched)
(Video source: Network World)
With a growing ‘silver’ population in Singapore, it is substantially necessary for the country to develop its healthcare and eldercare system to meet the demands. In addition, there is a need to not only construct a dense network of community-based services, but also to ensure long-term sustainability in the provision of these services. The blueprint for a holistic and affordable eldercare must also incorporate the concept of ageing-in-place, where seniors can continue residing in the community which they are familiar with. Altogether, the Committee on Ageing Issues (CAI) has proposed 4 key approaches towards achieving this;
Develop support services within the community
In terms of the management of elderly healthcare needs, a holistic Family Physicians (FPs)-centered approach should be adopted. This is because of the close proximity the FPs are to provide primary prevention, maintenance of health and screening of diseases to the elderly in the community. The increasing presence of Community Health Centres (CHCs) also help to supplement the FPs with support services. In addition, there is a need to establish a variety of community-based nursing services for the elderly who would prefer to continue living in the community. Caregiver Centres on the other hand will offer an alternate support to families by providing care for the elderly.
Facilitate integrated service planning and delivery
There are plenty of rooms for improvement in this aspect. Follow-up care for discharged elderly patients can be enhanced via the closer integration between hospital systems and the community. The CAI also believe that the integrated service models of day care and day rehabilitation centres for the elderly must be flexible against market changes in order to be cost-efficient. More importantly, data requirements across all agencies must be streamlined to ensure that medical information is exchangeable between step-down healthcare facilities and community-based elder-care facilities.
Expand diversity and capability development within the health and eldercare sector
With the growing complexity of needs and expectations of the elderly, it is increasingly important to enhance healthcare capabilities and tailor social and personal care services to suit their range of requirements. The CAI is of the belief that in order to spur private sector participation and innovation in health and eldercare, the government should revise its policies and undertake a facilitating role in the industry. Essentially, certain aspects such as manpower and service standards must also be improvised to meet the rising demands of an ageing population.
Ensure affordability of health and eldercare services
This is achieved through a flexible multi-tiered safety net consisting of government subsidy for Class B2 / C wards, Medisave, MediShield, Medifund and ElderShield. As much as 80% of actual medical expenditures at Class B2 and C wards of public hospitals are being subsidized by the government while the remaining schemes provide greater financial protection for the elderly against huge medical bills.
As we can see, the Government’s role goes beyond financing the use of services. It also has an essential role to play with regards to manpower development, regulations and the establishment of standards for the sector. More importantly, it must facilitate the planning and development of the sector in order to achieve a holistic and affordable eldercare for our future seniors.
(Image source: Khoo Chai Ling)
An elderly woman boards the bus with relative ease. A good-natured banter then ensued between the bus captain and the elderly woman herself as the journey continues. Visibly delighted, she spoke of her hearty lunch at a food centre nearby. Strangely enough, she was also offering words of encouragement to the captain who is beginning to look a little familiar. Some serious mulling later and it hit me; the driver who appeared on the news for the wrong reason a week ago is now behind the wheel of our bus. Towards the end of the journey, I had the privilege to witness a particularly heartening moment as the elderly lady presented the gratified driver with a token of encouragement.
Emotions aside, I have also come to realize that our accessible environment has given the elderly woman the independence to integrate with the wider community and lead an active live. On the bus, low floor, step-free and access ramp features provide accessibility to the elderly and handicapped persons. Over the past few years, public transport operators such as Singapore Mass Rapid Transit (SMRT) and Singapore Bus Service (SBS) have been introducing these senior-friendly buses into the roads while Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) stations have undergone retrofitting regimes to improve accessibility to the elderly.
The Committee on Aging Issues (CAI) is an inter-agency forum that serves to discuss and put up proposals related to population aging. It comprises of representation from the government, people, private, media and academic section.
One of its very vision is to better prepare Singapore for the opportunities and challenges of an aging population. The committee aims not only to knit closer family ties, but also to construct an extensive network of community services in order to supplement the elderly’s independence and foster a stronger sense of community belonging. Society must also be sufficiently prepared for the “Silver Tsunami” in order to achieve “Successful Aging for Singapore.”
Fundamentally, the CAI views the seniors as active contributors rather than passive members of society. They believe that national policies must cater to not only the frail and ill, but also to the well and healthy. Families are regarded as the first line of care, providing support as the main care-giver of the elderly. In the absence of the families, the community will acts as a safety net while institutionalization remains a last resort.
Collective responsibility from individual, family and community level represents one of the key guiding principles of the committee in shaping its approach. Altogether, there are 4 strategic concepts adopted by the CAI to manage the entailing opportunities and challenges of an aging society;
1) Elderly-friendly living environment
Inserting senior-friendly features into residences and estates to improve the standards of aging-in-place. More importantly, community-based living also offers a familiar surrounding that provides mental and emotional support to the elderly.
2) Barrier-free accessibility
Refurbishing the current state of environment into one that is tailored to the mobility requirements of an aging society. This includes public amenities, community facilities and transportation nationwide to ensure that the elderly are able to resume their community and private activities just like any other person.
3) Comprehensive yet affordable health and eldercare services
Elder-care services and programmes must be coordinated to ensure a smooth transition between step-down healthcare facilities and community-based elder-care facilities.
4) Active lifestyle and well-being
A greater range of options in leisure activities, learning choices, as well as engagement and
volunteer opportunities must be provided to leverage on the energy and experience of the elderly.
To sum it up, these 4 strategies are all equally important in order to achieve the objective of “Successful Aging for Singapore.” In some cases, these efforts may also be useful to other groups. For instance, a barrier-free environment is beneficial to the disability group as well.
Next week, we will explore these approaches in greater depths and look at the ongoing works of the CAI to brace Singapore for impact from the imminent “Silver Tsunami.”
(Image source: Red Lantern Images)
Today, population aging is emerging as a major demographic trend worldwide. The island nation of Singapore is no exception to the greying of its population, with an estimated 20% of its residents hitting the full retirement age of 65 by 2030. The first wave of the Baby Boom generation is expected to reach the 65 mark by the coming 2012.
In retrospect, Baby Boomers in Singapore played an instrumental role in building the country into one of the world’s advanced economies. They were the beneficiaries of a developing educational system and also the primary contributors of industrialization growth.
More importantly, a majority of this generation will have better health and education. Up to 87% of the elderly were found to be physically independent while the number of them with university education will rise from 4% in 2010 to 13% by 2030. The Baby Boomers are also likely to be wealthier as well. Statistics show the rise in average monthly income from work at similar life stage down the years;
This generation of future elderly represents a sizable ability pool with bountiful of experience and energy. It presents an array of opportunities for us to not only engage their participation, but also to leverage on their talents so that they can continue to contribute meaningfully to their families, communities and to society.
These group of elderly are also likely to be active in the fields of social and economic initiatives. They will have varying needs and aspirations that may pose as a challenge to policy makers. Policies and programmes designed for elderly care must be tailored sensitively to suit their range of requirements.
Aging issues are sophisticated and diverse. It is essential that the government, community agencies and the private sector work hand in hand towards an integrated approach to solve the growing problem. The Committee on Ageing Issues (CAI) established in 2004 was tasked to focus on the issues of elderly care. In the next post, we will take a closer look at the guiding principles and strategic framework adopted by the CAI in a bid to achieve their goal of “Successful Aging for Singapore.”
(Image source: Straits Time)
A young sailor clad in his uniform races zealously along the crowded streets of Times Square as a photographer trails his every movement. What would unfold before the flashing camera of Alfred Eisenstaedt was to become an iconic moment in history, as the sailor leans in for that famous kiss with the nurse in white. For them and the rejoicing faces at the background, the gruelling war is finally over and peace has been restored.
This marked the start of the baby boom generation spanning between 1946-1964 as countries like US, UK, Australia and Canada witnessed a sharp increase in birth rates. The Baby Boomers benefited from longer life spans, better health conditions and greater wealth through a relatively peaceful period without much wars. Interestingly in Russia, these off-springs were coined as the Sputnik Generation, a reference to an epoch where a swelling population meets the launch of their patented space crafts.
In the present 21st century however, population aging is arising as a major demographic trend worldwide. January 2011 heralded the first wave of aging Baby Boomers who will be reaching the full retirement age of 65. In US, the number of aging Baby Boomers is expected to rise from 35 million to 77 million over the next 20 years due to falling fertility rates and improved medical and disease control. China, India and Japan with the world’s largest elderly populations will also continue to see a massive increase in their ‘silver’ populations, a phenomenon popularly dubbed as the “Silver Tsunami” in Asia. Future projection estimates that Africa will remain the world’s youngest continent with only 5% of its population hitting the retirement age by 2050. Yet, for the first time in global history, the proportion of people aged 65 and over will exceed the number of children below the age of 5.
The silver evolution has ushered in a new era where greater emphasis is being placed on senior care. An array of issues ranging from insufficient primary care providers to the growing demand for elderly-friendly infrastructures are just some of the problems governments across the world must cope with. Healthcare and technological firms must also capture the ‘silver’ value and ride on the wave of new developments to ensure that they are well-poised to meet the future demands of an aging society.
(Image source: Alfred Eisenstaedt)
(Video source: CBS News)
It was not until the 4th century had oriental medicine eventually reached the shores of Japan. A few centuries later, practices of Traditional Japanese Medicine (TJM) began to surface island-wide as founder, Sanki Tashiro developed Kampo medicine based on the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).
Today, after undergoing much modernization, Kampo medicine is now an important feature of the Japanese healthcare system. Up to 150 of Kampo extract formulas have already been approved by the Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW), and are being covered by the country’s national medical insurance.
Essentially, Kampo medicine is an adaptation of TCM. It also includes acupuncture and moxibustion although the study of herbs remains as its primary feature. In a country where herbal tradition is so evidently rich, it is no wonder Japan is ranked by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the top botanicals consuming nation worldwide.
Altogether, there are 365 botanical remedies in Kampo. Rikkunshi-to (which is prepared from eight crude herbs), and Dai-Kenchu-to (a mixture of ginseng, ginger, and zanthoxylum fruit) are both useful in boosting the growth of gastrointestinal hormones and improving blood flow along the gastrointestinal tract. Hangeshashin-to like the above remedies, also showed encouraging results against gastrointestinal diseases, a common elderly disorder in Japan.
Pain management-wise, herbal solutions like Jidabokuippo and Hachimijiogan have proven effective for the seniors, relieving pain from arthritis, bruises, and sprains. Kampo treatments that include biota, coptis, ginkgo, licorice and morinda are used to alleviate depression among the elderly. Ginseng not only decreases the risk of diabetes, it also has anti-ageing properties.
In the US, eastern medicine practices like Kampo and TCM are slowly emerging as an alternative treatment against elderly ailments. As traditional medicine continues to show signs of effectiveness against elderly disorders, perhaps more and more countries will begin to incorporate these practices into their blueprints for elderly care.
Quite recently, I was following a particular drama series that was airing every weekday nights. A Mediacorp (Singapore) production titled “The Oath”, the story revolves around the rivalry between a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioner and a doctor skilled in western medicine. With a common aim to save lives, both individuals ironically were also in love with the same woman. Eventually, the former may have won her heart, but honours were even in the duel between Chinese and Western medicine.
This is because both methods are effective in their own right and in certain instances, have a complementary effect on each other. In the case of elderly care, various aspects of TCM are used to promote longevity and wellness. The Chinese believed that Qi (Chi) or vital energy flows throughout the body. It is essential to regulate the Qi within as an interruption of energy flow would indicate body aches. Chinese herbs such as aloeswood, costus root, ginseng, persimmon calyx and tangerine peel help facilitate the flow of Qi in vital organs, alleviating pain. Food remedies like scallion, garlic, ginger and peach also provide health and longevity benefits.
For pain relief in bones and joints, acupuncture, a proven effective treatment against arthritis and osteoporosis may be an option for the elderly in pain management. Mind-body exercises such as Qi Gong and Tai Chi also boast the benefits of strengthening immune systems, preventing falls, decreasing chronic ailments and mitigating symptoms of depression among the elderly.
To sum it up really, TCM and western medicine practices may differ in many ways, yet it is important to note that both medical cultures have the best of intentions for the general health and wellness of their people. As both sides continue to discover new and innovative routes towards longevity and good health, the standards of elderly care can only improve. But for now, it is all hands on deck as we brace for impact from the imminent silver tsunami.
(Image Source: Jimmie)
(Video Source: MyPathTV)
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)
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)
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.
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.