Over- and polymedication among the elderly is a risky business that we have covered earlier, eg. in a blog post by agjessica on Polypharmacy among the elderly. As Jessica recounts studies have shown that the risk of drug interactions (with potential negative consequences) increase from 6% to 50% in patients on 2 or 4-5 medications, respectively. Nevertheless, as the digitalization of healthcare gains grounds there are a couple of really interesting ideas out there on both how to better document the side effects caused by taking various medications at a time as well as on how to use technology to help elders (and others) out with keeping track of when they need to take their medications.
Last week I had the privilege to listen in to parts of a high level summit on the Globalization of the Healthcare Market, namely the Swedish American Life Sciences Summit, where Digital Healthcare was one of the subtopics of the year. As a former Mechatronics student I took a particular liking to two innovative solutions tackling the above challenge.
The first was presented by Nicolaus Henke, McKinsey’s Director of Healthcare Practice in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, as an example of the future potential of the mix of technology and healthcare. Dr Henke explained how Proteus Digital Health (that just got FDA approval to sell their solution as a medical device a little over a month ago) has created a pill that, swallowed, together with the gastric acids of the body gets activated and the energy needed to start analyzing real-time conditions of the body, such as information related to the medication taken. This information is communicated to a wearable patch, that apart from receiving the signal from the edible sensor also records the time that the medication was taken, as well as a number of other factors related to the person’s health, such as heart beat, temperature, physical activity, position (standing, lying down) and rest patterns. The patch further communicates this information to one’s smartphone and a secure server in order to collect and analyze data in order to support medical adherence and effective monitoring of a person’s health. The person being monitored can, in turn, choose who can see this information (physicians, caregivers and/or family members, only him-/herself etc) as well as get feedback via notifications when medications are overdue.
Fascinating piece of solution in my opinion. Proteus Digital Health’s edible sensor can currently ‘only’ monitor the time, characteristics and identity of what you swallow, but the company is working on a solution that can analyze bodily measures on a more advanced scale. Since estimations have shown that as many as a third to half of the world’s patients don’t take their medications properly solutions like these apparently have a large target market. Even though development and research on biomedical telemetry from ingestible electronics has been around since the 60s Proteus D. H. have managed to put the first (and currently only) product on the market within this particular field. Looking forward to follow what the research community on related solutions is planning in the years to come.
The second solution was developed by one of the conference participants, Mr. Robert Pakter, CEO and founder of Pilljogger, a company that has created an app that helps people track their medical intakes and thanks them when they stay on track. Mr. Pakter shared that he and his company are planning on developing a feature where patients will be enabled to report side effects that they experience when taking different medicines. Given that the Pilljogger app already will keep track of the different medications the patient is taking, this will also provide for an opportunity to track different side effects that arise from the combination of different medications in certain patients on a wider scale, providing a unique material that can later be used for further research and conclusions in the field of polypharmacy.
Thus, after my brief and intense opportunity to rub shoulders with some of the Healthcare industry’s finest, I feel reassured that we can expect to see a lot of exciting things in the field of digital health in the year’s to come.
PS. I also wanted to shine a little light on an unrelated topic, namely the Not-For-Profit research organization MEND (Medicine in Need), that I also got the chance to listen in to last week, and that are doing amazing work on the formulation of vaccines, reengineering them in order to make them more easily distributed to the developing world (mainly by taking them out of the cold chain, that is often so much more difficult to maintain in the developing world). Really inspiring work! DS.
My co-blogger Stéphanie Treschow earlier blogged about an inspiring London-based fashion brand for pensioners by a young female fashion school graduate, Fanny Karst, designing clothes for women three times her age. I don’t know if Hampus Rendmar, a recent graduate from Konstfack (University College of Arts, Crafts & Design) in Sweden, had heard about her and gotten inspired or if we might be seeing an emerging trend among art/fashion school graduates, but his recent graduation project had a related audience – people with dementia.
Hampus feels that interior design at today’s nursing homes lags behind in general and says that dementia patients have the same right to trends and design as does everyone else. He means that many dementia patients must have gotten tired of the old and worn traditional furniture that fills residential care homes today. Therefore he has created a series of furniture targeting this audience with a focus on design that gives a sense of calm and safety. ‘Calm’ is also the name of two chairs in the project, made out of beech and steel, that have been painted in mediterranean green, since it is said to have a calming effect. Furthermore the chairs have a rocking effect, something that research has shown can diminish worry and stress.
What is up next for Hampus is yet to be told, but both visitors at the final art graduation projects’ exhibition by Konstfack and he himself noted that his furniture was widely popular among the audience throughout the whole exhibition. Maybe ‘Calm’ is soon to be found in a nursing home near you.
Source (in Swedish): http://www.dn.se/bostad/han-vill-ge-dementa-god-design
Image source: http://blog.trendgruppen.se/?p=10760
Why do people stay together and why don’t they? Why marry or why break up/divorce? Those are common questions for people to ask themselves at some point during their lifetime. While the act of getting married is seeing a boost in eg. Sweden (with the number of new marriages up with 33% in the past 10 years (due to among other things a larger cultural popularity, more kids being born etc – see embedded article (in Swedish))) we also live in a time when many countries have statistics where one out of two marriages end in divorce (Sweden, US, Spain, Germany, Russia, Belarus, Cuba (even more) etc*). Something that might seem strange to the generation of pensioners and grand-parents around today that married in a time when divorces where not as common and the view on marriage was quite different from what it is today. (See an interesting interview on the topic with sociologist Dr Paul Amato, who has conducted extensive research on marital quality and stability, under the paragraph ‘The 1950s and “companionate marriage”‘ in this blog post where he argues that marriages today have more individualistic/psychological/existential reasons (find one’s soul mate, help each other fulfil one another’s lives and grow as persons) as opposed to the more pragmatic/companionate approach of the 50s and 60s.)
While the view on life-long love and marriage as an institution obviously gets a lot of influences from the trends and tides of the society around it, there are those that argue that there are few things that makes us as happy as being in a relationship. Anders Sandberg, philosopher and computational neuroscientist working for Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University, means that people in a relationship live longer, are less ill and generally feel more content with life than those that don’t. Money or intelligence doesn’t even come close in comparison for the importance for our well-being. Thus, as the human enhancement scientist that he is, Dr Sandberg looks to biology to find ways to increase the likelihood of people forming and staying in relationships. According to Dr Sandberg, even though much of society has changed around us in the past 1000s of years, the same is not true for our psychology. The average life time of a person did for a very long time not pass 35 years, meaning that we seldom would be in relationships for more than 15 years – ironically close to the median duration of marriage today – 11 years. In a recent article co-written with Julian Savulescu and published in the New Scientist, Dr Sandberg argues that in order to increase the chances of people’s well-being caused by being in a relationship, while sparing them the pain break-ups can often inflict, we can look to some recent findings from another research article published in The Journal of Neuroscience with experiments on voles in order to find new ways forward.
The results published in The Journal of Neuroscience show that introducing vasopressin (known as one of the ‘love hormones’ together with eg. oxytocin) by gene modification in polygamous male meadow voles made them more monogamous and similar to their cousin, the prairie vole, that is already monogamous as a species (and that also has more receptors for oxytocin and vasopressin in their brains from a start). Given their other argument that helping humans stay in relationships would generally imply more happiness for them, Sandberg and Savulescu thus argue that it would be ethically correct to develop methods that would make possible the same biological alterations in humans. Of course, Sandberg admits such methods would have to be used with caution not to have people entrapped in bad relationships. One of the authors of the article in The Journal of Neuroscience, Dr Larry Young, along with Dr Hasse Valum at Karolinska Institutet (who in a recent PhD thesis proved that the same correlations between pair bonding and vasopressin (in males) and oxytocin (in females) could be found in humans), however argue that they don’t believe in creating medicinal treatment based on those findings, especially since there are also potential negative side effects by eg. increased vasopressin in males such as that they become more aggressive and defendant of their partner with higher rates of this hormone.
Even though convention, rather than biology, is more likely to be the reason for the lower divorce rates on a macro scale among pensioners and grand-parents back in their day (and maybe, as a result of holding true to that convention, even today) I think it is still interesting to see how we can unlock some of the secrets of the world around us through science. Let’s see what the future holds. (Apart from being love hormones both vasopressin and oxytocin has shown potential of treating both autism, social anxiety disorder, borderline personality disorder and schizophrenia.)
On a final note, when researching for this blog post I came across another very interesting study showing that friends, rather than family, are more important to help people live longer after the age of 70 according to a recent Australian study (in a way contradicting, or at least weakening, Dr Sandberg’s argumentation above). I think I will have to save that topic for my next blog post.
Sources: http://www.dn.se/nyheter/vetenskap/livslang-romans-med-hjalp-av-medicin (in Swedish, including short interview with Dr Sandberg)
http://www.practicalethics.ox.ac.uk/latest_news/love_machine_engineering_lifelong_romance (abstract of Dr Sandberg’s research article)
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2768419/ (full research article in The Journal of Neuroscience)
Image source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/aneesprince/7202772588/
*Statistics sources: Sweden: SCB – Central Bureau of Statistics (see above embedded link – in Swedish), US, Spain, Germany (and some other countries): United States Census Bureau – Table 1336 (see above embedded link), Russia, Belarus, Cuba (and many other countries): United Nations Demographic Yearbook 2009-2010 comparing tables 23 and 24 per country (see above embedded link)
Graph description further down.
When my little brother was a kid he used to answer the question of what he wanted to be when he grew up with a firm and certain: ‘a pensioner’. Quite insightful, I must say, for a 5 year-old, but I guess he’d simply realized what so many pensioners-to-be are starting to realize as the day of retirement draws nearer. According to a recent study of the state of the elderly and elderly-to-be in Sweden, the UK and the US, life satisfaction increases steadily from the age of 47 and four out of five in this age group have a positive view of their coming years in ‘life’s third act’. This all the while two thirds of the same respondents fear that the care system for senior citizens will not be able to look after them when their time comes.
The study, presented by Kairos Future in cooperation with a number of Swedish companies and institutions*, is Kairos Future’s fourth in line of studies of attitudes among the baby boom generation. Previous studies being carried out in 1999, 2004 and 2008, they have all followed the same baby boom generation born in 1945-1954. It was first in the third one that the scope was expanded to include also the UK and the US.
Below I share a couple of highlights from the study:
1. Contentedness of life in general increases steadily from the age of 47. Graph above depicting contentedness of life. On the y-axis the scale of contentedness and on the x-axis year of birth of respondent. The arrow points at respondents of 50 years of age. As graph shows contentedness of life increases steadily from just before this point in time (and has a bottom low between age 35-45 (youngest respondents of study were of 30 years of age)).
2. The primary focus of most to-be pensioners is to stay healthy, both physically and mentally. To keep the brain alert and maintain an active lifestyle are top priorities for most baby-boomers. Many also say that they want to keep contributing to society to a larger extent than in earlier studies and statistics also reflect this fact showing that the number of 66-year olds that are still working have increased from 19% (1997) to 36% (2009). This is also reflected in that few of the already retired wish that they would have retired earlier (only 7%), whereas a larger group wish they would have retired later (20%). Which leads me to the last of the interesting findings I have chosen to highlight.
3. Many suspect that society’s elderly care won’t be able to support them, when they reach the later stage of the Third Age. As many as 37% of the baby boomers, and 35% of the 30-55 year-olds doubt this. Kairos Future have created an interesting graph depicting how society’s changing demography in the past century puts a lot more pressure on the working generation in order to sustain those not working, since we both start working later in life, and live longer after retirement today, than 90 years ago. Question is – will society be economically sustainable with people only working one third of their lifetime (as suggested will be the case if the demographic development continues til 2040, without changes to the number of working years)? Or will things have to change, and in that case, how? Is the current debt crisis around the world maybe even an early reflection of society’s debts to its people that is simply running out of hand due to the demographic changes with people living longer and longer? Interesting questions asked by Kairos Future and visualized through the following graph:
So, to sum it up, an interesting read.
On a final note, I just loved the introduction of the report where they presented a number of the new names that people have started to give to the people living in this new active Third Age: Such as Silver surfers, Passionists, Passioners, SALLIES (Senior Affluent Life Lovers Enjoying a Second Spring), OPALS (Old People Active Lifestyle) and MAPPIES, (Mature Attractive Pioneers). Now that’s some granny!
* For the curious: SEB, SPV, Micasa Fastigheter in Stockholm AB, Apotek Hjärtat, Pensionsmyndigheten and Friskis&Svettis.
Source (where you can also find the report for download (unfortunately only available in Swedish)): http://www.kairosfuture.com/publikationer/framtidens-%C3%A4ldre?pub=Framtidens-%C3%A4ldre
In a recent book, well-renowned neuroscientist and writer Martin Ingvar and medicine journalist Lotta Eldh, dive deeper into the latest research findings related to the topic of pain. Interestingly, scientists seem to have started to pay more attention to the importance of exercising the brain’s inherent defense mechanisms against pain, particularly in the case of chronic pain. The authors even go as far as saying that strong pain killers, such as opiates, can be counter productive since they will knock out the brain’s natural response of pain relief, and thus inhibit the brain’s learning pattern for its own pain treatment.
Some of the examples discussed of alternative pain relief treatments are; exercise, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) and mindfulness. When we exercise the brain releases endorphines which can work as to ease the pain that we sense, either directly from our work-out or from before. ACT is a type of cognitive behavioural therapy that is all about accepting the presence of the pain and learning how to control the feelings that it provokes in order to handle it better, and mindfulness, that is related, also focuses on how to handle everything present while relaxing into the pain. As Ingvar and Eldh point out, pain is something very subjective, and as a matter of fact research has shown that the limbic system (that controls our feelings, memory and behaviours) plays an important role in how we experience pain.
Thus Ingvar and Eldh explain that a good combination of a physical training program together with psychological training can be just as effective in the long run as a traditional medication treatment, when dealing with pain. The authors however ask for patience, since the ‘re-programming’ of the brain’s acquired pain responses can take time. But as they put it, if you just confront your pain and hang in there you get rewarded when you finally get out at the other end of the tunnel.
The authors also dedicate a specific chapter to people not susceptible to psychological treatment, such as patients with dementia or that have suffered a stroke resulting in speech disorders. On many occassions such patients have trouble communicating what they feel, which is why care-givers need to pay extra attention to behaviours that can represent the expression of pain. This e.g. includes banging of one’s hand at the table, scraping with the foot, restless wandering back and forth or cries for mum.
Personally, I’m once again fascinated by what exercise (and psychological will) can do for your body and well-being and will try to keep this in mind next time somebody’s pushing me into that tough exercise or stretch at the gym.
Unfortunately the book is not available in English, but if you’re interested in the topic, you can surely find something interesting to read here.
Source article (unfortunately only available in Swedish): http://www.svd.se/nyheter/idagsidan/hjarnan-basta-verktyget-mot-varken_6938933.svd
In times when all of Europe (and some of its neighbouring countries) are preparing for the musical get-together of the year, The Eurovision Song Contest (ESC), Russia is generally a country to look out for. With a track record of ending among the top three in five of the past 11 years and a general strong voting base in the former Soviet Union they often bring an important contribution that’s considered an odds-on from the start. (Eurotechno or grand ballads with figure ice-skaters or ballet dancers usually being the winning concepts.) Nothing saying that that would have changed for this year, and many still saying they’re just as much of a favourite this year as other years, but you could definitely say they surprised many when bringing forth this year’s contribution.
Timely enough for the European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations (that I blogged about here), they’ve namely selected a group of 8 grand-mothers called the Buranovskiye Babushki (literally ‘Grandmothers from Buranovo’) that with their ethno-pop style out-performed former ESC winners Dima Bilan and T.A.T.u with almost 10 points by the public vote in the Russian national song selection. With most of the group being 70-80 years of age, only 6 out of the 8 grannies will be performing in Baku, Azerbadjzan next week when the competition starts with the semifinals.
However it ends up going for Russia’s new grannie stars, I still think their initiative is admirable and the fact that Russia ended up voting them winners a true mark of Solidarity between Generations, in its very own special way.
See them perform their winning song here:
I recently came across this fascinating story about a 95 year old fashionista whose recent passing was mourned in the whole fashion world of New York. Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to hear about her, or less meet her in person out and about, when living in New York myself a couple of years ago, but even though she’s no longer walking this earth, I still believe her story is worth telling.
Zelda Kaplan (already there, Zelda, the coolest name) was namely no ordinary 95 year-old, as you might have guessed. (Then again, what is an ordinary 95-year old? I’d say they’re all pretty extraordinary. Either way, Zelda was extraordinary in her very own way.) Quite alone representing her age group she had a habit of raising the middle age of New Yorks night clubs on a regular basis and usually stayed out until the early morning hour. She also frequented fashion shows, gallery openings and art shows and was quickly recognizable by her trademark the big round glasses, the colourful patterns and the ever-matching hat.
She passed away, as it suited such a personality, by fainting just before the start of a fashion show during fashion week in New York in February, and simply not waking up again.
I include a couple of memorable quotes of hers as chosen by the Time magazine (from a New York Times coverage), that I certainly believe to have made her, as they put it: “New York’s oldest and most beloved night owl”.
“I’m a curious person […] I want to keep learning until it’s over. And when it’s over, it’s over.”—New York Times, 2003
“I wish more people would have [clothes] made for them. But so many Americans want to look like everybody else [...] I hate to wear what everybody else is wearing [...] I don’t think people should be happy to be a clone.” –New York Post, 2010
“I want to be an example for young people so they aren’t afraid of growing old and a lesson to old people that you can be productive. You don’t have to sit around and wait for death.” - New York Times, 2003
“Many people turn a certain age and “check out,” but that is not me. In my 90s, I am not able to travel as much, so I must read everything I can at home to remain aware of global change, which provides me great knowledge to empower people through daily conversations, and through my charitable efforts.” – New York, 2010
“I think one of the things that keeps me healthy is that I’m not introspective at all. The secret is being interested in things outside of oneself.” - New York, 2003
Zelda Kaplan – Rest in peace.
Image source: http://glamreporter.blogspot.com/2012/02/tragic.html
Last week, what appears to be Cuba’s, and maybe even the world’s, oldest lady turned 127 years old. Celebrated during a full week of festivities with children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, great-great-grandchildren and even a local school class, the birthday celebrant did not seem to tire. Juana Bautista de la Candelaria Rodriguez was born on February 2, 1885, in the farmlands of Santa Rosa around the village of Ceiba Hueca, in the Cuban province of Granma, where she has lived over 100 years. During her celebrations she was joined by no less than 15 great-grandchildren and 6 great-great-grandchildren, and her own youngest son, 82 years old, who said that: ‘I never thought she’d reach this age.’ Having seen the birth of two centuries Juana is now blind since 6 years back, and she has some trouble walking, but that doesn’t seem to dampen her strong spirit. A true example to follow.
See below a video news coverage of Juana’s story in Spanish. The story told is the same as I’ve told above, but I attach the video to let the pictures tell their own story, even if you don’t understand the language:
Out of curiosity, digging a little further into the topic of who actually is the oldest registered woman to have lived according to the almighty Guinness World Book of Records they seem to state that she is only 122 years old, something that would make Juana the oldest woman to have walked this earth. But she seems to have good competition from a Dominican lady that turned 128 years old in 2003. The problem with both the Dominican lady, and it seems, maybe also with Juana, is that it’s been hard for some reason for Guinness book of records to fully confirm the authenticity of their birth certificates. Until that is done, I guess we’ll just have to keep it a blog family secret (and let BBC and The Telegraph into the family too, since they seem to believe it as well). And with all due respect to Guinness meticulousness, chances are that there are more people than Juana and the Dominican lady (who’s name is Elisabeth by the way) that are even older, but don’t have the means, nor the interest to prove it through any national civil registration system.
When my mum’s husband was studying yoga in India in his youth word had it that there were yogis around that were as old as 150 years. But it was generally not something that you spoke about. And not important either, what was important was only the yoga philosophy, not worldly matters such as age, birth place and background. No wonder such communities don’t bother proving any records to an Irish-founded book created to settle a pub fight about which was the fastest game bird around in Europe in the 1950s. Even if it later became the best-selling copy-righted book series of all time.
Can’t help but returning to the theme of life’s second chances in my writing. I guess it might be related to being a person with a little too many interests to be able to realize all of them as career choices in one life time (and put to that a general dislike for making choices) and my fascination for seeing people that reinvent themselves at the age of 80 suddenly becomes quite evident.
Next up is the career of a dancer. A profession I hold dearly, since I, myself, earlier pursued a dance career before changing lanes over to the engineering guild.
I don’t know if there are any communities that are as judging when it comes to age as that of the dancing community. If you didn’t start at five, it’s over, if being a prima ballerina is what makes your heart beat. At least that’s what they tell you.
BUT, what if it isn’t true?
Obviously there are a lot of pros with starting early if you want to become a principal or first soloist of the Kirov (Mariinksy) Ballet of St Petersburg, but as a Guardian Theatre Blog post recently pointed out, there is a lot to the stories told in ballets or dance performances that having a little life experience can make more interesting.
And the best part is that there are quite a lot of good examples. Apart from the obvious dance icons of Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham and ballet icon Frederic Franklin, who all continued to give popular performances up in their 70s (90s(!) for Franklin), just adapting movements to the new restrictions of the body, there are also examples of people having started to dance way later than in their 10s or 20s. Such as e.g. Cambridge pensioner John Lowe, who started dancing ballet at the age of 79 and recently at the age of 88 performed on stage in his first ballet at a regional theatre. Specific routines and stretches supported with ropes help him keep up with his arabesques.
So I say, if you want it – just go and get it. Be it a career of dance, music, writing, acting, photography, archeology or whatever you’ve always wanted, but never taken the time to do, or thought you’d have become too old to pursue. Sure, age does affect the body. But apparently less in some cases than our mind makes us believe.
More to come on this very interesting topic…
PS. This post also makes me think about my old ballet teacher. He always used to say that students that had once trained for him didn’t get injured, because they learnt the techniques right from the start. Another one of those prejudices. That ballet will destroy your body. It doesn’t need to, if you are just careful when approaching it. Another important hint for all you senior to be-dancers out there. DS.
What do you think about when I say grandparent?
Cinnamon roles, a warm smile, a friendly voice and some amazing stories told and songs sung before going to bed on a summer’s eve? A prankish friend with a childlike mind inventing new games, adventures and setting up family shows starring you as the main act anytime the family got together? A strict head of family, speaking slow and only when necessary, that sets all the rules and expects you to pay your respect and loyalty?
Whichever is your personal memory of a grandparent I’m sure it’s a special one, which is why I felt a particular warmth inside when I came across a particular news article when preparing for my latest blogpost on Active Ageing. The article was about a new research project on grand-parenting, reported by the European Union’s initiative of focusing the year of 2012 on the topic of Active Ageing and Solidarity Between Generations (the former part of that focus being one that I particularly feel about).
Launched in October 2011 by the organization Grandparents plus, the research project, or International Study of Grandparenting, set out to examine the role of grand-parenting across Europe, and answer the questions of how grand-parenting differs from family to family and from country to country and how family policy frameworks shape the role of grandparents.
One thing that the pre-study, launched in 2010, found is that grandparents’ role in family life is likely to become more important as populations age. Parents of tomorrow are both more likely to have parents that are alive, but also healthy and financially stable, and thus can take a bigger part in their grandchildren’s lives. Therefore it is also increasingly interesting to look at how legislation and social policies across different countries have dealt with the inclusion of grandparents in family life, where examples such as transferable parental leave in Germany, basic state pension credits for taking care of grandchildren in the UK or financial support for grandparents of teenage parents in Portugal are a couple of the forerunners.
While looking forward to the results of the newly launched research project maybe you have your own good grandparent story to share? What is your best grandparent memory? For me, my viking grandpa has provided me with a couple of good ones for sure. Maybe that could be the topic of another blog post?
Til then, Happy (soon) Grandparents Day Poland! (21st of January) (First country in the world to start celebrating the tradition of a National Grandparents Day.)
As we enter into the year of 2012 there are lots of exciting things going on on the scene of demographic ageing and the ‘silver evolution’. As it seems, more and more people, organizations and governments are becoming aware of the enormous potential in the growing 65+ generation and keeping them actively involved in society. In this blog post I set out to outline five things, all related to the topic of Active Ageing, that I believe to become important during the year of 2012.
But first a quick break for terminology: What is actually meant by Active Ageing? According to the European Union it’s defined as:
“Giving the baby boom generation and tomorrow’s older adults the opportunity to:
- stay in the workforce and share their experience
- keep playing an active role in society
- live as healthy and fulfilling lives as possible.”
Or as the World Health Organization (WHO) put it: “Active ageing is the process of optimizing opportunities for health, participation and security in order to enhance quality of life as people age.”
1. One initiative along those lines is that of the European Union (EU) who has designated the year of 2012 as the European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations. The European Union has a tradition since 1983 of dedicating every year to a specific cause important for society. On the 14th of September 2011 the European Parliament decided that the turn had come to the cause of Active Ageing and Solidarity Between Generations. In practice, this means that since that day a number of organizations, both public and private, have been invited to take part in or lead initiatives with tangible, measureable results to be followed up upon during 2012 related to those two topics. This includes everything from research projects on Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) for ageing, and making use of participative web 2.0 tools in caregiving for frail older people, to facilitating the creation of new business opportunities for products and services related to the ageing challenge, promoting better inclusion of elders in the labour market and showing photo exhibitions picturing the intergenerational dialogue within Europe, to mention a few initiatives. In other words a very interesting agenda, that we are all looking forward to be following.
2. Meanwhile, at the other side of the Atlantic, Harvard Business Review Blogger and MIT Sloan School research fellow Michael Schrage, recently pointed out the business opportunity of adapting apps, devices and tablets to the growing senior customer base as one of six ‘Innovative Ideas to Watch in 2012′. All as the silver generation grows and becomes more active and technologically savvy.
3. And as one multilateral organization prepares for its year of Active Ageing another one under the United Nations (UN) umbrella, namely WHO, enjoys an increased awareness around their related programme of creating age-friendly cities. After arranging the programme’s first international age-friendly cities conference in late September 2011, now WHO’s intitiative is an integrated part of the EU’s year of Active Ageing, encouraging more European cities to apply to the network.
4. For 2012, the UN is also looking forward to get on with the the second quinquennial review of the outcome of the Second UN World Assembly on Ageing that took place in Madrid in 2002, also known as The Madrid International Plan of Action on Ageing (MIPAA), a document that marked a sort of turning point in how the world has seen the challenge of population ageing. This was the conference where the WHO presented their well-known Active Ageing Policy Framework that has served as a basis for the definition ever since.
5. Last but not least, as one of the pioneer organizations in advocating the rights of older people, also the International Federation on Ageing (IFA) will make their important contribution to the active ageing discourse next year. One way that they’ll be doing this is through their 11th bi-annual Global Conference on Ageing, which this year goes under the theme of ‘Ageing Connects’ – covering topics from work and the access to knowledge/education to advancing health and well-being and the possibilities within innovative products and connected technologies such as twitter, blogs and social networks.
In other words – a lot to look forward to during the coming year. So while we wait eagerly for all the good blog post material that the above mentioned happenings will generate, let us take the opportunity to wish you all:
A Happy New Year of Active Ageing!
When looking for inspiration on what to write my Boxing Day blog post about, I felt something related to the season would be adequate, thus a google search on ‘oldies + Christmas’ was a given.
I don’t know what I had expected to find, but the obvious ten top hits were all related to favourite Christmas oldies, as in ‘old Christmas songs’. And then it struck me. Have you ever thought about that so many of the Christmas songs and carols that we still consider our favourites were all recorded in the the 40s, 50s and 60s? Around the time when the people that are getting ready for retirement nowadays were born and young? I hadn’t. So I dug a little deeper and guess what I found?
Out of the 25 most popular Holiday songs in the US in the past decade (as in most played both on radio and i-Pods) all but two were songs initially recorded during the 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s. If you look at the top 10 songs for this holiday season all of them are from the same decades.
The single with most sold copies worldwide all time (regardless of genre) is White Christmas by Irving Berlin with Bing Crosby from 1942 and according to a Wikipedia compilation of the top ten songs with most copies sold worldwide three of them are Christmas carols, recorded during the 30s and 40s (#3 Bing Crosby – Silent Night, 1935 (even if this particular song is based on an Austrian song from 1818), #1 Bing Crosby – White Christmas from 1942 and #8 Gene Autry – Rudolph The Red-nosed Reindeer from 1949).
When cross-checking and putting together the numbers I was quite fascinated, even if the metrics of ‘copies sold’ in particular might not be the most fair to songs released in our later digitalized music era.
I also found an intent of giving an explanation as to why it’s so hard to come up with another ‘Rudolph’ Christmas hit and that was given by a Canadian newspaper in 1979. The article explained that back in the day when Rudolph The Red-nosed Reindeer was released, such a hit would be released already in September and therefore have a longer period of time to reach popularity, whereas in 1979 (and still today) most malls and radio stations won’t start playing Christmas songs until late November (after Thanksgiving), making Christmas hits a less lucrative business having only a couple of weeks to create the same billboard sensations.
Whichever the reason, one thing is certain: for the seniors joining the 65+ silverevolution in the coming years, much will have changed since they were young, but when it comes to the favourite songs played each year around Christmas, the are likely to keep reminding them of their childhood for many years to come.
With that said I’d like to take the opportunity to wish all of you a belated Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays with one of my own favourite Christmas songs (that got to #3 on the music charts back in its day in 1946):
Sweden, as one of the countries in the world with the most choir singers/capita (about every 15th person sings in a choir), is, needless to say, an enthusiastic contributor to the Eurovision Song Contest. If you haven’t, however, thought of dedicating your life to a music career at an early age, popular artist scout and event guru Lasse Lingman has arranged so you can get a second chance.
Dating more than 20 years back he and his production company has been arranging a competition called Seniorchansen, ‘The Senior Chance’, since last year renamed PROstjärnan, ‘The PRO Star’, after the Swedish National Pensioners Association’s (PRO – Pensionärernas Riksorganisation (the largest Pensioners Association in Sweden and the Nordics)) support for the competition. After eight regional ‘pre-finals’, eight winners are sent off to compete in the finals during a cruise on the Baltic Sea with another 1500 pensioners for one and a half days.
The competition attracts a lot of people that have dedicated their spare time to making music, be it singing or playing instruments or both. (It’s actually defined as a talent show, and not necessarily a music talent show, but the focus in the past years has been on music acts.) One of them is Elsa-Doris Ekman, who won the competition in 2002 as a 70 year old woman. Since then she’s received quite a bit of attention both from Swedish National Television on big Saturday night shows such as ‘Det kommer mera’ (‘There will be more’) and as entertainer on cruises in the Baltic Sea to mention a few examples. Nowadays she’s splitting her time between Sweden and Gran Canaria, Spain, where she, among other things, has become an alternating part of the house band at venues in Playa del Inglés.
Below you can see her perform ‘Lilla vackra Anna’ (‘Little beautiful Anna’) in January this year, as a 79 year old, at ‘Trollstugan’ (The Troll Lodge), a restaurant and meeting place for Scandinavians, Playa del Inglés, Gran Canaria (Canary Islands), Spain.
Featured image source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/42931449@N07/5771025070/sizes/m/in/photostream/
As the country with one of the highest life expectancies in the world (ranging between 3rd (among women) and 23rd place depending on list, estimation method and gender (Source: CIA World Fact Book 2011 and United Nations World Population Prospects (Highlights, Table A17 or the 2010 revision) Spain has a clear challenge ahead of them in the coming years.
Well aware of the fact that Spain’s population pyramid has changed shape in the past 20 years from an actual pyramid to that of a thick-stemmed Christmas tree (see above picture), and that the prospects for the coming 40 years is that the population over 65 years of age will grow from today’s 18 % share of the population to 32% according to the Spanish government’s recently issued White paper on active ageing, p. 40 (compared to the 100 years it took to grow from 4% to today’s 18%), Spain’s government, autonomous communities and municipalities are starting to take action. With a multi-faceted approach on how to tackle the related challenges one topic that is, rightfully, always revisited is that of healthcare and, more importantly, the preventive type, focused on how to keep an active lifestyle for better life quality.
One of the things that you might see if you go on a trip around the country is the recent popularity of ‘parques saludables’, health parks, in green areas and along beaches and/or other open spaces. The concept – originally inspired by Chinese tradition and culture, with an inherent respect for our elders and their well-being along with a holistic approach towards a person’s body and health – consists of the setting up of a number of ‘simpler’ training machines that work with your body weight in order to create the adjusted counter weight for you to best strengthen your body and practice your balance. And not only do they provide an opportunity for good training, these health parks also create a fun way of socializing together around something that can be considered a bit more challenging of an exercise than the generic Sunday stroll. And I can tell you they’re definitely fun to use for more than the older generation.
Graph source: El envejecimiento de la población española, Perez-Diaz, Investigación y ciencia, noviembre 2010