A while ago I received an email from a developer at the Social Service Center in a municipality located in the south of Sweden. She had bought 30 iPads that she had distributed to disabled, elderly, drug addicts and mentally ill adults within the municipality. She wrote to me as she and her colleagues were amazed by the results! A young mentally disabled man who normally did not move much, all of a sudden became very active to everybody’s surprise. The personnel filmed him with an iPhone and sent to his parents who were thrilled. An elderly Czech woman with dementia got the opportunity to listen to her native language on the iPad. The happiness that brought to her was enormous. An elderly man known for always acting out and being aggressive became calm and happy simply from watching puppies on the iPad. An elderly lady photographed herself from different angles making sure she looked her best in every picture, strengthening her self-image and self-esteem.
In addition, the elderly could easily stay in touch with relatives, near and far, by using Skype. The drug addicts were able to go online and read magazines, play games, paint and play instrument through the iPad.
The woman who emailed me concluded by saying that these changes in behavior may look small and insignificant but for the people going through this it is of great importance. This is a great example on how we can update the way we provide care for the elderly and invite them to take part of the high-tech devices that have already become a natural part of our lives.
One of the key challenges in current and future elderly care is how to engage the younger generation in this topic. We need to inspire young people to innovate for elderly and to become elderly care entrepreneurs.
At ACCESS Health International, we believe that it is time to give the elderly care industry an “injection” in the form of new ideas and knowledge that enables improvements in the lives of the elderly. In the light of this, we have launched the innovation program Modern Aging, which aims to support young entrepreneurs with ideas with the potential to improve quality of life for the elderly.
Modern Aging helps young entrepreneurs to take their ideas from vision to reality during a four-month innovation program and make the ideas as impactful as possible. The program is filled with seminars and workshops as well as coaching and mentoring for the entrepreneurs and their ideas. Through the program the entrepreneurs will build important networks of industry experts, mentors and peers. The entrepreneurs will develop leadership skills in order to take their idea concepts forward as well as gaining in-depth understanding of the conditions, attitudes and lifestyles of the new generation of the elderly and how ideas can be tailored to their needs.
The goals of the program is twofold; both to bring new innovation for elderly to the market as well as highlighting elderly care as an industry of the future.
The recruitment of entrepreneurs is currently taking place. Do you have an idea for elderly that you would like to realize – visit the Modern Aging website for your chance to participate in the program that runs August-November in Stockholm, Sweden. The application deadline is the 24th of May.
The program has been made possible by support from the Swedish Postcode Lottery.
3D Dentomed is a Swedish company that works with mobile dental care for the elderly and the disabled in a very innovative way. They move their mobile clinics between different nursing homes to enable the treatment of all elderly, not only the ones that are mobile enough to go to the dentist’s office. The mobile clinic is fully equipped with proper dental chair and x-ray, which enables offering all the treatments that a normal dental visit would offer. The mobile unit and its equipment was developed by the Karolinska Institute department for Oral Diagnostics as a compensation for abandoned hospital clinics and reduced staffing at nursing homes.
The mobile unit is normally placed in a nursing home during a period of 3 to 5 weeks but the unit can also be sent to the elderly’s home. Bedridden patients can even receive their treatment in bed. Routines of hygiene in the mobile unit are the same as in a stationary clinic.
Dentomed is the only company in its field to date that has succeeded in outreach mobile dental care on a continuous basis. The founder of the company, Anne von Hofsten, is a dental hygienist and had identified a real need for better dental health among elderly. Due to the medication elderly often take; such as beta-blockers and cardiac drugs, they often suffer from having a dry mouth, which can cause severe problems. Dentomed has operations in eight county councils in Sweden and have approximately 50.000 patients and 45 employees. Due to the success of the concept, they are now expanding internationally.
The issue of social isolation among elderly people is a great worry and needs to be addressed. Statistics show that a quarter of 70 to 85 year-olds stay at home all day throughout the whole week except for short outings to the shop or for a walk. The corresponding figure in the younger group of 55 to 69 year-olds, is fourteen percent. The high degree of social isolation is often due to their own and their friends’ reduced mobility. Internet has become a natural way of staying in touch with old friends and connecting with new ones for most younger people but the uptake of interactive web offers among elderly is very small. This is largely due to the fact that most of what is offered is designed for experienced web users and pay little attention to the needs of the elderly who therefore feel confused and unable to cope.
One of the European Community’s great initiatives is the project Silvergame - a multimedia platform stimulating elderly to play and interact with each other and get in contact both virtually and in reality. The project is under development and technological advances in ICT are utilised to create an interactive platform. It is developed during a 26 months period in close collaboration with end users, psychologists and sociologists to enable the creation of a platform that takes into consideration the learning process and needs of older users. The project will be designed in a way that allows people that share the same hobbies and passions; such as singing, driving or dancing to connect with each other. Some examples of different applications on the platform are “The multimedia driving simulator for cognitive training”, ” a virtual silver song club”, “dance and fitness training”. Additionally, there are information services and contacts, such as travelling or dating services integrated on the platform. There are also offerings of real events such as concerts, song clubs or dance groups in a near location. All interaction includes videoconferencing and the thought is that friends and family shall exchange their experience before and after gaming.
By bringing web-based information services to the elderly people’s homes, social isolation is prevented and an active and social daily life is fostered.
B. Seewald, M. John, J. Senger, A. N. Belbachir: Silvergame – A project aimed at social integration and multimedia interaction for the elderly
As a response to the growing number of elderly people living alone in their own homes, the AGNES project was initiated by six EU member countries; Sweden, Germany, Spain, Greece, Italy and Austria. The AGNES project follows an approach to keep the elderly mentally and socially stimulated and in contact with others by combining information and communication technologies (ICT) and social network technologies. The objectives are to prevent, delay and help manage common chronic conditions of the elderly to improve and maintain the well-being and independence of elderly people wishing to continue living in their own homes and to reduce healthcare costs. The idea is that the technology should be embedded in everyday activities and objects that the elderly recognizes.
Scientists at a European Union Research Project are developing both the software and the hardware. It is a three-year project started in September 2009 and the aim is to develop systems and devices that can be turned into useful and usable products within two years of completion. One of the developed prototypes is the interactive curtain that turn green when new e-mail has arrived and red when reply is needed urgently. Another
one is the small wooden box containing motion-sensitive sensors. The box is connected to the Internet and can send messages when the elderly touches on one side of the box. If the other side is touched, it means the message is urgent. Shaking the box means that the elderly changes his mind and takes back the message. Seniors from the six member countries are testing the prototypes during three years.
This is a great initiative in today’s environment where it is critical to rationalize elderly care and decrease hospitalization among elderly to be able to cope with the aging baby boomers.
Ageing in a Networked Society – Social Inclusion and Mental Stimulation by John A. Waterworth, Soledad Ballesteros, Christian Peter, Gerald Bieber, Andreas Kreiner, Andreas Wiratanaya, Lazaros Polymenakos, Sophia Wanche-Politis, Michele Capobianc, Igone Etxeberria, Louise Lundholm
Video Source: Euronews Futuris
Today, 36 million people worldwide have dementia and that number is forecasted to increase to more than 115 million people by 2050 because of the aging of the population. A recent study, conducted at the Boston Medical Center shows that it is possible to determine how likely you are to develop dementia or stroke by measuring your walking speed and the strength of your grip. A general practitioner or a primary care physician could easily conduct these tests that can provide insight into the risk of dementia.
Lead researcher Dr. Erica Camargo and her colleagues have examined 2410 people with an average age of 62, over a time period of 11 years. Their brains have been scanned and their walking speed and strength of grip has been measured. 34 of the participants developed dementia and 79 had a stroke. It was found that middle-aged people who walk slowly were one-and-a-half times more likely to develop dementia at over 65 compared with people who walked faster. People with a strong grip had a 42 percent lower risk of stroke or a mini-stroke in later life.
Dr. Erica Camargo said “While frailty and lower physical performance in elderly people have been associated with an increased risk of dementia, we weren’t sure until now how it impacted people of middle age.”
The study has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal but the results will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology annual meeting in April this year.
Sources: World Alzheimer Report 2011 (http://www.alz.co.uk/research/WorldAlzheimerReport2011.pdf)
I was recently at a fair in Sweden called Worldclass Senior Life where one of the many booths belonged to a company called Suntech. At Suntech’s booth, instead of a pile of brochures and a bowl of candy, Suntech had rigged a beach with sand, sun chairs and parasols. Here, the fair visitors could take a break from the intense fair and enjoy the bright sun light. Swedish company Suntech is the first one to simulate real sunlight worldwide, meaning that they produce light that contain the whole spectrum of the real sun with wave-lengths of the exact same proportions. Compared to light therapies that can be found in hospitals, Suntech’s light is 10 times stronger but the light is still on a controlled and safe level as 90% of the UV radiation is filtered out.
The Suntech light is particularly suitable for elderly. They can enjoy a quiet indulgence in an environment that affect all senses. The ones that have enjoyed holidays in the sun earlier in their lives get the chance to relive the experience inside the nursing home. The light makes people happier and more alert at the same time as it serves as a meeting place for elderly at the nursing home. Research has shown that the light helps the body to produce vitamins and it affects the epiphysis positively. The immune defense is strengthened at the same time as the replicated sun’s heat mitigates stiffness and muscle pain.
Nursing homes installing a Suntech room are free to design their own scenography; Suntech can build anything from a coastal landscape in the archipelago to a tropical beach including light, sound and wind. In its smallest design, which fits 7 people, the price for the Suntech room is approximately 25.000 USD.
26-year old French fashion designer, Fanny Karst, is the co-founder of Old Ladies Rebellion, a fashion brand for pensioners who dares to stand out. She wanted to revolutionize the stylish options available to women her grandmother’s age and offer them something else than cheesy suits and navy cardigans. The clothes are designed specifically to give older ladies fashion-forward shapes in a style that suits them, which involves a lot of hiding, shaping, and flattering. Fanny Karst believes that too often with age, women cease to dress pretty because they think they are looked over. Old Ladies Rebellion proves that you can be elegant and a little bit rock’n’roll at any age.
I certainly find this young designer with a degree in fashion print from Central St Martins School in London very bold to design clothes for women three times her age and to use models walking down the catwalk with crutches in an environment obsessed with youth and where you are considered old at 24.
Read below interview to find out why Fanny Karst thinks it is so great to design for older ladies and who she would dream of designing for.
As is widely known, the risk of falling increases with age for a number of reasons, such as decrease in bone density and failure to exercise regularly resulting in decreased strength. But another reason, which is not as debated, is all the medication that elderly are prescribed, especially antidepressants that are commonly used when elderly are starting to worry about the future. As falls are the leading cause of death from injury among people 65 or over and the fact that the majority of the lifetime cost of injury for people 65 or over can be attributed to falls, this is an important area of study.
Prior research indicates that there is a connection between medication with anti-depressive drugs and the risk of falling. This inspired scientists at Erasmus University in Rotterdam to investigate whether the connection between antidepressants and injurious falls is dose-dependent. A study involving 248 patients with dementia at a nursing home was conducted. Drug prescription and injurious falls were analysed during a period of two years and the results show a significant higher risk of falling for patients using SSRI, Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, (a class of compounds typically used as antidepressants in the treatment of depression, anxiety disorders and some personality disorders). The higher the dose, the higher the risk of falling. A low dose (25% of the Defined Daily Dose) resulted in 31% higher risk of falling and a higher dose (100% of the Defined Daily Dose) tripled the risk of falling.
This study, published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, is the first one to quantify the contribution of SSRI to the risk of falling. The results indicate that even low doses of SSRI are associated with an increased risk of falling for patients suffering from dementia. This leads the scientist to suggest that new treatment protocols should be assumed.
Image source: http://www.arabstoday.net/en/2012011980618
In my search for innovative systems promoting patient-centred integrated care, I recently came across the company myVitali, which is designed to facilitate for people approaching what Jane Fonda calls “Life’s Third Act”. MyVitali is a system integrated into the own home, consisting of emergency call, vital monitoring, control, information and supply services offering the security of total care. The system is designed to motivate the user to actively and effectively take care of his health. The company has aimed to create an intuitive interaction concept rather thought of as a lifestyle product than a device for telehealth.
The project was born out of a brainstorming session between the developers at Massive Art Multimedia in Austria and CoSi Elektronik in Germany where they produced the idea of bringing together several aspects of the modern computing world and applying them specifically to senior citizens. As Massive Art Multimedia’s Tom Ulmer explains, “The introduction of computing power into the lives of the elderly can offer reminders to take medicines, dietary advice, immediate access to medical professionals and much more. It also reduces the need for visits to a local doctor. Users can take important measurements such as their blood pressure, weight and body fat and have that information directly uploaded to the system. Any healthcare professional they deal with can therefore have immediate access to their recent health records.”
The system is designed assuming very little computer knowledge of their users, without compromising on the inclusion of advanced technology, such as wireless, webcams and touch pads. Users with sight and hearing problems are also taken into consideration. All the information that is gathered belongs to the user and he can limit access at any time. The data is safeguarded using the same technology that banks use for mobile devices.
For a better understanding of how myVitaly works, have a look at the below video which is posted under “Our Goals” on the company’s webpage.
Jane Fonda recently held a speech about what she calls “Life’s Third Act” which refers to the ages 60-90 and the fact that we on average today live 34 years longer than our great-grandparents did. Life’s Third Act is a whole second adult lifetime that has been added and Jane Fonda discusses how to make the most out of these years and how you can during this time free yourself from your past in order to become whole. As she approached her 60th birthday she did a life review where she studied the life she had lived in order to realize who she had really been. She also talks about the upward ascension of human spirit and how to avoid what she calls decrepitude.
This is a very inspiring speech by Jane Fonda who herself is more than a decade into her “third act” and has had three extraordinary careers as an Oscar-winning actress, an activist and a best-selling fitness guru. The speech was organized by TED, which holds conferences offering free knowledge and inspiration from the world’s most inspired thinkers.
Not only is falling in your home a great worry among elderly; the effort to pick them up is also one of the heaviest and most ergonomically complicated tasks in nursing care. For this reason, the engineers at the Stockholm-based Centre for Health and Building, CHB, were induced to build a helping device. The result is a wheeled walker that through its innovative design can help a fallen person back on his feet.
Silviahemmet is a Swedish foundation including both a nursing home for patients suffering from dementia as well as a dementia education branch founded by Professor Barbro Beck-Friis in 1996. As part of the education branch, an entire dementia unit can be educated to receive the unique quality indicator of the Silviahemmet certification. In order to receive the certification, ALL personnel including nurses, housecleaners, janitors and directors need to be educated in dementia according to the foundation’s guidelines. The aim of the certification is to incorporate a comprehensive view and understanding of the care of dementia patients across all levels in the unit. The certification is followed up yearly and needs to be renewed regularly. Professor Beck-Friis is a geriatrician and a leading expert in the world regarding the care of elderly with dementia and her philosophy is based on four cornerstones;
1) Patient-focused care/symptom control
3) Support to relatives
4) Communication and relationships
Most recently she was awarded the Japanese “Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette” for her outstanding contribution to the development of elderly care in Japan and enhancement of the relationship between Japan and Sweden. The reason the Government of Japan awarded her was because she played a vital role in introducing the concept of group home to Japan by accepting many study visits.
When I read about Teresa Hsu I was reminded of why I am so passionate about elderly and so anxious to improve the care they receive when they need it. This woman is a 114-year old social worker and founder of the Heart to Heart Service and Home for the Aged sick. Teresa, also known as Singapore’s Mother Teresa has devoted her life to people that have less than herself. She was born to extreme poverty in Guangdong province in China and was early convinced she wanted to educate herself. After learning English and studying bookkeeping in Hong Kong, at the age of 47 she convinced the London Nursing Council to accept her as a student and spent the next years in UK to become a nurse. As a nurse she travelled all over Europe working for the International Voluntary Service for Peace (IVSP).
Upon her return to Singapore, in 1965 Teresa set up the country’s first home for aged sick in Singapore where she was the matron until the age of 83. Already in 1923, she started a community service providing for the homeless, needy, disabled and abandoned called Friends of the Needy which was later renamed Heart to Heart. Until this day she still works for the organization to care for the aged and sick who are younger than her. Except for that, she also reads, meditates and practise yoga every day and she started learning Sanskrit at the age of 100.
The world is my home, all living beings are my brothers and sisters, selfless service is my religion – Teresa Hsu
Listen to her own words in this video:
Video source: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VAv9_IefGxM
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