Archive | February 2012

Embrace Ageing Movement in Singapore

Some people argue that the youth world-wide is too focused on their own dreams and ambitions to engage for the elderly. These people have not met the youth of Singapore.

Following recent discussions about the location of new elderly facilities in Singapore, where certain residents of the Woodlands neighbourhood opposed the construction of an eldercare day centre to avoid a loss of community space and a possible drop in property prices, the students at the Nanyang Polytechnic wanted to make an active stand for embracing ageing. The students organized a movement, spread by Facebook, which aims to create awareness and promote social inclusion and acceptance of the elderly in Singapore.

The supporters of the cause are asked to either change their Facebook profile picture to a photo of an elderly person or to post on their Facebook status the number of years and days they have before they turn 65. To mark the first month of the “Embrace Ageing” movement on March 10, supporters are asked to wear  either gray clothing or accesories. The movement has already received around 700 likes on Facebook and is still gaining in popularity.

To support the youth movement, you can contribute by “liking” the Facebook page here:

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Replicated sunlight to stimulate elderly

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.


Medicare: knowing less than I thought I did, but finding where to learn.

I do not usually jump to take a test.  However, a kind email invited me to take The Medicare Quiz written and promoted by the Kaiser Family Foundation.  Many of my patients rely on Medicare, the main provider of health insurance for adults over 65 in the US, and a problem for our nation as our demographics shift to an older population and health care costs rise and rise.  (The official Medicare website.)

I felt I should see how much I really knew about this critical program, especially since right now Medicare and its payment structure stands to be affected by the ongoing rollout of President Obama’s healthcare reform act, the Affordable Care Act.  Not only that, but Medicare is enmeshed in Washington’s politics and a daily news item.  On Monday, the President announced his 2013 budget, and part of the savings he proposes comes from changes in Medicare.  Today, Wednesday, Congress agreed to changes in a payroll tax change that somehow also included NOT allowing payment cuts to doctors who take Medicare payments, making many doctors organizations very happy.

So, Medicare is part of our politics and our massive health care spending crisis, and what else do I know?

Turns out, little.  I scored 4/10. Devastated.  But I did know (or learned) that it is ~15% of our total budget and that 50 million people are insured by Medicare.  Somewhat astounding figures.

But, in a way I felt better.  The quiz gave me information and I rediscovered the Kaiser Family Foundation website.  It has incredible information and educational items, for example on all issues relevant to Medicare or health reform, and their news website that has a section on aging.  They have an incredibly clear lecture on the basics of Medicare on their education website and interactive tools throughout their websites that make learning easy.  For understanding health policy and Medicare, right now I have nothing better to recommend.  (In California, the California Healthcare Foundation provides many helpful resources, too.)

Everyday the news brings a new Medicare gem.  Now if I could only understand how Congress works…

Will you take the quiz?


Kaiser news on aging:

Kaiser Family Foundation:

Medicare Quiz:

California Healthcare Foundation:


Inspiring teenagers to work in elderly care

Young Care (Ung Omsorg in Swedish) is a Swedish staffing company in elderly care that organizes 570 young people with a great interest in elderly to co-work at retirement homes in Sweden. They work during weekends and school breaks and provide social care in addition to regular carers. The aim for these intergenerational meetings is to create bridges between generations as well as inspiring young people to work in the healthcare sector in the future.

Carema care, Sweden’s largest private care provider, is Young Care’s national partner and thereby has the sole right to employ Young Care teenagers. The teenagers come in a group of 6 people once a week to the 50 retirement homes that are involved. Examples of the activities that the young social carers provide include; 
  • Outdoor walks with elderly in a wheelchair
  • Reading aloud for those with vision impairment
  • Group activities such as singalong, parlour games, email and internet lessons etc.   
Young Care has won several awards including the global “FERD Award for Social Entrepreneurship” which was received with the following motivation: “”Ung Omsorg  impressed the judges not only because they achieved a powerful impact in their target market but also because they provided part-time work to 570 young people. This will have an impact on youngsters’ career choice, set of values, and emotional intelligence, all this generating a tremendous positive social impact!” said Johan. H. Andresen, Owner and CEO of FERD (, and Chair of the jury.””
See below video presentation by the three founders that started the company when they were 18 years old.

For better or for worse

While every pharmaceutical laboratories around the world is still developing the best anti-aging formulation, Fran and Marlo Cowan  is among one of those who have  figured out the miraculous formula.  The elderly couple who are married for more than six decades  have showed  the happiness in enjoying the golden years with a life companion through this video of them playing the piano in Mayo Clinic. This video went viral last year and people from all ages, color, language and culture are inspired on how they look like 20 year olds enjoying the time of their lives.

A study in the Student British Medical Journal found out that among old married couples in European countries surveyed , the mortality rates were lowered to 10 to 15 percent compared to the unmarried elderly. According to  Professor Deborah Carr of Rutgers  University, reasons for this are that married couples are more economically stable  with a partner and they benefit from having their partners look after them.

In the similar study of Health Psychology(2011) , it was  also showed that there is a strong relationship between the physical and emotional status and functional capacities of older married couples.They have found out that depressive symptoms such as unhappiness, loneliness and restlessness are associated with functional limitations. According to that study,depressive symptoms in one spouse are also more likely to occur to their partners proving that elderly who stays together will surely live for better or for worse.


Old Ladies Rebellion – fashion brand for pensioners

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.


Cuba’s oldest lady turned 127 last week

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:

Juana turns 127 years old

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.

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