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Retirees on Speaking Exchange with Brazilian English students

Ideas sometimes seem so simple and obviously great, so you ask yourself ”Why has nobody come up with that before?!”

I came across the innovative Speaking Exchange project, which is about lightening up the lives of elderly, while at the same time giving Brazilian students the opportunity to practice their English skills. Reports about this case seem to go viral on the web these very days (see links below).

The idea was established by FCB Brazil, and put into practice together with the CNA language school in Liberdade, Brazil and the Windsor Park Retirement Community in Chicago.

I was so surprised and fascinated when I watched this clip about the Speaking Exchange:

The man shows the boy an old photo. “Is this your dad?” the boy asks. “No, It’s me and my wife when we were young”, he answers. “Oh you were good-looking when you were young”, the boy says – pause – “and you are still good-looking!”. Screen Shot 2014-05-10 at 18.30.04

“I look like I’m only 25”, another man says. He and the boy a are laughing, “but I’m 88”. The two are having a nice conversation. In the end, they share a big, virtual hug.

The school uses its own digital tool for video chatting where conversations are recorded and uploaded privately for teachers to evaluate the talk language-wise.

But there is much more to this than just the language…

It’s fun and warms my heart to listen to their conversations about all the World and his brother.

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Innovation in Transportation for Seniors: The Elements

The Community Transportation Association (CTAA) and the Beverly Foundation of the United States brought forth a quote in their report from rural America: “Many of our innovations are by necessity, not by design.” Being driven by necessity is, unfortunately, a hard and cold fact for innovations in general. Only at the brink of when we are about to run out of a resource are our major leaders interested in bringing something new forward. Concerning transportation — and particularly in rural areas — it is indeed a necessity to consider the elderly population.

A summary of CTAA’s and Beverly Foundation’s findings [1]:

(1) The out-migration of the younger population,
and the in-migration and aging-in-place of the older
population, has resulted in an increase in the
population that is less mobile and less able to drive
or navigate transportation services.

(2) Many seniors, especially those who are frail and
in need of assistance, depend on community
transportation services to get to both life sustaining
and life enriching activities.

(3) Transportation services face numerous
operational and financial challenges in meeting the
transportation needs of seniors.

(4) Transportation services generally address
everyday challenges such as scheduling with everyday
solutions such as technology.

(5) In addition to everyday solutions, many
transportation services successfully introduce new
or novel changes from the standard way of doing
things. Such changes generally are described as

According to this source, the Keys to Innovation (beyond leadership) include A Point of Origin (i.e. Why is this innovation needed? In this case, transportation may be forced to shut down if nothing is done due to a financial crisis with driver salaries, etc.), An Idea Factory (i.e. Where innovations are created. For example, a volunteer driving program), People Markers (i.e. The people define the innovation. For example, riders recruit drivers and drivers recruit riders), and last but not least, a Receptive Culture (i.e. The status of the society’s willingness for change.)

As the decline of infrastructure was apparent in rural America — and the rate with which the elderly population rose higher than when compared to urban America (also considering the differential between the youth leaving vs. the older staying) — the elderly in these areas have been having a challenge. Limitations include the lack of novel treatments and care, destination travel (with the factor of time — especially for long medical trips), and social isolation. But despite these enormous challenges, the Beverly Foundation and CTAA claimed that rural America is “doing a lot with a little,” so to speak.



Innovations in Personal Transportation Vehicles: Challenge or Opportunity?

Dean Kamen’s Segway® Personal Transporter (PT) unleashed waves of enthusiasm with its release in 2001 quite frankly as a vehicle for the new age. The self-balancing gyrometers — with their fascinating ability to sustain an upright position — posited a truly bizarre realization for our populace: that times are changing and we need to be ready for it.

This realization certainly does not exclude the elderly population, whom have gone perhaps through the most changes humanity have ever faced in history; with such a dramatic recombination of technology in this past century.

If you browse through search engines and correlate the Segway with the elderly, you won’t find many innovations concerning our aged population. You will find concerns on how the elderly view such devices as the Segway — particularly the operator not being able to control it safely enough in order to prevent collisions with said elders. Forums may reveal that Segways are user-friendly for the elderly if they wish to operate them for themselves, however, safety and bug issues are always notable. It is difficult to find information, if any, regarding devices such as these specifically tailored for those in our population who require more care in their designs for mobility.

Personal Transportation Vehicles such as the Segway have brought a hallmark of inventive changes for the general population. Now, however, with a global, dramatically aging population, focus needs to be directed on the safety and effectiveness of such devices for those with more frail or limited mobility.


Willpower: A tool for elders to reinvent themselves

Today gives rise to a new state of mind for the baby boomers. As our elderly are expected to retire during ages 60-65; start playing golf, cleaning the garage and priming up the garden, it brings forth question: Do they want to do this for the rest of their years?

According to Global Action on Aging (GAA) of New York, the elderly appear to have a strong incentive to contribute to society by having a will to stay in the workforce. Trends have shown that working men between ages 62 and 74 in the past decade have risen by about 40%, whereas working women in these ages and in this same time period have risen by 60%. A large proportion of elderly in the States report low amounts of savings, and though while financial reasons are a large contributor to the elderly staying in the workforce, apparently it is not the only one. “All the research we’ve done shows that, even when the money issue is put aside, people don’t want to do nothing.” – Tammy Erickson, author of “Retire Retirement: Career Strategies for the Boomer Generation” (Harvard Business School Press, 2008)

“Call it a second phase, an encore, a reinvention. Just don’t call it retirement. More people are entering their mid-60s — stuck, perhaps, with dismayingly skimpy savings accounts, but blessed with sound health and many years ahead of them — and deciding that retirement doesn’t top their agenda.” – Katy Read, The Courier-Journal

“My speculation is that the more mature the individual, the more self-reflective or self-aware they are, the more likely to recognize that they need to retool, to kind of reinvent themselves.” – Jeff Hudson, program director for continuing education and customized training at Normandale Community College in Bloomington, Minnesota

Perhaps the wave of baby boomers caused a silver evolution and revolution in and of itself; consciously, or unconsciously, as a self-protective mechanism by our elders themselves, to help contribute to the aging world. If it be conscious, however — striven with willpower — it will probably make the outcome much more successful. Willpower is the tool needed to reinvent yourself for a reinventing future, whether is it re-educating yourself, taking on a new initiative, or quite simply charting out a new path to meet your dreams.



People Don’t Want to Retire: Many Seniors Prefer Reinventing Themselves

Former Seattlites are Reinventing Themselves in the Hills of San Miguel

Happy times a comin’ – majority of to-be pensioners optimistic about their future

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:

Average duration of different periods in life at different points in time (1920-2040). X-axis shows between which ages each period of life approximately runs and the periods (as explained in the top right corner) are, from the top: Childhood, Emancipation, Freedom years, Responsibility years and Old age.

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)):

Country case for chronic disease: Japan and its staggeringly low cardiovascular death rates

(Yoshikazu Tsuno/AFP/Getty Images)

“Noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), primarily cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes, are responsible for 63% of all deaths worldwide (36 million out of 57 million global deaths)” – World Health Organization, 2011

Noncommunicable diseases – also referred to as chronic diseases – remain the number one global cause of deaths worldwide and cardiovascular disease (CVD) or heart disease remains at the top of the pedestal. Chronic diseases significantly concern the elderly, as 75% of 36 million global deaths attributable to chronic disease occurred beyond age 60 in 2011. In this report, we must highlight Japan – the country with the highest average elderly age yet the lowest cases of heart disease.

As early as 1981, Professor Geoffrey Rose of Epidemiology wrote an article in the British Medical Journal about taking the action of preventing CVD. He showed staggeringly low numbers of how Japan in 1968 had just over 100 deaths per 100,000 population attributable to coronary heart disease (CHD), whereas before the United States was able to drop their rates considerably over time, in 1968 they had the highest number – with over 800 deaths per 100,000 population. Sweden was around the middle, with approximately 450 deaths per 100,000 population. Further, Rose adds, “The Japanese owe their low rates not to their genes but to their way of life: when they move to America they rather quickly acquire American rates.” In addition to affirming Japan’s low death ratio, the United States and Australia had shown drops of 25% till year 1977, indicating that therapeutic advancements and prevention strategies can considerably reduce the deaths from CHD – which represent approximately half of CVD deaths (Iso, 2008). Japan has been able to keep their low CHD death ratio similar with a slight drop till 1977 (Rose, 1981) and has considerably dropped further – with over a 50% drop from this time frame to year 2000, having now around 37 deaths per 100,000 population (Iso, 2008). Dr. Hiroyasu Iso of Social and Environmental Medicine wrote in the Journal of the American Heart Association that Japan still has the lowest CHD ratio of high-income countries – between one-third and one-fifth that of the United States.

The decline of CHD deaths in Japan is attributable to the decline of mean systolic blood pressure levels and the prevalence of smoking. However, an issue is arising with a high prevalence of western fast-food diets increasing the mean serum total cholesterol and triglyceride levels (Iso, 2008). It is curious as to how Japan started with such a low ratio of deaths from CHD, and as we have heard from Professor Rose, it is due to their lifestyle. Is this lifestyle perhaps significantly affected by the practice of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) or Traditional Medicine (TM) involving the use of exercise, herbs, or other techniques? In order to explain a counterbalance for a high-fat-intake diet, I recommend collaboration with a national research organization such as the Japan Society of Oriental Medicine to investigate how the effects of Japanese Traditional Medicine, i.e. Kampo, derived from Chinese Traditional Medicine might be attributable to the low incidence of CHD deaths in Japan.

According to Dr. Johan von Schreeb of Karolinska Institute’s Public Health Sciences, approximately 1/3rd of Japan’s population is over age 60 and the country has the highest average aged population in the world – leading with 84 as the mean age of life expectancy. Prevention of chronic diseases is on the forefront of today’s world, with so many medical advances leading not only high-income countries but countries all over the world to jolt up in life expectancy. And as life expectancy rises, so does the demand for prevention of chronic disease. Is there a golden formula somewhere out in the Far East that could face this issue? As the country with the leading population of elders, perhaps there really is something about Japan that the world could need.


The Epoch Times. Image Retrieved April 4th, 2012:

World Health Organization. 10 FACTS ON NONCOMMUNICABLE DISEASES. September 2011. Retrieved March 29th, 2012:

Schreeb, Johan von. Lecture on Disasters & Relief. January, 2012. Karolinska Institutet, Solna, Stockholm. IHCAR Department of Public Health Sciences.

Hiroyasu, Iso. 2008. Changesin Coronary Heart Disease Risk Among Japanese. Journal of the American Heart Association 118:2725-2729.

Rose, Geoffrey. 1981. Strategy of prevention: lessons from cardiovascular disease. British Medical Journal 282:1847-1851.

Time to spin the wheel: A call for integrative medicine initiatives

With the push of Dr. Andrew Weil of the US — establisher of the field of integrative medicine (IM) — we need to move from a system of mere disease management to one that keeps people healthy, and, importantly, to have them stay that way. Deterioration of health only implies more work for those whom are part of care. If the elderly, for example, are able to take better care of themselves in this coming age, exhaustive effort will not be required for the dwindling amount of elderly care providers in contrast to the rising elderly population. There may quite be something to be found from a holistic perspective. One can, for example, take an antibiotic that rids away a pathogen, but it can very well come back again with a biological system somehow suppressed. What problem caused the initial unbalance from homeostasis? Was it the pathogen that was the primary problem, or rather, did it take advantage of a weakened system hindered by a certain state of psychology, mental/physical stress, and/or inadequate nutrition?

The path to finding the answer is a complex one. However, as IM uses so many perspectives and does not centralize treatment, this scientific, holistic process aims for both treating a condition and preventing it from arising again. This includes not only treating individuals by getting as deep as the bones of their body — in other words, physically — but to affect the whole core of their consciousness and unconsciousness — mentally and, arguably, spiritually. As several unconventional modes of treatment are spiritual, the very thought of integrating them into science brings up a vast dilemma. To even utter the word “spiritual” in the common scientific community is to be met as a black sheep, and thus, blunt skepticism has always been the barrier to the emergence of IM. The importance behind this is to understand the science behind the spirituality and to translate that language into what may be more “proper” to say. What an energy medicine practitioner might call the person’s “aura” may very well be the same thing as that person’s electro-photonic vibration response or “energy field,” present in all life forms. Methods to see this bio-electric field have been present now for over three-quarters of a century, starting with the Russian inventor, Kirlian; with more reliable adaptations present through Dr. Korotkov. It has been purportedly discovered in the late 90’s (see here, page 7) — not of course revealed through conventional science — that this bio-field appears to express our condition of health and went even so far as to diagnose patients based on their bio-field expression as based on the color and shape of the phenomena. This has also been purported by Dr. Ignatov of Bulgaria, whom has revealed highly controversial results regarding the bio-field phenomena of energy medicine practitioners.

With such a deep delving down into the rabbit hole and due to the way health care can be radically changed as a result, it can be understandable why IM has not been explored conventionally. However, this borders on ignorance, and the hindrance in exploring the mysteries of “those other treatments” is truly, at heart, unscientific. It is the heart of science to constantly explore the unknown; to challenge, test, or alter existing theories, and to aim for the discovery of those more universal. There is surely a lack of this regarding IM. For example, the National Institute of Complementary Medicine in Australia states,

Notwithstanding these factors, there is no current profile on integrated care initiatives; compendiums of examples and their benefits or information collected on a regularised and agreed basis to enable trends to be monitored and comparisions of health and cost benefits to be made.   Yet this information is required to inform future research choices and priorities as well as clinical practice.

Henceforth, with already-present tools available to quantify holistic treatment, a call should be sent forth to researchers and policy- and decision-makers in healthcare to create initiatives for researching and promulgating an evidence base to evaluate the effectiveness of integrative care.


Integrative medicine

Kirlian photography (Korotkov)

More advanced stages of Kirlian photography and discoveries (Korotkov)

More discoveries from Kirlian photography (Ignatov)

National Institute of Complementary Medicine