Modern Aging Singapore kicked off in the middle of August. So far, the program has seen active participation and support from aspiring entrepreneurs. About three hundred students, health practitioners, researchers, and members of the public attended the Kickoff Workshop held at the NUS I Cube Building Auditorium on the morning of August 15.
Attendees were treated to four presentations from experts in aging and business: Overview of Aging by Prof. Angelique Chan of Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School, Healthcare and Business by Dr. Jeremy Lim of Oliver Wyman, Home and Center Based Care by Dr. Ng Wai Chong of the Tsao Foundation, and Product Design for Seniors by Hunn Wai of design firm Lanzavecchia + Wai.
Prof. Chan highlighted some key trends and statistics on aging in Singapore. One surprising point was the high prevalence of social isolation among seniors here. This finding spurred aspiring entrepreneurs to think of novel solutions to address this trend.
Dr. Lim went on to outline the aging sector in terms of business potential. One suprising finding, according to theNational Center for Policy Analysis, is the average net worth in 2010 was 848,000 USD for sixty five to seventy four year olds and nearly seven hundred thousand dollars for those above seventy five. These figures encouraged aspiring entrepreneurs to enter the aging sector.
Dr. Ng discussed the current status of home and center based care in Singapore. He highlighted specific needs in these care settings frequently used by seniors. This discussion allowed aspiring entrepreneurs to hone in on key areas of need and address these pain points. For example, some challenges in these settings include the quick and painless transferring of patients from bed to chair and vice versa, and increasing the time health practitioners can spend with seniors.
Mr. Wai rounded off the presentations with insights from product and design perspectives. He introduced examples of good design for seniors, such as mixed use canes and walkers, or stylish back braces. This presentation especially inspired aspiring entrepreneurs to consider seniors’ lifestyles and tastes when introducing new product ideas.
In addition to expert presentations, attendees also heard two senior role models share their life experiences and lessons. Younger members of the audience seemed glad to hear the wise advice dispensed by the seniors. The kickoff event concluded with a networking lunch. Participants became so engrossed in conversations around aging that they lingered past the scheduled end time.
Currently, Modern Aging Singapore has progressed to the business curriculum and selection phase. The top twenty teams have been selected and paired with industry mentors to hone their business ideas. The twenty teams will soon be pitching at the semifinals judging event for the top six spots. Meanwhile, all participants of Modern Aging Singapore are able to access the same business and aging curriculum on the Modern Aging Online Learning Portal to continue learning and improving their business ideas. If you would like to access the Portal, please write an email request to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Find out more about Modern Aging, at www.modernaging.org.
At ACCESS Health International, we like to feature good examples of community and elder care. A recent visit to the South Central Community Family Service Center in Singapore reveals a thriving space where different generations of neighbors visit, work, and play with one another.
The South Central Community Family Service Center is just one of many other Family Service Centers in Singapore. Family Service Centers are an important part of the “Many Helping Hands” approach of the Singapore government toward social services. The Many Helping Hands approach emphasizes the involvement of multiple sectors in providing for the social welfare needs of people. Family Service Centers are run by Voluntary Welfare Organizations and are supported by the Ministry of Social and Family Development, the National Council of Social Services, Community Chest, or the Singapore Totalisator Board . This is one way the government supports and encourages care provision by nongovernmental entities.
The South Central Community Family Service Center is unique in one respect. In January 2013, the Center became an independent entity with its own board of directors. The mission of South Central Community Family Service Center remains the same: to promote the wellbeing and self reliance of families. The main focus is supporting lower income individuals and families in the Bukit Ho Swee, Henderson, Redhill, and Indus Road neighborhoods. Between 2013 and 2014, the Center managed an average of four hundred cases. Casework involves counseling or referral to specialized services. For example, children from families lacking in basic necessities may face challenges in schoolwork or dealing with classmates. Center staff can counsel children or their parents on managing these problems. Where necessary, families are referred to other services, such as specialized psychiatric help or financial aid.
Besides casework, another focus of the Center is community engagement. To this end, Center staff organize events to involve nearby residents and create community spirit. As the Center is located on the ground floor of a block of residential flats, it is accessible and open to residents in the neighborhood. Our visit took place during the Lunar New Year period. As seen in the photo, festive decorations lining the entrance created a welcoming and friendly atmosphere.
Outreach worker Erwin showed us around the Center. Erwin explained to us that a guiding principle for the Center and staff is community cooperation and participation. This principle is informed by the Asset Based Community Development approach to community work. This approach ensures sustainability because initiatives are driven by the residents themselves. Residents volunteer to help care for their neighbors’ elderly relatives or children. Residents worked together to plant a community garden full of useful medicinal herbs.
The Center is a collaborative environment. The community garden is a visible fruit of this collaborative environment. The garden had been an empty space in front of the Center. Center staff wanted to galvanize residents to work on a common project. Residents contributed ideas and voted for the winning project: a medicinal herb and vegetable garden. Because the idea came from residents, the garden has been adopted and cared for by residents.
In the picture above, one can see a board where residents can vote on the next plant type. At the time of visit, sweet potato leaf was the leading candidate. The board itself was constructed by hand by a resident who is a carpenter by trade.
Inside the Center hangs another board, where residents can request items or services they need, or post offers of items or services they can give. The platform helps match community resources to people who need them most.
Residents streamed in and out of the Center throughout our visit. Erwin pointed out a pair of young siblings playing games on the couch. Erwin told me the siblings come to the Center after school ends to wait for their parents to get off work. I also saw groups of elderly chatting with one another at tables and chairs. The open space created by the South Central Community Family Service Center helps with informal child and elder care as residents look out for and engage with one another.
Near the end of our visit, there was a briefing for a large group of about twenty five volunteers, both young and old. They were preparing to give out yusheng packs to shop owners and residents at the Lengkok Bahru neighborhood. This showcased lower income families and children as goodwill ambassadors as part of this “Lo Hei Outreach”. The yusheng salad is traditionally eaten during the Lunar New Year, and Lo Hei is the dialect term for tossing the salad. Family and friends gather to Lo Hei together, signifying prosperity and togetherness. The briefing was punchy and positive with the staff recognizing the contributions of volunteers.
The South Central Community Family Service Center is an example of successful informal community and elder care. The staff and volunteers have created an open venue where residents are encouraged to join community activities and contribute their talents. Can their model of community involvement and ownership be replicated elsewhere? For example, could elder care as a larger industry move toward being more community based and operated? Share your thoughts with us by leaving a comment.
1. The Singapore Totalisator Board, also known as Tote Board, manages the surplus funds generated by Singapore Turf Club and Singapore Pools. They channel funds in support of various causes in Singapore such as arts and culture, social services, community development, education, health, and sports.
Lee Kuan Yew, the founding prime minister of Singapore, passed away on Monday morning. As the first prime minister, Mr. Lee helped shape many policies in the formative years of independence. As the Singapore population matured, aging became an issue of concern for Mr. Lee. He shared some personal views on aging at a forum in 2010, when he himself was close to ninety.
Mr. Lee said, “I think the most important single lesson I learned in life was that if you isolate yourself, you’re done for. The human being is a social animal – he needs stimuli, he needs to meet people, to catch up with the world.”
Mr. Lee also said, “You must have an interest in life… If you’re not interested in the world and the world is not interested in you, the biggest punishment a man can receive is total isolation in a dungeon, black and complete withdrawal of all stimuli, that’s real torture.”
Indeed, part of aging well is maintaining social support and engagement in activities. Population trends in Singapore indicate that, in the future, many more elderly will be single and living alone. We must create opportunities to help these elderly avoid isolation.
How can this be done? Many are thinking of solutions. The ACCESS Health Singapore team spoke to a professor in architecture. She explained to us that simply adding a small space to common corridors for residents to sit and mingle can draw them out of their flats. Eventually, she said, the residents may venture down their blocks and into the community.
There must be other ways to help our elderly age well. People from all sectors are thinking of novel ways to make a difference in the Singapore silver industry, a promising development. Mr. Lee’s advice was for individuals to take an interest in the world and to avoid isolation. How we can help is to think of creative ways to encourage these individuals to do so.
Perhaps then we can live out Mr. Lee’s wish, “Have a purpose driven life and finish well, my friends.”
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).
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!”.
“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.
Today’s blog post is written by Kristina Saudargaite who is the founder of inBelly. This organization is already helping children at schools to have better food by identifying and classifying additives. Now, inBelly wants to branch out to another sensitive target group, the elderly. Read Kristina’s story here:
My name is Kristina Saudergaite and I love food. I love eating, cooking, going to the grocery store etc. I also love knowing what I eat. For this purpose, my friends and I once looked at the ingredient list. We saw many chemical names that we could not understand or tell how they affect our health. Thus, we checked.
The results shocked us! Commonly used E250 is classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as probably carcinogenic to humans or in simple words it is likely to cause cancer. E211 or sodium benzoate is not harmful on its own; however, it reacts with vitamin C and releases benzene – a known toxin. And who does not eat products often containing E211 such as shrimps together with a slice of lemon or maybe drinking Must with a salad
These are only a few examples; but food is increasingly stuffed with chemicals and this puts our health at risk.
The amounts of additives that may cause adverse effects are regulated by the EU. The problem lies in the fact that tests are made on healthy individuals (or animals). However, sensitive subgroups such as the elderly may be much more susceptive to the additives and adverse health effects related to them. Nursing homes do not have enough information to make sure that the food they buy do not contain harmful ingredients.
inBelly has the expertise and a rigorous database on food additives. Moreover, we have a technological solution that enables to quickly check if a product contains anything harmful.
In Sweden we have found many food products containing additives banned in other countries, such as Canada and/or linked to diseases. This knowledge exists in academia and in public documents but since the information is presented in a complicated and scattered manner, it rarely reaches the wider public. inBelly is unique since it uses official and scientific information about food additives and depicts it in a non-scientific “easy-to-understand” kind of way. The app simply shows a sign indicating that the scanned product contains additives banned in other countries. Our service innovation lies in using a mobile solution to translate knowledge from academia into simple visual signs in order to make the information quickly and easily available to everyone. With our mobile app people can scan barcodes and get information whether this particular product contains any ingredients that may be linked to diseases. The initiative won the Stockholm Innovation award in the service category 2012.
We are currently using this knowledge to help pre-schools to choose better food. We are cooperating with the chef at Globala Gymnasium to go through the products they purchase and analyse if any of them contain additives that may be harmful. This helps the institutions to ensure better food.
Since the elderly, similarly to children, is a sensitive group, we plan to offer our services to help nursing homes to go through the food they serve the elderly and check if they contain harmful additives. This would ensure good quality food and best possible health and wellbeing for the elderly.
Follow inBelly on facebook.com/inBelly or on Twitter @inbelly_guide
Our most loyal readers on Silverevolution may remember the program Modern Aging that we wrote about in April (see the post HERE). This innovation program for young entrepreneurs with ideas for the elderly kicked off in August this year. A group of 7 entrepreneurs have been selected based on the potential of their improvement idea as well as their motivation to lead the way in transforming the elderly care sector. We are currently in the act of developing their ideas with the help of mentors and coaches and in close discussion with the elderly themselves. During the next couple of weeks the participants will blog about their ideas on the Forum for Social Innovation Sweden and we will post them here on Silverevolution as well.
First in line; introducing himself and his idea is Victor Nordlind. This is his story:
One may ask why a person who is attending one of the world’s top hotel schools would want to pursue a career in developing and improving the elderly care. Most people expected me to walk in my father’s footsteps in the restaurant industry, rather than radically changing field to Elderly care.
But as I was required to carry out a feasibility study about an existing retirement home during my first two years at Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne (EHL), I was given the opportunity to see the true potential within this industry. It encouraged me to apply for an internship within elderly care, which I am currently pursuing within Strategy and Business Development at Ambea Sverige, whose affiliation is Carema Care. For me, elderly care is an industry where innovation is necessary in order to provide the correct quality of life, which in my opinion is the meaning of hospitality.
When I first came across the Modern Aging program, I did not have a specific idea for elderly in mind. When developing the idea, it was equally important to link the project back to my studies, as to work with something that may truly make a difference within the elderly sector. I decided to contact a friend who has several years of experience within elderly care, and who is currently working in a nursing home here in Sweden. I was convinced that my determination combined with her extensive experience would bring something innovative out of the meeting.
As expected, we had a very interesting discussion, which brought several ideas to the table. Most of them were linked to the use of more technology, which is a frequently debated topic when talking about improvements within elderly care. The trend of using technology to improve efficiency is relatively new in the industry while it has been an essential part of the hotel and restaurant industry for years. More and more apps and other technical devices are being developed to simplify everyday activities for the elderly.
However, one question that came up during the meeting was “how can we use technology to better involve the caregivers within elderly care?” These professionals have valuable knowledge and experience, which they should be able to share easily. With today’s progression of social media and online forums, a place for caregivers and other health care professionals to meet online should be developed. There, they may share ideas, knowledge and ask questions to one another over space and time. This will not only simplify and streamline the daily work, but it will also improve the quality of care in nursing homes in the long run. A forum like this needs to be strictly confidential with only registered users permitted access. The idea is also that this platform shall be the forum that compiles and disseminates knowledge of the latest advances in medical, social and technological solutions for the elderly.
My current internship at Ambea combined with the Modern Aging program has helped me to better understand the current market as well as the future prospects of elderly care in Sweden. To date, Modern Aging has hosted several seminars and workshops carried out by inspiring guest speakers from various fields, such as young entrepreneurs, lecturers from top universities, and professionals from the public health care sector. With this promising start, I am curious and eager to find out where the program is going to take us.
“I see old people” is how this chapter begins. I’m reading “The new North – The World in 2050” by Laurence Smith. Without having finished the book, I’m excited to share some of the thoughts. This chapter really struck me.
Smith is a young professor in geography and earth and space sciences at UCLA. In his book, he analyzes four key “megatrends” – population growth and migration, natural resource demand, climate change and globalization – and projects how our world could look like in 2050.
The world is filling up with old people. Smith begins by describing the four stages of the demographic transition, which is happening everywhere in the world: 1. High and similar rates of birth and death (e.g., the preindustrial era, with a small and relatively stable total human population); followed by 2. Falling deaths but not births (initiating a population explosion); followed by 3. Falling births (still exploding, but decelerating); and finally 4. Low and similar rates of birth and death (population stabilization at a new, higher total number.
He states that most OECD countries have now passed through these stages – except for those allowing high levels of immigration like the USA – and have stabilizing or even falling populations. Most low- and middle-income countries are still in stage 2 or 3 though.
Smith summarizes that urbanization, modernization, and the empowerment of women push fertility rates downward. In other words, the urbanization of society (if associated with modernization and women’s rights) helps slow the rate of growth (with exceptions). In low-immigration developed countries like Italy and Japan, and regions like Eastern Europe, populations are falling. Consequently, if fertility rates continue to drop as they are now, the world population might be around 9.2 billion in 2050 – the population will still be growing, but about half as fast as today.
One of the most profound long-term effects of women having fewer babies is to skew societal age structure toward the elderly. Of course, improving healthcare also extends our life spans. This aging will hit some places faster and harder than others. Today, Japan is the world’s most elderly country with a median age of 44.6 years. In Pakistan, in contrast, the median age is just 22.1 years. Korea, Russia and China will join Japan as the world’s geriatric nations. Korea, Vietnam, Mexico and Iran will age radically by fifteen years or more. Countries like Afghanistan, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo will still have youthful populations in 2050.
Smith asks: Is an elderly population a good thing or bad? He describes a possibly wiser and less violent society, which at the same time strains healthcare systems, and raises the economic burden on younger workers. The whole concept of “retirement” is about to undergo a major overhaul – people will have to work later in life. Big cultural shifts will be needed in the way we treat and value our elderly. Society must learn that aging and youth should be valued equally.
As the world grays, skilled young people will become a more and more craved resource, Smith concludes. Thus, those countries best able to attract skilled foreign workers will fare best. These young workers might come from Somalia, Afghanistan, Yemen, the West Bank and Gaza, Ethiopia, and much of sub-Saharan Africa, which will offer our world’s youth in 2050 based on current population structures.
Finally, the critical but open question that Smith poses is whether our poorest countries will be able to turn their forthcoming demographic advantages into the new skilled workforces needed to help care for an elderly world. This would require enormous improvements in education, governance and security. Women would have to start attending school and working in places where this is uncommon today. Terrorism would have to be sufficiently quelled. The countries that need young workers would have to accept immigrants from the countries that have them.
Hopefully, these things can be achieved.
PS: Check out Laurence Smith on Vimeo: http://vimeo.com/15715690