weekly blog--one for the ages
Happy Thanksgiving. Let the holidays begin. A survey of emerging companies that are developing products and services to make life easier and safer for their country’s aging population. The six companies featured below will be participating in a panel discussion at Aging 2.0’s conference in Finland at the end of November. www.aging2.com/about-us
Finland: Circly has developed an easy-to-use app tablet that gives seniors access to social networking services which connect them with family, peers and caregivers. www.fundedbyme.com/en/campaign/4934/circly-social-media-revolution-for-the-elderly/?type=e&p=v1
Ireland: The Freebird Club is a travel and home-stay club that connects older adults through meaningful travel. www.thefreebirdclub.com
Spain: Joyners is a network of professional caregivers that offer on-demand delivery, hospital or residential care services within one hour. It also matches roommates based on interests. http://fortune.com/2015/06/09/europe-retiree-boom
Netherlands: Klup is an app that connects older people based on shared interests to reduce loneliness and remain active. www.f6s.com/klup
UK: Unforgettable provides a range of life-changing dementia products, services and advice. www.unforgettable.org
Israel: Uniper Care Technologies provides a TV-based aging-in-place platform to help seniors stay engaged with the world around them while promoting their independence and dignity. www.unipercare.com
Separately, Google’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) Lab is tapping into advances in machine learning in creative ways. One game uses an algorithm to try and guess what you draw. Another app lets you compose music with a creative computer, and another helps you visualize how neural networks represent information and view the world.
Last Friday night, I was back at my mother-in-law’s senior community in Connecticut for a poetry reading. Sixteen residents presented their poems. My mother-in-law read one about army life that had been written by her husband in the 1950's just after the Korean War ended.
Most engaging, was a poem delivered by a woman who had just turned 100. She wrote her poem, Alone, about six months ago when feeling blue and wondering why she had lived so long. As she was reflecting on life, past/present/future, she realized how lucky she was to be living where she was, having a loving family and many friends, and doing all of the things she enjoys--sculpting, knitting, coloring books and doing jig-saw puzzles.
She starts the poem by realizing that she is alone despite being surrounded by so many people she loves and cares about. She ends it with the line, I don’t mind being alone.
Perhaps no other age group feels the sting of loneliness more than the elderly. One researcher concludes that nursing homes, assisted living communities, etc. can be totally disorienting experiences even when someone is being taken care of by a family caregiver because there is often little attention paid to deep, engaging communication between the senior and the rest of the family.
A professional caregiver echoes the same sentiment. She says that the breakdown of family relationships—like those between grandparent and grandchild—has caused many elderly people to feel as though they have been "pushed to the side" and forgotten about.
To counter loneliness, AARP and the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging today launched a first-of-its-kind national campaign aimed at raising awareness, and getting families to talk about the issue during the holidays.
Tens of millions of adults are chronically lonely. Studies have linked isolation to disability, cognitive decline and early death. A seminal study of 1,600 seniors age 60 and older found that lonely people were far more likely to have difficulties walking, bathing, dressing, and climbing stairs than those who were not. 45 percent were more likely to die during the six years the study tracked them, from 2002 to 2008.
China’s hottest grandpa is putting a new spin on what it means to be old. At age 80, he has a powerful physique, and also works as a DJ and actor. Being older in China typically means being respected, but also sentimentalized. Someone as young as 50 may be addressed as ‘yeye” or “nainal” (grandpa or grandma), regardless of whether they have offspring. Retirement homes are known as “respect elder homes.” The legal retirement age for woman is 50 for workers, 55 for civil servants and 60 for most men. NY Times/Boston Globe
In Miami, health care providers spent about $14,423 per Medicare patient in 2010. In Minneapolis, average spending that year was $7,819. A study co-authored by MIT economists provides a reason why. It found that nearly 50 percent of the spending differences across geographic areas stem from the characteristics of patients--basic health and their preferences for the intensiveness of medical care. The rest of the spending differences derive from place-specific factors, possibly due to disparities in provider practices and incentives. MIT News/ScienceBlog
This story has nothing to do with aging, but demonstrates the type of innovative research taking place that will surely transform our lives at some point in the future.
Consider the leafy green edible plant called spinach. It’s rich in flavonoids which act as antioxidants to keep cholesterol in check and protect your body from free radicals, particularly in the colon. Spinach also contains folates which are good for your cardiovascular system, and magnesium, which helps lower high blood pressure. Further, studies have shown that spinach helps maintain a vigorous brain function, memory and mental clarity.
Meanwhile, MIT Engineers took ordinary spinach plants and embedded them with carbon nanotubes capable of detecting nitroaromatics, compounds often used in bombs and land mines. If these chemicals are present in groundwater, the plant will take in the water, begin to emit a fluorescent signal, and then wirelessly relay that information to a handheld device similar to a Smartphone.
Plants already detect even subtle changes in their environment. With nanotechnology, plants can now signal these changes to humans. This is one of the first demonstrations of engineering electronic systems into plants, an approach that the researchers call plant nanobionics.
Also of note this week:
The American Medical Association released a new text book that includes a section on how to make sure health-care is cost-effective and valuable to patients. STEM
According to the National Cancer Institute, one-third of cancer patients exhaust their savings to pay medical expenses, and patients forced into bankruptcy have significantly higher mortality rates than those who remain solvent. STEM