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Live longer, but live longer in good health!

As we are facing the “Caregiving cliff” (in a near future, the number of seniors needing care will greatly exceed the supply of available caregivers), our society is facing major issues as to how to care for the elderly:

  • Seniors are often considered as a cost to society, more or less visible – direct cost of senior facilities for families, medical coverage for insureds, retirement pensions for tax-payers, or informal work, time spent and mental burden for families.
  • Illness and sickness are more related to lack of activity, lack of hygiene, and lack of discipline than to aging itself.
  • Loneliness and lack of social environment and human bond can lead to depression and early dementia.
  • New technological tools are empowering but they also create techno-phobia and further symptoms, if our seniors are not supported in their learning and “on-boarded” to use these tools.

Solutions can be found in the following fields and at the intersection of these fields:

  1. Economic component: Seniors could very well become a production unit of their own.
  2. Wellness component: Arts therapy and exercising help stay in better shape longer.
  3. Technology component: New technologies prolong life, improve wellness, and potentially augment human capacities.

However preserving the social bond remains a challenge at each of those stages. In our designated action plan to care for the elderly, we should give special attention to integrating our actions with the social dimension and to nurture the social bond even further.

  1. Seniors can be part of the production sphere, but in a smart way: they contribute to useful and rewarding activities; they are not labeled as workers; they integrate the intergenerational scale in meaningful ways (examples: teaching the youth, sharing experience and wisdom, providing counseling to young adults, helping with daycare for families without caregivers, etc.).
  2. Exercising and arts activities are encouraged as part of a communal environment: practitioners are trained for senior physical and arts therapy, emulation and collective motivation develops among residents; “longevity” role models rise (example: champions in senior olympics arise and are promoted!).
  3. Technology is not a replacement to human interactions, but a complement: technology acts as enabler and empowerment tool; training takes place on site; individuals are incentivized to use the technology for their own good and are followed by practitioners in their good use (example: intergenerational mentoring on use of new technology).

A few initiatives act as positive signals towards these cross-developments:

  • Amazon Mechanical Turk’s crowdsourcing marketplace offer small task retribution such as “helping to train the machines” (for example identifying when a tweet is positive or negative for a few cents per tweet). This could be encouraged to seniors, especially given the fact that any brain exercises are known to postpone Alzheimer symptoms.
    • Economic output: seniors contribute to productive activities.
    • Wellness output: seniors perform tasks which can improve their health.
    • Technology output: seniors stay in touch with the latest technology.
    • Social output: seniors are still integrated within active society, meet with others through the platform, benefit from emulation on completing tasks within their community, and receive extra support from in-person trainers.
  • Diabetes logbook applications are flourishing: patients get alerts and track their own food intake and physical activities, so that they feel “in charge” instead of relying on nutritionists or medication only. 
    • Economic output: seniors consume less medication and need less medical intervention and in-person care.
    • Wellness output: seniors are directly in charge of their well-being.
    • Technology output: digital applications are part of the treatment and onboarding is facilitated by practitioners.
    • Social output: senior diabetes patients don’t feel incapacitated or stigmatized, they are empowered over their condition, and can enjoy eating and physical activities as part of a group again.
  • Community-based Villages offer a set of services based on volunteering, tech equipment and reciprocal support. The first named “Village” in the U.S. opened in the Beacon Hill neighborhood of Boston in 2002. Growing interest in the model has led to a surge in new Villages in recent years, with over 200 Villages operating in 2017 and more than 150 in development.
    • Economic output: villages act as a small business unit, with an economy based on non-monetary support and exchange of services.
    • Wellness output: seniors don’t have to make an impossible choice between senior care facility or lonesome autonomy.
    • Technology output: villages are a test market for new technology designed for our seniors and residents are the beta testers of brand new technology.
    • Social output: seniors keep their autonomy while still being cared for by natural caregivers in a more authentic environment in which they can entertain social interactions and keep their social life as long as possible.

We love to collect signals of a meaningful future of aging. Feel free to share your views of the aging ecosystem with us or discuss your own initiatives!

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Published by Sylvia

Futurist - Futures Thinking & Strategic Foresight

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