In a month where Australian centenarian and fundraiser Irene O’Shea became the world’s oldest skydiver (aged 101 and 39 days), we look at some more inspiring stories about the changing face of ageing.
We kick off with this article about Lindera, a German start-up using AI to offer older adults more personalised care in their homes.
Building on her experience working with Microsoft, CEO and co-founder Diana Heinrichs wants to use data science to create a greater understanding of how long older adults can live independently at home.
Diana asks, "Imagine if you could know the individual likelihood of why, when and where a person might fall? How many people and how much money could you save?”
Lindera's solution was to build an app-based mobility test powered by cognitive computing.
She explains, "We designed an integrative model combining proven psychological tests with a mathematical analysis of the gait to calculate the individual likelihood of a fall and to then provide tailored recommendations. Our goal is to provide elders something easy to use themselves at home”.
According to Diana, the app is already showing results with insurance companies licensing the tool to better align their service to individual need while lowering costs, and patients receiving clearer fall prevention plans they can share with family and caregivers.
With many predictions around AI focusing on what we may lose, it's interesting to see a real-world example of how it can positively impact our lives on an individual basis. And as more of us choose to age in place, the more we know about how we're doing the better.
Never too young to start
Staying at home for as long as you can isn’t just about your physical capabilities. It's also about the home in which you live.
This article in the Irish Examiner focused on former electronic engineer and now chief officer at Ireland's Centre for Excellence in Universal Design, Gerald Craddock.
Unusually, Craddock began his preparations for ageing in place in his 30s, 'future-proofing' his home during renovations as he knew he and his wife wouldn’t want to leave their community. An environmental factor that has been found to promote wellbeing.
For him, this meant ensuring accessibility with a ramp and leaving enough space in specific areas for modifications later down the line, such as a downstairs shower or lift.
According to Craddock; “It’s part of our human nature that we don’t think of ourselves getting old or think of ourselves as old, but design can have a significant impact on our environment, so it’s thinking in advance that is the key”.
With their population segment aged over-65 increasing in number faster than any other EU country, and an infrastructure set to be around for another 90 years (according to Craddock), adapting existing homes in Ireland will be key.
AAA is certain that the market for adapting homes to age in place will become huge. And it will be interesting to see if fitting luxury items like entertainment systems while that happens might become the norm. Maybe delivering games to positively impact both body and mind.
Very far away?
Talking of the future of gaming, this absorbing article in Wired explored the challenges faced when making brain training games. It focused on the work of cognitive neuroscientist Adam Gazzaley, creator of Neuroscape - a new research institute at the University of California, San Francisco.
Since their work began, Gazzaley has been addressing the challenge of proving the efficacy of brain games - what psychologists call 'far transfer'. With much debate in the arena between scientists and companies pertaining to their actual impact, Gazzley is positive the evidence will come.
He says; “I think we will unlock the potential to optimize our cognitive abilities and our emotional regulation in a way that we have never seen before. I do believe that. Is that overselling it? Who knows. I’d rather be proven wrong in 15 years”.
What is certain, the amount of research addressing the challenges faced in ageing societies will continue growing. And if this finds ways to extend our health without the need for medication or surgery, this must be good.
In fact the same can be said for stories about ageing – a point echoed by Paula Span in her latest 'New Old Age' blog in the New York Times.
Often focusing on the challenges faced in caregiving, Paula’s blog regularly looks for fresh, personalised perspectives in what can be complex and sensitive issues.
In her own words; “The ranks of caregivers, both familial and professional, keep growing. Researchers and physicians learn more about ageing bodies and minds, what helps and what doesn’t; public policy changes, but not fast enough. There’s always more to talk about.”
What we may see less of however – as reaching the ripe age of 100 become the norm – are wonderful articles like this from Emine Saner in the Guardian – ‘How to live to 100 and be happy (by those who have done it!)’.
As the article states; "According to the Office for National Statistics, the number of people aged 100 or more has quadrupled over the last two decades, and there are now a record number of centenarians in the UK: 14,570 at the last count".
Which leads us to our final article – a recent interview between Appello UK's Tim Barclay and Agile Ageing's Ian Spero asking 'Are housing providers ready for a revolution in long term care?'
In it, Ian outlines the big challenges and opportunities faced. But also, how small changes like imagining we are talking about ourselves when we talk about ageing can play a part in helping design the future we want to see.
As Ian says; "Let’s face it – we are all ageing and it makes more sense to think about what we as individuals will want and expect in terms of our lifestyle, care and housing provision in later life".
That’s it for this month. If you enjoyed the stories you saw here then be sure to follow us on twitter, where we share daily the best stories pertaining to agile ageing from around the world.
Until next month, #BeAgile!
Image used with permission: Copyright.