Two thought-provoking articles from AAA’s Ian Spero (Dare to Care Different and Silver Economy Predicted to Generate 6.4 Trillion Euros & Employ 88m by 2025) highlighted some of the trends informing our ageing society through innovation and technology. If you want to see how the future of social care and the silver economy are taking shape, be sure to investigate.
Before you go, here are some of our favourite agile ageing stories from around the world. Once again, we turn to Japan – which still leads the way when it comes to innovation and ageing.
Land of the Rising Sun
Produced with funding from the Pulitzer Center, this article by Shiho Fukada reveals how Japan is employing cutting edge technology to improve quality of life for its rapidly ageing population.
Mr Fukada introduces us to innovators like Kenta Toshima, a therapist in Tokyo who has "spent most of his savings to travel the world, so that he can bring far-off lands back to his elderly patients". Seeing the impact his VR films have on their desire to be more mobile is quite something.
We also learn about the growing use of robots in senior care facilities to encourage activity, connect residents and carers, and even improve mental well-being through companionship.
Although it doesn't fill us with joy to see robots replacing people (carers are in short supply), and care facilities being the preferred means for living, it does offer hope that technology can bring people together, inspire action and even encourage some to complete physical therapy to get moving again.
It’s Good to Talk
Staying connected is more than being occupied, it can keep us alive. This essential piece of journalism from John Harris in the Guardian acts as a timely reminder to anyone who thinks it doesn’t apply to them.
According to Harris; "We seem to have a collective aversion to focusing on the realities of an ageing society. But there is an even bigger issue. Far too many of us refuse to consider the prospect of our own advancing years – or, worse still, give any attention to people already dealing with theirs”.
To address this, he argues, “we must change the way we view retirement as sudden and without ambition, and cease viewing home as somewhere to be alone, but instead a place to stay connected with others”.
The solution, he believes, could be the Scandinavian-style cohousing, seen in several projects already running in the UK such as Cannock Mill near Colchester. According to one resident: “A lot of illness in old age is related to social isolation. That won’t happen to us, because we’ll have a permanent community.”
For those uneasy at the thought of robot friends or community living, then what about continuing to work to stay healthy and connected?
This interesting article in Forbes’ Next Avenue looked at several studies about the health benefits of delaying retirement for as long as possible. Although the results were mixed, one found a significant increase in mortality in the US around age 62 (the age of retirement), while a landmark 2016 study revealed that healthy retirees aged 65 had a 11% lower mortality rate than those who retired earlier.
Dr Donald O Mack from Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Centre clarifies that “people who are still working aged after age 65 are generally in less physically demanding jobs”, but nevertheless, he continues “are healthier emotionally than their counterparts who retired”.
With a high level of education strongly related to longevity, then could later-life learning for a new more sedentary, yet stimulating role be a solution? Elder universities - yet another possible market to expand in the future then.
The Supers’ Secret
Returning to our theme of 'superagers', this piece also from the Guardian revealed how research around the brains of superagers showed more of a certain type of brain cell known as Von Economo neurons, than average elderly individuals.
Apparently; “These neurons are also found in a small group of higher mammals and are thought to increase communication. The team hopes that the findings might help scientists to unpick what causes Alzheimer’s and other dementias, and why some people might be resilient”.
Prof Emily Rogalski, from Northwestern University explains; “We are getting quite good at extending our lifespan but our health span isn’t keeping up and what the superagers have is more of a balance between those two, they are living long and living well”.
Challenging the Cult of Youth
We also discovered that it’s not just us who are ageing, but so too our social networks. This report revealed that as Facebook has aged (it’s just turned 14), so has it user base. This is of interest as Facebook's business model is built around advertising, and with the products made for older people steadily increasing, then the elder social statesman may be around for much longer than some critics are suggesting.
Indeed, the cult of youth may be under threat. That’s one impression to take away from our final piece, this lovely article in the New York Times about a recent exhibition on the potential for 'ageing pride to challenge the cult of youth'.
As the gallery itself says; “Anti-aging is heard more often in our society than the wisdom of age... Bowing to the cult of youth, images of age are often dictated by the cosmetics industry. Countering this are the many historical and contemporary works by artists pursuing a completely different idea of age.”
So let’s stick together, retire only when we’re ready and keep checking in on Japan to see what they do next. Until next, #BeAgile and be sure to follow us on twitter!
Image used with permission. Copyright Pat138241.