Business of Aging: Older Adult Entrepreneurs

_C4A3669HRMany older adults are creating successful new businesses that take advantage of their extensive work experience, well-established networks, and a desire to remain engaged mentally. As the old proverb states “necessity is the mother of invention” and often older adult entrepreneurs are able to recognize a need and create innovative solutions based on their years of life experience. The moniker Seniorpreneur has been coined to identify the phenomenon.

Case in point is Cardiologist, Dr. David Albert who identified the need for a handheld electrocardiogram device back in the 90’s. At the time, current technology was unable to produce the device. When the iPhone was first introduced in 2007, Albert recognized how the new technology could be used to realize his vision. According to an article on LinkedIn “In 2010, at the age of 56, Albert started Alivecor with $250,000 from his savings. His goal was to build an iPhone case that performs an EKG. This device was approved by the FDA last December and now retails for $200 – with a prescription.”

According to an article in the Business Insider “one in three new businesses in the US were started by an entrepreneur age 50 or older and those aged 55-64 in the US have had the highest rate of entrepreneurial activity in the last 10 years.”

To further highlight the trend of older adult entrepreneurs, an article entitled Is the Era of the Seniorpreneur Upon Us? reports that “At the 2014 Startup Canada Awards, the Lifetime Achievement Award was granted to Gerry Pond, a pillar of the entrepreneurial community on the East Coast. During his acceptance speech, 70-year-old Pond said he hoped next year’s ceremony would include a winner in a “seniorpreneur” category”.

Promote your business at the next Business of Aging: Information Exchange Network (BA:IEN) after hours networking meeting (5 p.m. – 7 p.m.) on October 28, 2015. A limited number of booths will be available. To reserve a booth contact Kathryn Warren-Norton at 905.845.9430 x2978 or email at

BA:IEN connects business and industry leaders to exchange ideas, information and resources related to the needs and wants of mature consumers and their families.

Guest Blog: Insights Gained From the ‘Aging in a Foreign Land’ Project

My experience as a graduate student with the Sheridan Center for Elder Research. Putting research into practice; insights gained from the ‘aging in a foreign land’ project.

11692654_919804774747277_3969521940614212623_nBy Kristy Webber, B.S.W., RSW., M.S.W Candidate

I knew coming into my practicum with the Sheridan Centre for Elder Research that I was looking for something new, a new experience in the field of gerontology, even though I had previously been working with older adults in the social service field for 15 years. My timing was lucky in that I had the opportunity to be involved with a project from start to finish, which I have been told is quite rare for students. The research I was involved in was a project entitled ‘Aging in a Foreign Land’. This project explored the health and community service use and needs of South Asian immigrants aged 65 and over living in the Peel and Halton regions. This particular project was of interest to me personally and professionally as it involved considerable work with ethno-specific cultures. Having spent most of my career in Simcoe County prior to this, my involvement with different cultural groups was hugely lacking, to say the least.

This community research opportunity provided me with the cultural exposure that I have been longing to experience since becoming a social worker.  I was able to learn about cultural practices, see cultural dress, taste cultural food, and attend various places of worship. It felt like a truly tangible experience; one that I was able to visually see and feel through involvement and participation in cultural practices and community events. It was comparable to the experience of going on vacation and being accepted into a culture and invited into a family’s home for dinner, where inevitable sharing and learning happen in a reciprocal manner. An open and mutually respected learning opportunity that someone can hope to attain during community work with a culture that is vastly different from their own. I felt entrusted with the type of knowledge that results from hearing very personal stories about family life and how people come together to support a sense of community. I learned how the South-Asian cultural experience of older immigrants could be in direct contrast to that of ‘mainstream’ Canadian society. This was demonstrated by the tension that I could hear within stories that spoke of different notions of family, community, and everyday life/living. These differences I learned, could lead to the experience of social isolation, loneliness, abuse, and intergenerational conflicts amongst family members.

Being new to the field of community research, I had my own assumptions about what working in a research environment might look like.  One of those assumptions was that research results could be thought of as being largely disconnected from ‘practice’ or practical issues. This assumption could not be further from the truth in this project.   The outcomes from this research were easily connected to practice as they provided an in-depth understanding of cultural groups that are very different from North American culture, and helped inform ethno specific programs and services in the community. I was left with an appreciation of the importance of maintaining a strong sense of cultural connection while aging in Canadian society. The older adults that we encountered during this project consistently expressed connection to culture and community as an indicator of their overall quality of life. This was demonstrated in a theatrical skit that was performed at a community event by older adults who had participated in this research project. These older adults incorporated a major theme that was an outcome of the research project into their performance. It was a powerful grassroots demonstration of the community further communicating the issues that are impacting their community.

10984144_919803848080703_1378109687807919226_nNow that the project has come to completion, I am left feeling extremely grateful for this community research experience. Grateful to the staff at the Sheridan Centre for Elder Research for accepting me as a member of their team, and grateful to the South-Asian community that I engaged with during this memorable project. This experience has renewed my passion for community social work, and sparked a new passion in community research that I will bring forward with me as I continue in my career with older adults.

Technology and Aging: Technology to Support Older Adults Living with Dementia and Their Caregivers

_C4A3960The term dementia is often misunderstood. Dementia is not a disease but rather a term used to describe a progressive decline of cognitive abilities. It is a symptom of diseases like Alzheimer’s. Although dementia mainly affects older adults, is not a normal part of aging.

According to the World Health Organization “The number of people living with dementia worldwide is currently estimated at 47.5 million and is projected to increase to 75.6 million by 2030. The number of cases of dementia are estimated to more than triple by 2050”.

New technology has the capacity to improve the quality of life for those who are living with dementia. Listed below are examples of how technology is addressing some of the issues related to dementia and creating supportive solutions.

Wandering is a serious safety concern for individuals living with dementia. The young grandson of a gentleman with dementia created a clever solution to his grandfather’s wandering out of bed at night. Using sensors that can be placed in a sock or attached to a foot, caregivers can be alerted via smartphone when a loved one with dementia steps out of bed.

Memory Challenges
Using a computer, tablet or smartphone, the Book of You is a multimedia app that allows users to create a “digital life storybook”. Creating and sharing the storybook with family and professional caregivers provides prompts for reminiscence. According to the UK Alzheimer Society “techniques like this are popular because they draw on early memories, which people with dementia tend to retain best. There is evidence that life story and reminiscence work, particularly when done one-on-one, can improve mood, wellbeing and some mental abilities such as memory”.

Cognitive Changes
According to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America “when used appropriately, music can shift mood, manage stress-induced agitation, stimulate positive interactions, facilitate cognitive function, and coordinate motor movements”. SingFit PRIME is an app that “incorporates singing, movement, trivia and reminiscence for a fully engaging mind/body workout”. The app was designed specifically to be used with older adults living with dementia in group settings. The app compensates for loss of memory by providing the words to a song before they need to be sung.

Responsive Behaviours
The Murray Alzheimer Research and Education Program describes Responsive Behaviours (RB) as a “term originating from, and preferred by, persons with dementia that represents how their actions, words and gestures are a response, often intentional, to something important to them. Persons may use words, gestures, or actions to express something important about their personal, social, or physical environment”. Some examples of RB’s are aggression, agitation, and cursing. In an effort to better understand the reasons for an individual’s RB, an app was designed for use in long term care homes to record and categorize the details of specific incidents of RB in dementia clients. Using this app allows care workers to detect patterns of RB and therefore reveal what is triggering the behavior. This gives care workers an opportunity to provide person-centred care plans that work towards alleviating the triggers and creating a better quality of life for the client living with dementia.

Follow this link to see an informative video on the progression and biology of Alzheimer’s disease on the brain.

Arts and Aging: The Arts as a Way to Improve the Quality of Life for Individual’s Living With Dementia

An article entitled How Art Therapy Helps People with Dementia and Alzheimer’s explains that “Art therapy can be a useful and fulfilling activity to help those who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. It can increase the quality of life for those suffering and become a way of expression, even after other types of communication start to fail.”

Worldwide, there are agencies and projects advocating the arts as a way to improve the quality of life for older adults with dementia. Listed below are inspiring examples of projects that provide people living with dementia access to the arts and the associated benefits of engaging in arts-based activities.

music-for-memoryMusic and Memory is an American non-profit organization that brings personalized music into the lives of older adults through digital music technology. The Alzheimer Society of Toronto and Jazz.FM91 partnered to implement a local Music for Memory iPod Project. The project was created “in response to overwhelming evidence showing the beneficial effects of music and stimulation on people living with dementia”.

The Society for the Arts in Dementia Care located in Vernon B.C. (with affiliates in Australia) offers resources in the form of workshops, conferences, and videos. Their website offers inspiring examples of artwork created by individuals with dementia.

h-artzThe American Foundation Artist’s for Alzheimer’s (ARTZ) enhances the cultural and creative life of people living with Alzheimer’s disease. “ARTZ draws on the support and collaboration of artists and cultural institutions, both nationally and internationally, as a collective resource, to share, educate and inspire.”

indexThe international documentary I Remember When I Paint highlights the “positive impact of art and other creative therapies on people with Alzheimer’s and how these approaches can change the way we look at the disease”.

An Artist with Alzheimer’s Drew Self Portraits for Five Years and the result is very moving. According to the artist’s widow “In these pictures we see with heart-breaking intensity William’s efforts to explain his altered self, his fears and his sadness”.

To see the transformative power of music and dance on older adults living with dementia check out this video.