Technology and Aging News: How New Technology Can be Used to Address Mobility Concerns

The world’s population is rapidly aging and today’s older adults are leading longer and healthier lives. This demographic shift creates opportunities for tech companies to focus on innovative new technologies to address the challenges of an aging population.

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada ‘Seniors’ Falls in Canada’ 2014 report, “falls remain the leading cause of injury-related hospitalizations among Canadian seniors, and between 20% and 30% of seniors fall each year. Results from the data analysis indicate that self-reported injuries due to falls are increasing, specifically by 43% between 2003 and 2009/2010. The majority of falls resulted in broken or fractured bones, and over one third of fall-related hospitalizations among seniors were associated with a hip fracture. Fracture-induced physical limitations augment the need for support on the part of older adults themselves. When hospitalization data are examined, the results show that seniors who are hospitalized for a fall remain in hospital an average of nine days longer than those hospitalized for any cause.” Of the falls that result in hospitalization 50% occur in the home.

The report discusses the many factors that pose as a risk for older adults falls including “chronic and acute health conditions, balance or gait deficits, sensory factors, inadequate nutrition, social isolation, as well as factors related to the built and social environment”.

As the data indicates, falls are an increasing concern for older adults. The devices listed below are an example of how new technology may help address the risks of falling.

Loss of sensation in the feet is a prevalent condition for many older adults that results in impaired balance and gait. A 2014 study entitled A Shoe Insole Delivering Subsensory Vibratory Noise Improves Balance and Gait in Healthy Elderly People concludes that vibratory insoles “can improve measures of balance and gait that are associated with falls”.

WalkJoy

WalkJoy

WalkJoy helps older adults with Peripheral Neuropathy that, according to the makers of WalkJoy, diminishes the feeling in your feet, breaks the feedback loop and hampers your balance and walking. WalkJoy replaces the lost sensation of your foot striking the ground by providing a signal to healthy nerves around your knee giving the wearer increased mobility and balance.

Responsive Street Furniture

Responsive Street Furniture

Responsive Street Furniture “uses digital technology to make streets work better for people with a range of impairments” by providing better lighting, safer pedestrian crossings and seating for older adults.

Isowalk

Isowalk

Isowalk has essentially reinvented the cane. According to Isowalk “The cane was never designed to help the user walk. Its function is to provide additional balance during ambulation to keep the user from falling”.

“Isowalk is a revolutionary, purpose-designed walking assistant designed to transcend the cane’s limitations. In addition to its breakthrough form factor, Isowalk is the first mobility aid to feature embedded motion sensing and monitoring capabilities. This technology, developed by the UCLA Wireless Health Institute, offers unprecedented insights into user health analytics, including condition, recovery progress, fall prediction and more.”

This article is only a small sample of the many solutions available for older adults who are experiencing mobility issues. With a focus on prevention these new technologies have the capacity to improve well-being and quality of life.

Arts and Aging News

50_plus_festival2014_banner-subpagesCreative Aging in the News

In our last Arts and Aging blog we talked about famous artists who created new and exciting masterpieces in later life. Of course, it’s not just the masters who continue to thrive artistically as they age.

Meet Frieda Lefeber, who turned 100 last March. She celebrated becoming a centenarian with her first solo exhibition. According to an article on Philly.com Lefeber began attending art classes at age 76 and earned a certificate from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts at the age of 83. The article explains that she originally intended to get a bachelor’s degree “but she admitted, her tendency to fall asleep while sitting in the front row during art history lectures was a barrier. So instead, she graduated with a certificate”.

While working as a registered nurse, Lefeber cared for the famous American folk artist Grandma Moses who started her own painting career at 78. Coincidentally, it wasn’t until her late seventies when Lefeber became interested in painting.

Numerous studies have shown how participation in the creative arts and lifelong learning positively impact an older adults mental and physical well-being. So it comes as no surprise that Lefeber continues to be active by updating her published biography and learning to cook for her daughter and son-in-law.

New Music

Music is another artform in which people tend to thrive artistically as they age. Take Leonard Cohen for example, at age 80 he continues to produce his enticing blend of poetry and music with his latest live album ‘Can’t Forget: A Souvenir of the Grand Tour’.

Upcoming Conferences and Events

National Centre for Creative Aging
The Creative Age: National Leadership Exchange and Conference
May 18-21, 2015
Washington, DC
“Join colleagues, peers, and key leaders in creative aging from across the nation and around the world for a dynamic constellation of events at this seminal gathering to explore the practice, the research, and the business of creative aging in America. Aligned with the 2015 White House Summit on Creativity and Aging the week will advance practice, foster national advocacy, and impact policy across the spectrum of creative aging.”

50+ Festival: Aging is Changing
June 1-4, 2015
Toronto, Ontario
“This year’s 50+ Festival at the Ryerson University Campus offers inspiring sessions that promote conversations about creative aging, reinvention, the business of aging and so much more. Join us as we celebrate new perspectives and approaches that will challenge your notions of living longer.”

ArtSage Midwest Arts & Aging Conference and Showcase
June 19, 2015
Chaska, Minnesota
“Join us for an arts-infused day of keynotes and workshops from national and regional leaders in the field of arts and aging! Learn how to build arts programming for older adults based on best practices in the field. Plus—an exhibitor fair and artist showcase with outstanding ArtSage-trained professional teaching artists, and the first-ever ArtSage Awards!”

Business of Aging: Social Media and the Mature Consumer

Traditionally, businesses have connected with older adults through television, newspapers and radio. However, technology is rapidly changing the way older adults receive information and businesses need to consider using social media marketing to engage the older adult demographic.

According to an article in Forbes, “at the very least, brands need to start understanding social media marketing towards senior citizens before all of the Boomers retire—a demographic that will be more computer literate than any senior generation before”.

For those that are skeptical here is the breakdown:

Facebook
A Pew Research Center Report entitled Social Media Update 2014 shows that “Facebook remains by far the most popular social media site”. The same report shares that, “for the first time, more than half of all online adults 65 and older (56%) use Facebook. This represents 31% of all seniors”. These numbers have already grown from the 56% shown above, to 45% in 2013 and 35% in 2012.

SeniorNet uses an infograph to further explain the phenomena in the article The New Facebook User: Senior Citizens. The infograph states that 10% of older adults on Facebook use the site to engage in contests or promos.

LinkedIn
The percentage of online adults age 65+ using LinkedIn grew from 13% in 2013 to 21% in 2014.

Twitter
The percentage of online adults age 65+ using Twitter grew from 5% in 2013 to 10% in 2014.

As the population ages and older adults become more and more tech savvy these numbers will continue to climb.

Join us on April 29 at our next Business of Aging: Information Exchange Network (BA:IEN) breakfast meeting to hear social media expert Maureen Garbutt, a Professor in the Advertising and Marketing Communications Program at Sheridan College, explain how to make social media work for you and your business. See flyer for details.BAIEN mtg v1 Apr 29_15

Guest Blog: Housing and Older Adults

By Garth Brown

Many older homeowners, particularly those on fixed incomes, find themselves house rich but struggle to pay the costs of rising taxes, utilities, food and other needs. In Halton Region over 20% of seniors live alone. That increases to over 50% at the age of 85. Maintaining a property can become challenging as the years progress. Mobility in and around the home can also become a challenge.

garth chartMeanwhile, due to unfortunate and sometimes unpredictable circumstances, other individuals, couples and families find themselves applying for Rent Geared to Income (RGI) housing. According to The Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association 2014 Wait List Survey report, 1,207 seniors are currently waiting for RGI housing.

The wait can be up to five years due to lack of affordable rental units in Oakville, Burlington, Milton and beyond. Studies confirm that older adults living alone are at greater risk of social isolation and loneliness.

Recognizing the needs of both groups above, municipalities including Burlington, Oakville and Milton have passed by-laws allowing the construction of legal apartments in existing detached homes. Creating an apartment within a home means a homeowner can generate rental income from their property (over $1,000 per month for a one bedroom unit, $1,300 for a two bedroom unit and over $1,500 for a three bedroom unit) while gaining valuable support with home maintenance, added security and socialization opportunities. Best of all, those on the wait list can be served by this new housing stock!

The costs of creating a legal apartment can range from $20,000 to $40,000 depending on the nature of the project. The return on the investment through rental income, tax deductions and increased home equity provides a strong financial motivation for homeowners to re-purpose part of their home or property they hardly ever use. Knowing you have helped provide safe, secure and affordable housing for someone in need is priceless!

About the blogger
Garth Brown, an affordable housing advocate in Oakville, has created a company called Egality that provides full consultation and construction services to create legal apartments within detached homes. For more information contact Garth Brown at homes@egality.ca