Demographic trends are changing globally as large segments of population are ageing and facing more complex health needs than ever. These changing trends highlight the need for global and cross-sectoral collaboration to share knowledge, exchange ideas, and provide inspiration required to move the needle further and faster towards creating environments that are built to be inclusive of our ageing population. There is a need for innovative health solutions to keep the elderly active and independent longer.
In October 2017, a Healthy Ageing Tour to Denmark successfully introduced a group of North American healthcare leaders, architects and designers to the Danish approach to caring for their elderly population. This tour promoted knowledge exchange between North America and Denmark with respects to models and approaches for healthy ageing. The tour fostered dialogue and encouraged exchange of ideas and best practices between and amongst Danish and North American healthcare leaders of varying professional backgrounds. The results of the tour were remarkable; a sense of global camaraderie was established. Everyone possessed a spirit of empathy and collaboration, both of which lie at the heart of innovation in creating age-friendly environments.
Both in Denmark and Canada, the integration of technological solutions and well-designed flexible (indoor and outdoor) spaces play a crucial role in the sustainability and cost-effectiveness of elderly care facilities. Ethnography is at the heart of addressing specialized needs of elderly populations and user experience. Human-centered design thinking is essential to address challenges faced by ageing populations. Designing an environment to fit the user, versus the user trying to fit the environment involves an innovative way of thinking and has been demonstrated to be possible!
The non-physical environment is also critical when considering the health, happiness, and integration of our elderly population. Access to physical fitness, adventure and social interaction was highlighted as being very important in the Danish approach to healthy ageing.
Through a series of presenters, the Active and Healthy Ageing Symposium will highlight the Canadian and Danish approaches to healthy ageing, mobility and independence. Aspects of age-friendly environments from health technology to innovative elderly care homes, and cycling with older adults to story sharing will be explored. The underlying theme of the session will focus on the need to collaborate and move away from operational silos to address complex needs of ageing populations. Specifically, the session will aim to bring together innovative perspectives on inclusive and active ageing and share unique solutions promoting healthy ageing through various user-centered approaches.
Dementia is generally considered the worst fate imaginable. Even the best of us in this part of the world are terrified at the thought of ending up completely dependent on others. What if there were no reasons to fear dementia, because we structured our society in such a way that enabled people to live dignified, happy and long lives with the illness? What if we accepted that we are dependent upon others and that we have reason to trust that a safety net will compassionately embrace us, if we end up needing help?
May Bjerre Eiby single-handedly created a nursing home and a new standard of treatment for people with dementia, one that is entirely based on caring, personal contact, and active engagement with both the residents and their relatives, and which has successfully eliminated the use of anti-psychotic medicines and sedatives.
In contrast to what we call the ‘negative spiral of dementia’, the method used at Dagmarsminde, could be seen as the ‘upward-spiraling cycle of dementia,’ because the motivation comes not from fearing dementia, but rather from creating hope for development and a worthy life.
“Long Term Care is not a Home”
Eden Care Communities envisions communities of people who are connected, fulfilled and secure. This can not be accomplished in a traditional Long Term Care setting. Employing the Eden Alternative Philosophy of care we are able to create a human habitat that focuses on individual wants, needs, desires and well-being versus the traditional medical model approach. Our Accredited Long Term Special Care Home is a place where Elders thrive, enjoying close continuing contact with plants animals, children, the neighborhood and the city, building meaningful relationships with Care Partners and the environment around them regardless of diagnosis or challenges. Those that call Eden Care Communities home have the opportunity to take meaningful control of their current and future lives; feeling safe, being known and connected, experiencing joy and having the best quality of life attainable. This is truly a person centred/person directed approach to a life worth living in a place you call home.
As the demand on long term care increase throughout Canada and around the world so will the complexity of care, user expectation, and cost. The innovation of our care practice and utilization of resources impacts all of these dimensions and the quality of life for people who call Long Term Care home.
The declaration of the United Nations Second World Assembly on Ageing highlights the need to review the existing structures in order to create age-friendly societies that are adapted to the challenges of the future. At Cycling Without Age, we address the above needs. We dream of creating a world together, in which the access to active citizenship and intergenerational relationships creates happiness among our fellow elderly citizens by providing them with an opportunity to remain an active part of society and the local community. We do that by giving them the right to wind in their hair, the right to experience the city and nature close up from a rickshaw and by giving them an opportunity to tell their story in the environment where they have lived their lives. We treat loneliness and social isolation by providing a sense of belonging to a community, and we promote a healthier and more active lifestyle through slow cycling, which has an overall positive effect on any city. Our presentation at the 14th IFA will discuss how we help communities and explore ongoing research that is investigating the mental and physical health effects on seniors who regularly participate in Cycling Without Age.
As people grow old, many lose their significant relations. Combined with reduced mobility and sensory impairment, this often leads to loneliness. Tell Stories for Life is a Danish initiative to prevent loneliness by bringing elderly people together to form new relationships and encourage continued engagement in the social world.
Losing long lasting relations to death or disease means losing the people who know your stories. This results in narrative loneliness as one’s life witnesses are no longer present to commemorate life with. Tell Stories for Life focuses on generating new witnesses to the older participants’ significant life stories, forming new relations and strengthening feelings of a coherent identity. Inspired by narrative therapeutics, and the anthropologist Barbara Myerhoff’s studies of old Jewish Holocaust survivors, Tell Stories for Life brings older people together in guided meetings to tell and listen to significant stories from each other’s lives.
Tell Stories for Life is spreading across Denmark. Well over 150 groups are now in existence. Participants experience both psychological and social benefits from the groups. Some say that the group was the first place they felt the confidentiality to disclose painful memories, others find comfort in re-connecting with past experiences, thoughts and feelings. The group builds trust as participants become new witnesses to each other’s important life stories. Many form lasting friendships.
What is your biggest fear of aging? The biggest concern for many is the loss of independence. Just like saving for retirement, we can largely dictate how we live our golden years by utilizing today’s technology to help achieve all 5 WHO Global Strategy and Action Plan on Aging and Health objectives.
After witnessing the technology that global healthcare leaders like Denmark are implementing, it is time to think outside of the box in Canada. Decisions must be made that not only future proof our healthcare facilities but also lower operating costs and extend quality of life.
Health technology such as lifts, adult change tables, adjustable height fixtures and walk-in tubs allows seniors to age safely in their homes longer, wherever their home may be. Not only does this reduce strain on the public healthcare system, it provides a better quality of life through independence. Some products have been imposed through building code yet most are being overlooked in the design of new healthcare facilities. If investigated, these products often pay for themselves within a few years of use freeing future capital for other equipment or services that may benefit users.