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Taking Up the Challenge of Care for the Elderly:  The science professor tells David Brindle why he is now focusing on the care needs of the ageing population

(Source:  David Brindle, guardian.co.uk)

Professor Heinz Wolff at Brunel University. Photograph: Graham Turner for the Guardian

Although he is now in his 80s, Heinz Wolff still displays all the boyish enthusiasm for the application of science that made him such a popular television personality on shows such as The Great Egg Race in the 1980s. Midway through this interview in his office at Brunel University's Heinz Wolff Building, he suddenly springs up and leads the way to a nearby workshop to show off his latest project: a three-wheel BMW bubble car, converted to run on electricity as the prototype of a new mode of transport for older people.

In the professor's fertile mind, he sees the huge potential of a mass-produced electric vehicle that could park face-on to the pavement, facilitating exit through its front-opening door. For good measure, the seats would slide forward to enable driver and passenger simply to stand up and walk away. Naturally, he has himself been testing the concept by taking the car for spins around the university's west London campus – to the undoubted amusement of hundreds of Italian teenagers attending a summer course.

With his bow ties, wild hair and distinctive German accent – he was born in Berlin but arrived in Britain in 1939, aged 11, after his family fled the Nazis – Wolff is every inch the boffin. As the undisputed father of bioengineering – a term he believes he coined, to describe an activity designed to make the huge advances that had been made in technology, during the second world war, available to the biological sciences – he is rightly regarded as one of Britain's leading scientists. But he has now decided to renounce science – or, at least, to declare its limitations in providing answers to what he sees as the biggest challenge facing society: the care needs of the ageing population.

In his public lectures up and down the country – he still gives an average of one a week – Wolff is these days given to brandishing a hand and declaring: "I have undergone a change of heart. I am a techie; I have spent most of my life inventing technical devices of one sort or another. But the tool required for care, the only one really required for giving care, tends to be attached to people."

In his cluttered office, surrounded by computers, gadgets and less predictable decorations such as a joke-shop selection of stylish party moustaches, Wolff explains: "I fully subscribe to the fact that in the treatment of acute diseases, in robotic surgery, all sorts of things, technology is very important.

Pairs of hands

"But when it comes to caring for people in the way I define as 'comfort care', then I think that technology is no longer important because by and large the kind of things we need already exist. And anyway we may have been addressing the wrong clientele. Therefore I have convinced myself that the actual number of pairs of hands which are available, the right kind of state of mind and so on – these are the real problems we have to solve."

By "addressing the wrong clientele", he means that the focus of assistive technology has been overly on older and disabled people themselves. Rather, he now believes, the focus should have been more on helping their carers. And, reflecting on bitter experience in trying to get take-up of devices he has developed, he now thinks he should have targeted the private sector rather than central and local government.   At one time, Wolff and his associates had no fewer than 11 prototype "intelligent homes" set up with all the latest assistive technology. One, on the Brunel campus, was lived in for 10 years. But, he concludes, "there does not appear to be a market"… 

"Comfort care is an essential component of an acceptable quality of life," says Wolff. "Everybody to some extent is afraid of what is going to happen to them when they get old. We need to put these two propositions together and get people to do things when they are younger and fitter, in order to ensure that they have an unbreakable entitlement for care when they get older."  READ MORE HERE

China: Pension      Reform Begins in Shanghai

China is forced to raise pension age by five years because of scandals, corruption and one-child policy. A pilot project is launched first in the country’s largest city and will gradually be applied to the rest of the country.

(Source:  By Asia News)  

Shanghai – The Chinese government has decided to adopt a risky pension plan that would allow workers to work for five more years before they retire. It is doing so in order to cope with a fast aging population as well as a wave of scandals involving local officials, who have embezzled the pension funds of the cities they administer.  Shanghai will begin testing a flexible retirement system on 9 October. According to state media, eligible employees in the private sector will be allowed to postpone retirement until 65 for men and 60 for women. Public servants will continue however to retire under the present system. The current retirement age in China is 60 for men and 55 for women.

“The system tries to meet all the needs of the residents. Those who want to retire on schedule can do so, while those who wish to continue working may also do so," says Bao Danru, deputy director of the Shanghai Bureau of Social Security.  Local media have reported that the decision to change the system is also due to shortfalls in the pensions schemes.  Zheng Bingwen, from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, explained that China's pension deficit has recently topped 1.3 trillion yuan ($200 billion) and that it is bound to grow further in the future.

Others note that postponing the age of retirement will not cut the deficit, only delay its impact. It will however leave fewer job opportunities for younger workers.

The problem is the result of China’s infamous ‘one-child policy’, which the authorities recently reiterated for at least another “20 years”.  By imposing coercive population controls, the government has forced everyone to work longer since fewer children means fewer contributions to pension plans. The current system is thus starting to collapse from weak foundations.  LINK HERE

Husband, Grandfather, Retiree – and a Japanese Porn Star

(Source:  Mark MacKinnon, Globe and Mail)

It’s said that everyone has a secret. What was unique about Shigeo Tokuda’s fib was that everything he wasn’t telling his wife and daughter was on recorded on hundreds of videos, and that thousands of admirers knew exactly who he was and what he was trying to hide.

For a long time, Mr. Tokuda was not just the world’s oldest porn star, he was perhaps its most anonymous. His family didn’t know where the 76-year-old really went and what he did when the retired travel agent pulled on his blazer and went off to “work” in the morning.

But among his fans – and there are enough of them to justify the making of at least one new film a month – Mr. Tokuda is the superstar of the rising genre of “elder porn,” movies that feature older actors (at least the male ones) and plotlines in which the growing number of Japanese senior citizens (again, at least the males) can picture themselves. His most famous role is as a senior citizen who acts anything but his age with an assortment of nurses, as well as with his twentysomething daughter-in-law.

Elder porn is a fast-growing industry in Japan, which has a population that is both the oldest in the world as well as the world’s second-largest consumers of pornography (after the United States). By his count, Mr. Tokuda has appeared in some 350 films, with another project – Prohibited Elderly Care Vol. 45 – already in production.  READ MORE HERE


Alzheimer Scotland in Dementia Appeal

A major fund-raising drive has been launched in Scotland to place a specialist dementia nurse in every health board.

(Source:  www.hc2d.co.uk)

The campaign by Alzheimer Scotland is being headed by the Duchess of Hamilton following the death of her husband earlier this year after he was diagnosed with vascular dementia.

Alzheimer Scotland wants to improve standards of care, reduce the inappropriate prescribing of antipsychotic drugs and cut the number of dementia sufferers who have to go into residential care from hospital rather than their own homes.  Dementia in Scotland costs the NHS £1.7bn a year with the 71,000 sufferers expected to double over the next 25 years.  At present four of Scotland’s 14 health boards have a dedicated dementia training nurse in post, each funded at an annual cost of £50,000 by the charity.  They are in the Borders, one in Kilmarnock, and a third in Edinburgh. The fourth is now being paid for by NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde in Paisley, after three years of funding support by the charity, which has now raised enough cash for a fifth nurse.

Lady Hamilton said: "Hospital staff have very little specific dementia training - and that is a huge problem because it can be a terrible experience for people with dementia and their families.  "The staff can do the job of fixing a broken hip, or repairing a heart valve, but if they don't know how to handle a person with dementia, it is hopeless.”  Alzheimer Scotland said health authorities had not realised the scale of this problem until recently.  LINK  

Private Home-Care Companies 'Abusing Elderly' (Ireland)

(Source:  By Eilish O'Regan Health Correspondent, Irish Independent)

A growing number of complaints about private home-care companies abusing older people behind closed doors is leading to mounting concern about the unregulated industry.  Friends of the Elderly has recorded complaints about the lack of training of home-care workers, and poor language skills.  In other cases, the complaints have highlighted neglect of the person they are looking after, verbal abuse, offices not answering phones and unexplained increases in fees.

The problems have arisen with private home-care companies which are hired directly by the older person, or are paid by the Health Service Executive (HSE) under the Home Care Support Scheme, to provide a range of supports to people in their own homes.  The concerns, which will be aired on RTE's 'Prime Time' tonight, were previously highlighted by the Irish Independent, which revealed the HSE is spending more than €300m a year on home care.  A report by the government think tank, the National Economic and Social Forum, has already uncovered major flaws in the sector.  LINK HERE  

Huge Demand Forecast for Elderly Friendly Home Environment (Taiwan)
(Source:  By Alex Jiang) ENDITEM /pc)

Taiwan's rapid advancement toward becoming an aging society will create a huge demand not just for medical care, but also for a safe home environment for the elderly, according to a real estate agency.

"The concept of creating an elderly friendly residential environment is still in its infancy in Taiwan, " said Bright Lee, a spokesman for Evertrust Rehouse Co., in a statement issued Friday.  However, as the society ages, public awareness of this issue will rise and home facilities for the elderly, from bathroom to balcony, will be seen as essential, Lee said.  "As a result, the market demand for such facilities is likely to grow very fast," he added.

The over-65 population in Taiwan is more than 2.3 million, or nearly 11 percent of the total population, according to figures for 2010 compiled by the Council for Economic Planning and Development (CEPD).  In 20 years, the number of people in that age group will surge to 5.73 million, or 24 percent of the country's 23 million population, the CEPD has forecast. 

Lee said the steep rise in the number of elderly people in the country, coupled with the disabled population that now stands at 1 million, will drive demand for facilities geared toward creating a more convenient home environment for that demographic.  A recent survey conducted by the real estate agency found that 60 percent of people would prefer to live at home on their own when they grow old, while 15.33 percent would choose a nursing home or an assisted living complex.  That will translate into a market of 4 million people requiring special residential facilities in 20 years, the agency forecast.



For some East Bay retirees, Mexico an affordable alternative

(Source: By Kathleen Kirkwood, Correspondent, www.insidebayarea.com)

Alameda resident Bob Hansen, right, after a fishing trip in Manzanillo, Mexico, where he plans...

Brad Billingsley could have been waiting for his tee time at an Arizona golf course.  Instead, the former Lafayette resident and his wife Linda were in a lagoon off Cabo San Lucas, snapping photos of gray whales bobbing next to their small charter boat.  "Every day, it's an adventure here," Brad Billingsley said. "It's added 20 years to my life."

Brad, 62, and Linda Billingsley, 61, are among the "silver surge" of baby boomers seeking alternative retirement nests in Mexico, according to a recent report by the International Community Foundation.

It's not certain how many U.S. retirees are living in Mexico -- a 2004 study puts it between 500,000 and 600,000 -- but the foundation and other researchers say the number is bound to increase as more boomers settle into their golden years and find Mexico an affordable alternative. Almost half the retirees living in coastal areas are getting by comfortably on less than $1,000 per month, said the report, which cites the growth of real estate projects targeted at retirees as proof that expatriates are flocking south of the border.  MORE

(Source:  www.timescrest.com)

Way back in 2007, scientists from Johns Hopkins University concluded at the Alzheimer's Association conference in Washington that over 26 million people worldwide have Alzheimer's disease - a number set to quadruple by 2050. The prediction shocked the world as it woke up to the menace of this braindestroying condition.

Two years later, the definitive World Alzheimer's report, compiled by the world's top dementia scientists, admitted that the problem was much worse. Their conclusion was that 35 million people worldwide would be suffering from dementia (90 per cent of which were Alzheimer's cases) in 2010 and that the number is set to almost double every 20 years to 65. 7 million in 2030 and 115. 4 million in 2050. Several countries woke up and started to put in place services for the old, like homes to support dementia patients, screening programmes and treatment protocols. India, however, didn't bother to take any such action.

Today, an estimated 37 lakh people in India are affected by dementia, which is expected to double by 2030. Despite the magnitude, there is gross ignorance and neglect, and services are scarce for people with Alzheimer's and their families. According to a landmark "India Dementia Report 2010", which will be released on September 21 by Alzheimer's and Related Disorders Society of India (ARDSI) - and is now exclusively available with TOI-Crest - it is estimated that the cost of taking care of a patient with Alzheimer's is about Rs 43, 000 annually, much of which is met by the families.

According to Dr Daisy Acosta, chairman of Alzheimer's Disease International (ADI), the costs of caring for Alzheimer's sufferers is likely to rise even faster than the disease's prevalence - especially in the developing world.
"This is a wake-up call that Alzheimer's is the single most significant health and social crisis of the 21st century, " said Dr Acosta. "World governments are woefully unprepared for the social and economic disruptions this disease will cause, " she added.  READ MORE