The Good, The Bad and the Ageist
Most people would like to age within their homes. One alternative to acheive this is intergenerational living. They can invite in younger people, often students, to share their home. The older person gets help and social stimulation. The young student gets cheaper housing in exchange. Matching sites such as Nesterly.com have emerged in the USA. They will do background checks and try to find a suitable fit.Use a text section to describe your values, show more info, summarize a topic, or tell a story.
Wider Circle.com Community Building
Ageing at home often means social isolation. Other businesses have been started to break down the loneliness. Companies like “Wider Circle” in the US focus on creating face to face local groups. The groups come together to exercise but also to provide mutual support. They take on responsibility for each other’s health. The cost of such services is being borne by employers or health insurance companies. Both have a vested interest in having healthier older people. Employers know the strain and distraction that comes when their employees become carers (Newsletter #086 “The Longevity Dividend III”). Health insurance companies know how dangerous loneliness can be (Newsletter #095 “Loneliness”).
Teladoc.com A Hospital at home
Telehealth is full of opportunities for businesses to help individuals stay at home. COVID 19 provided a massive boost to the sector. Physicians realized the potential of remote medicine. Teladoc.com offers telemedicine internationally. Many in the sector are working towards a “hospital at home”. This would provide a remote monitoring and a care system. Designed to allow people, especially older people, to recover from treatment and operations at home.
Papa.com Care Respite
Being a carer is hard work. Even a short respite can help. Papa.com offers students and trainee nurses the opportunity to help. To provide a respite for family members. (Papa.com) .
Project Tribal Finding Care
Bronze Software Labs in UK has developed special regional maps based on sophicicated geographic algorithms. “Project Tribal” as is called, allows the identification of all sources of potential care for a loved one. It identifies the state, charity and local groups that can help. It provides the infrastructure for someone to remain in their home.
Wellthy.com Managing the Transition to care
How can a move from the family home to any kind of “institution” be managed? This is a complex task often involving the whole family. It has financial and social implications. It has practical problems like closing down a family home. It has highly charged emotional issues. For example how to "manage" an older loved one into the new environment (Newsletter #114 “Taking Control of Life”). A series of web delivered offerings are available. They provide appropriate guides and checklists. These include everything from choosing a care home to arranging removal services (Wellthy.com). They can provide people to help such as project managers.
Fixing the Toilet Acoustics
A reader in Hong Kong kindly sent me a perfect example of firms that listen to their customers. During the design of the new Terminal 5 at Heathrow, the British Airports Authority conducted market research in the existing terminals. Feeding back the results the researchers pointed out that older people go to the toilet more often. This was greeted as “non- news” until they explained why. Older consumers were going to the bathrooms to hear the announcements. The acoustics were so much better there than the vast open spaces in the Terminal. The designers created areas of the new terminal with better acoustics to help the Third Agers.
Aeon Shopping Mall, Tokyo
The fifth floor of the Aeon shopping Mall in Tokyo is dedicated to the “Grand Generation”. The mall stocks merchandise suitable for the aging. Everything from highly decorative walking sticks to a supermarket specializing in food sold in individual portions. There are multiple coffee shops. It opens earlier in the morning to fit the circadian cycles of its customers. At 7.30 am everyday there are public exercise classes and special promotions that run until 9am. The aisles have a 180m carpeted walking track, marked with distances. It provides a safe and dry place to exercise all year round. The owners have accepted the inevitable and turned it to their advantage, unlike their US counterparts.
Getting It wrong in the Mall
In the “Wars of the Mall Walkers” US Mall owners tried to hold back the over 65’s. It seems Third Agers use the malls as part of their exercise program. In the early mornings there are crowds of them walking. Malls are warm in winter and cool in summer. They are comfortable and protected from the elements. They have walking surfaces that are smooth and free of obstructions. None of these are available on the average sidewalk. The enthusiastic walker, particularly in the Northern United States in the winter or in the heat of the summer in the South needs such a space. The problem for Mall owners is whether to turn a blind eye to this “pirate” use of their space. Many complain that parking spaces, close to entrances, are blocked early in the morning. Walkers do not even buy a coffee or drink. Several Mall owners have tried to ban the practice. The response was swift: boycotts and bad publicity.
CVS Learns from A.G.N.E.S.
CVS is a US drug-store and convenience chain. They used the AgeLabs “old age simulator” known as Agnes (“Age Gain Now Empathy System”). It constrains movement with ropes and pulleys and collars. User wear gloves to simulate loss of feel and glasses that can simulate all kinds of eye problems. They were particularly interested in AGNES because their customers are older than the norm in the industry.
CVS managers and store designers took AGNES to two real stores in New England (much to the surprise of a few regular customers).
“I walked, constricted to look down”, said one AGNES clad CVS team-member, “and I really could not look up”. He describes how he navigated using the linoleum pathway that wended its way through CVS’s trademark grey carpeting. The good news was that stores’ low shelving also meant that wearers were able to reach all the items on their shopping lists.
Agnes began to show the power of simulating more than one change in the body at a time. CVS tended to place heavy item such as six-packs of drinks on the bottom shelves or floor to keep them out of the way. A typical older customer can lift a Six-Pack. They can bend over to reach the floor. When wearers of the suit were asked to reach down to the extremity of their range and at the same time lift a heavy weight it destabilized their balance. Understanding such interactions between the different impacts of age is part of the rationale for AGNES. Needless to say, the six packs of nutritional drink were relocated at hip height. The same thing happened when loading or unloading deep – bottomed shopping carts. Carts were redesigned to be higher and to have easier sides to lift heavy items over.
The reduced eyesight produced necessitated more changes. Users could not discriminate between the different product identifiers. These stuck out from the store shelves. Each was ten centimetres in diameter making it difficult to read at the far end of the aisle. The result was an often frustrating long walk to find a particular item. They redesigned the lollipop signs and made them more readable. They also re-organized the shelves. They were organized by topic not product. Insulin pumps, glucose pills and pressure socks were grouped together. They are all bought by diabetics and the section labelled accordingly. This reduced the number of signs dramatically.
There were many other insights for CVS that were immediately actionable. CVS had nurse practitioner working in walk-in clinics. They highlighted important advice on medicines with a yellow highlighter. This was difficult to see, by the very people it was written for. The colour was changed. Backlit credit card machines were introduced. This improved the contrast of the old grey on white machines.
They built “decompression zones” at the entrance to stores. This is a common issue in all stores. Customers take a few minutes to acclimatize to their new environment. They have to get used to the change in light and temperature. During decompression customers have little time for anything else. What CVS saw were older customers grabbing a shopping cart for stability. They then put their bags in to it and changed their glasses. Only then did they start their shopping trip.
The Comal restaurant, Berkeley.
Meyer is an acoustical engineering company that is often called in to fix the acoustics in large spaces such as concert halls. Meyer, has now extended the idea to restaurants. Their systems can be installed to create a “force field” around even a single group of tables. Its intention is to enable a normal conversation in the middle of a busy restaurant. The result is the noise does not trigger a “snowball". The first installation was at a restaurant called Comal in Berkeley.
The acoustic engineers first dampened the noise with absorbing panels. They were in the form of attractive pictures on all the walls. They installed 38 microphones and 95 speakers. The system captures the ambient noise everywhere in the restaurant. It can “leak it back into the restaurant in any desired form” . To do this requires the same sophisticated signal processing software used in the concert halls. To drive everything requires computer capacity equivalent to a dozen MacBook Pros.
The manager can create a "buzz" instantly in the bar area even in the early evening. He can make the restaurant sound like a cathedral if he wishes. He does this from a laptop he carries around the restaurant. All this in a restaurant which still has the stark, stripped back architecture popular today.
Bringing Back the Booths
On the 23rd Floor of The Shard, the tallest building in London, is a restaurant call Oblix (in honour of the Asterix cartoon character). It is a large, tall room with floor to ceiling windows for the view. It has hard floors and little soft furnishing. When full, it is very noisy especially since it has an open kitchen. Conversation amongst a group of healthy aged consumers sat at a table for four is almost impossible. In an attempt to provide more seats with good views they created a raised platform in the rear of the restaurant. On the platform are a series of booths. These are high sided with soft padding. The result is an area of calm in a sea of noise – the best of both worlds.
The Restaurant of Mistaken Orders
It’s a restaurant where orders and deliveries sometimes go astray. Yes, we’ve come to a place where the waiters and waitresses all have some degree of cognitive impairment.
The impetus for starting this pop-up restaurant comes from an encounter between the creator Shiro Oguni and a group home where people with dementia live. “Like everybody else, my awareness of dementia at first tended towards negative images of people who were ‘radically forgetful’ and ‘aimlessly wandering about.’ But actually, they can cook, clean, do laundry, go shopping and do other ‘normal’ things for themselves. Close-up, they might go a little off course now and then, but…”
Lunchtime. The order was for a Hamburger steak, but Oguni was served a plate of gyoza (potstickers) instead. “As everybody around me was eating with such gusto, and I felt quite muddled and wondered if perhaps it was me who was in error.” Oguni noted, “Why raise our eyebrows at the difference between sizzling steak and gyoza? ‘So it’s a mistake, well, fine.’ Given that kind of tolerance, the dining scene can become relaxed and delightful.”
Made possible by the help of many people, the “Restaurant of Mistaken Orders” is indeed a place where mistakes happen. One older woman shows her guests to a table and then sits down with them. Another serves a hot coffee with a straw. Yet another older woman struggles to twist a large pepper mill, not entirely sure that the pepper will fall where it’s wanted. Everybody at the table pitches in to help, and with cries of “We did it!” all join in the laughter. However, “The restaurant is not about whether orders are executed incorrectly or not,” notes Oguni. “The important thing is the interaction with people who have dementia.”
Although succeeding as a “restaurant of never-ending laughter,” Oguni was initially concerned about possible criticisms, such as, “Don’t treat dementia like a carnival sideshow!” and “Don’t make a laughingstock out of them!” But actually, when guests see the smiles of the staffers with dementia, and the joy that motivates their work, some feel a spirit of courage, while others are moved to tears. And invariably, the servers say such things as “I’m still capable. This has gaven me confidence.” The negative image of dementia was replaced by a fun, positive one. “Calling someone ‘The demented Mrs. Whozit’ is completely different from ‘Mrs. Whozit with dementia.’ Dementia is not what a person is, but just part of who they are. People are people. The change will not come from them, it must come from society,” observes Oguni. “By cultivating tolerance, almost anything can be solved. The image of ‘Cool Japan’ is recently gathering much enthusiasm, but I think ‘Warm Japan’ is just as important. I want to promote a Japan that cultivates a warm, comfortable environment, so people will return home with smiles and a glow in their hearts.”
 2017 Cabinet Office White Paper on the Aging of Society.
Exercise and Activity
The Aeon Group: Gyms for the over 80's
On the fifth floor of the Aeon mall there is also a gym. In a recent documentary they interviewed Nemeto Kazue a fit and active 82 year old ex tax officer. She comes to the Mall every day. She spend 3-5 hours mostly in the gym. The gym is staffed with young, hip and fit trainers. They take her through resistance training and light aerobic exercises. She says she comes because she wants to stay fit like her late mother who was active until the age of 98. She also thinks the trainers are “cute” and are like grandchildren to her. Hopefully she explores the rest of the floor and generates the kind of activity she needs to feed her brain.
Fixing Goods Not Just Services
The J Range from Panasonic
Panasonic in Japan is adapting their home appliances to the needs of older people. The Japanese are not tall people, especially earlier generations. In their 50’s the average housewife is only 157cm tall. By the time they are in their eighties they have lost another 5cm. Panasonic are developing new ranges of refrigerators for them. These are shorter and have lower shelves. They are also developing lighter vacuum cleaners. These are more suitable for older people to carry upstairs.
The Wonders of Modern Smartphones
Modern smart phones provide amazing abilities to adapt the sound they provide. Android through its “Sound Quality and Effects” menu, allow users to personalize the sound they hear. Users can adapt the sound based on their age. The can choose different age bands including "Over 65". They can even take a hearing test using headphones. The phone will play tones of different frequencies in different ears. All you have to do is press a key when you hear them. The system will adjust the volume of different frequencies to return the user to the hearing of a twenty-year-old. It will also allow you to listen to music with and without the “adjustment”, if you a brave enough to try!
Nike chases the "Athletes Forever" not the old.
The CruzrOne shoe was designed with the older runner in mind. By redesigning the heel, midsole and even the front they created a shoe that has the landing weight further back on the heel. The result is increased momentum for the slower runneer. Despite this there is no mention of age in the proposition. Instead the shoe was positioned for th "athlete forever". The runner who has already for much of the lives and planned to continue to do so.
Being Called Ageist
“I’m Old , not an Idiot”
This was the rallying call of Carlos San Juan. He started an on line petition to stop Spanish banks excluding older customers by closing branches and moving vital transactions on line. He secured a 650,000 petition and the banks conceded. They put together a government approved Plan. This included banks promising to:
Maintain bank branches
Repair ATM’s with 2 days,
Provided a dedicated older persons phone line at no incremental cost
Simplifying the ease of use of the web-site.