Archive - March, 2012

Away from misery island

Professor Dr Hans Becker, CEO of Humanitas Foundation in the Netherlands, shares that away from misery island is the way to go. He is a driving force behind the concept of ‘Apartments for Life’, Agelessvoice finds out more about this concept from him:

Can you share the ‘Apartments for Life’ concept?

Fifteen years ago, the Dutch older people started demanding an alternative to old-style nursing homes and hostels. They wanted to be able to go on living independently and stay in their own communities for as long as they could even if their health declined and they could no longer get around.

‘Apartments for Life’ is a response to this challenge, pioneered by the Humanitas Foundation in Rotterdam in the mid-1990s. It began with 350 apartments in three complexes in 1995 and has really taken off.

So how does it work?

Human happiness – that is the business we are in – is not about ‘cure and care’. There is not much to cure when someone has Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s, or even arthritis in the knees. The care elements have to be there, but they should be in the background. The ‘Apartments for Life’ philosophy has four basic values:

  • Boss of your own life.
  • Use it or lose it.
  • Extended family approach.
  • A yes culture.

The Humanitas approach is that residents should be the boss of their own life, with their own front door so they are truly a resident, not just ‘staying’ in a room that belongs to an institution. The Humanitas model for ‘Apartments for Life’ includes carefully designed apartment complexes, lived in and partly run by independent older people, and offering services on a needs basis. These include medical, daily care, recreational, educational and social, up to and including nursing home-type care.

The apartments (minimum 72 sqm, three rooms – the social norm for building requirements in the Netherlands), may be purchased, or rented. The apartments are designed in such a way that – even with a wheelchair – the sink (variable height sinks), the electricity cupboard, and the letterbox, are within reach, and barriers such as thresholds, narrow doorways, awkwardly opening French doors, etc, are avoided. Living arrangements, as a total living concept, is not the only contributing factor to an individual’s happiness, a sense of “belonging” is also crucial and through our approach, we have achieved this.

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Elderly care in Hong Kong – the challenges & opportunities

Can you imagine, if you intend to have a bed at a residential home for elderly in Hong Kong, you would have to wait for around 39 months? And, if you wish to apply for elderly care services, you would probably have to visit several offices of different Government departments before you are offered the services? 

Hong Kong has the highest rate of institutionalised elderly (of around eight percent), when compared with other countries like USA and UK who are around three percent to four percent. So why do elderly in Hong Kong love to be institutionalised?

According to the Census projection in Hong Kong, it is expected in about 25 years, the percentage of the elderly population here would increase to 25 percent to 28 percent, meaning about one fourth of the total population would be elderly in Hong Kong at 2033.


Challenges of elderly care

As a Chinese society, filial piety has been a long belief that can foster quality care to the elderly. However, the following challenges are faced by elderly care in Hong Kong:

  1. Busy working lives – Even as they age, the spouse and children of the elderly have to work long hours before they can go home to take care of the elderly.
  2. Limited residential space – This prevents the elderly from being properly cared in their own homes. Worse still, their homes cannot accommodate a wheelchair.
  3. Intention of not to bother family members by the elderly – Elderly in Hong Kong are very considerate that they do not want to bother their families, choosing instead to live by themselves.
  4. Increasingly frail elderly population – Around 15 percent of the elderly suffer from chronic illness, whilst eight percent of those aged 80 suffer from dementia. These figures are set to increase as the population continues to age.
  5. Shortage of para-professionals (such as occupational therapists and physiotherapists) and nurses – Elderly institutions are not granted license if they lack sufficient para-medical staff. This means an added pressure to existing elderly institutions with their waiting lists for the elderly continuing to grow and the wait becomes longer. 

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State of the US baby boomer, a free US senior housing directory resource online, recently produced an infographic titled, “State of the Baby Boomer” with some interesting statistics about US baby boomers. Baby boomers make up about 25 percent of smartphone users with iPhones being the most popular within the demographic. Additionally, over 1/4 of online boomers have given online dating a try. See the infographic below:

Silver surfers in Asia-Pacific

Silver Group, a company based in Singapore that helps businesses and Governments benefit from the 50+ population, recently released data on the silver surfers in Asia-Pacific. Some of the highlights include:

  • The 55+ market represents just 9 percent of all online users across the Asia-Pacific region. The largest online users include the 25 to 34 years’ group (28 percent) and the 15 to 24 years’ group (also at 28 percent), followed by the 35 to 44 years’ group (23 percent) and 45 to 54 years’ group (12 percent).
  • In Asia-Pacific, New Zealand leads with 22.5 percent of online users who are 55+, followed by Japan at a close second at 22.4 percent. Behind the pack is Australia at 21 percent and Hong Kong at 14.2 percent. The least of online users who are 55+ is India at 2.6 percent and Indonesia at 3.8 percent. Penetration is greater in the more developed economies of Asia-Pacific.
  • Online usage among 55+ grew almost 10 percent in the past year from 45,143 in November 2010 to 52,637 in November 2011. They spent increasing time online – an average of 1.10 hours per day.
  • In terms of gender, it is predominantly older males who are online. Hong Kong and New Zealand are exceptions, with females leading.
  • What are these seniors looking for? Most interested in travel, telecom and health sites.

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