It’s Clear: Aging is Changing

By Rick Banas of BMA Management, Inc.

Wojtek Chodzko-Zajko , PhD, offered some interesting observations about wellness and aging yesterday at the 2011 Senior Living Conference that I was attending.
The conference was hosted by Life Services Network ( LSN ), an association in Illinois that represents senior housing, assisted living, supportive living and nursing homes.

Dr. Wojtek heads the Department of Kinesiology and Community Health at the University of Illinois ( UofI ) in Urbana-Champaign . For the past 15 years, Professor Wojtek’s research interest has focused on the effects of exercise and physical activity on the health and quality of life of older adults.

One challenge, he says “is that what most technology does for older adults is prevent them from expending energy.”
He sees some big changes ahead.

A few pieces of equipment and an exercise program three times a week is not going to cut it anymore. Physical, emotional, social, spiritual, intellectual, and environment wellness will all be relevant. A healthy balance on all of these areas will be needed.

Choices will be important. Therabands might do more good than high-tech exercise equipment.

There will be a transition from caring for older adults to empowering older adults to stay healthy and independent. You can’t just tell older adults what you think they need to do. You have to work together with them on making choices that will help them enjoy a better quality of life. There will be a focus on helping them do things for themselves versus doing things for them.

There will be a transition from rehabilitation and long-term care to prevention. The old approach is that society is responsible for caregiving. The new approach will be that the individual is responsible for prevention.

Technology will have a major impact.
Virtual coaches and computerized avatars.

Remote sensors in a home or apartment that measures how fast a person is walking, with alerts if the person suddenly starts walking at a slower pace.
Sensors on stairs that can detect falls.

Sensors that can respond to a person’s voice. For example, if an older adult needs help finding their bedroom or bathroom, they can ask for help and lighting will be activated to light the way.

Radio-frequency devices such as the small transmitter that folks with mobility difficulties in Seattle can use. They can use the transmitter to extend the amount of time they have to cross the street.

Mechanical hearts and synthetic muscle.
“It is clear,” he says. “Aging is changing.”
I can’t help but agree. What do you think?

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