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Joe Coughlin is the Director of the Age Lab at MIT in Boston and a leader in research on how demographic change, social trends and technology converge to drive future innovations in business and government.   Check out his blog Disruptive Demographics on Aging as an Extreme Sport.

In his talk at TEDX Boston, Professor Coughlin challenges the audience to new thinking for creation of new tools to enable ageing population to continue to live long quality lives – the point is to NOT make ageing an extreme sport but an easy transition.       This is the type of innovative thinking that will benefit many elders now and in the future.

To make technologies more effective there needs to be a way in which professionals at all levels can access the data remotely and across a vast geographic area.    That is the aim of the newly created Australian Telehealth Network [ATN], a video consultation service to connect aged care providers, general practitioners and medical specialists across Australia.

The ATN network is part of the Commonwealth Government’s $620 million push into making the oft quoted “telehealth” concept a reality.

“Aged care providers across the country have enormous difficulties in accessing GP services in a timely manner, which sometimes has serious and adverse outcomes for residents,” ATN Executive Director, Mark Barnett, said.

“The partnership was established to provide Australian aged care providers and physicians with the world’s best and most economical video conferencing technology.”

Technological development is crucial for the provision of services to the growing number of elders around the world.  IAHSA and the LeadingAge Center for Aging Services Technologies are sponsoring a Technology Study Tour that will help you learn about the latest technologies, including:

  • Electronic Health Records/Care Coordination
  • Telemedicine/Telehealth
  • Health Information Exchange


The Australian federal government recently announced the creation of a collaborative ‘partnership centre’  that will bring together researchers, health professionals and policy makers to search for answers to the vast problems posed by the rising prevalence of dementia as the population ages.

The five-year project is to funded through a partnership between the National Health and Medical Research Council [NHMRC], Alzheimer’s Australia, Brightwater Care Group and IAHSA members HammondCare Group and Helping Hand Aged Care.

The research will look at care models as well as types of technologies being developed for those with cognitive decline.

IAHSA is sponsoring two study tours in 2012 that speak to finding solutions to this global problem:

April 2012:  IAHSA/CAST Technology Tour focusing on trends in care provision and use of technology to help frail older adults.

October 2012: IAHSA/Alzheimer’s Disease International tour titled Alzheimer’s Disease: Research Meets Care, exploring research and treatment protocols for early stage dementia with visits to communities providing care.

China is facing a demographic time bomb and the government has decided it is time to take action to meet the social service needs of its rapidly increasing elderly population.   According to Xinhua News, the Chinese government this week announced the creation of a five-year plan that will increase the number of nursing homes and community care centers around the country.

According to the plan, the country will work to transform some unused public buildings into nursing homes and encourage small hotels, villages, enterprises and hospitals to convert unused facilities into nursing homes.   At least 50 percent of revenue from the state welfare lottery program will be spent on social services for the elderly.   The government is also providing preferential policies of land use and credit to encourage enterprises and non-governmental organizations to invest in the sector.

A new study by the Boston Consulting Group [BCG] warns companies in all major industries that the ageing population will hinder growth and productivity unless they take action now.    The report, titled Global Aging: How Companies Can Adapt to the New Reality,  asserts that global ageing will affect companies along four core dimensions: labor, growth, capital and consumer needs.

Despite the challenges presented by these tremendous demographic changes,  BCG feels that there are many opportunities as well for companies.   ‘With the right perspective and a willingness to take action, the potential negative impact can actually be turned into a positive impact.  Companies that recognize the magnitude of the issue and that take the necessary steps – not just to cope but the benefit – will best adapt to the new reality and profit from it,” said Jan Willem Kuenen, a GCG partner and coauthor of the report.

“Embed a national ageing agenda in Australia” is the bold vision set out in a recent report by the Australian Treasurer’s Advisory Panel on the Economic Potential of Senior Australians.    Entitled Realizing the Economic Potential of Senior Australians, the report looks forward to 2050 with a heavy focus on active ageing with recommendations to turn grey into gold.

The far-reaching report goes beyond ideas to fight age discrimination and keep older workers in the workforce, into policy suggestions on encouraging lifelong learning and increasing the availability of age-appropriate affordable housing.

IAHSA recognizes the importance of having affordable housing for our seniors and is partnering with the LeadingAge Center of Applied Research on a study tour in New England focusing on bringing health and supportive services to affordable senior housing communities.   For governments with the vision as demonstrated by this report, this could be a cost-effective strategy for helping low-income older people age in place even as they struggle with frailty, disability and chronic illness.    The study tour takes place 10-15 September 2012 and will visit sites in Massachusetts and Vermont in the US.

How can you address the double challenge facing European countries:  population ageing with the risk of labour shortages as baby boomers retire and the delay in arrival of young people to the labour market???

To meet these challenges, the European Commission recently published It’s Time To Manage Age, a report that defines objectives for 2020 for Member States to set up strategies to develop new skills and jobs to modernise the labour market while ensuring the employability of workers throughout their lives.   In order to be successful, it will be important to encourage businesses to take a steps to correct current employment practices so that there are opportunities for older workers.

To promote age diversity, businesses must set up a human resource policy that prevents discrimination.  To guarantee the employability of an older workforce, businesses have to commit to a management policy for all ages, which nurtures their employees’ know-how, develops their skills regardless of their age, promotes cooperation between generations and looks to improve work conditions.

Today’s trends point to the new reality of employment.  New workforce solutions will be needed to meet the needs of the older worker and businesses seeking skilled and experienced workers.  The time has come to value age diversity in the workforce.

A new study from the Arts Health Institute in New South Wales, Australia, found that weekly clowning sessions were as effective as standard antipsychotic medication in reducing agitation among people with Alzheimer’s disease.     For the study, a specially trained “Elder Clown” conducted weekly humor sessions using a host of laughter-inducing tools that ranged from music and mime to visual sight-gags, irreverent jokes and funny props.   Between these sessions, trained staff members continued to conduct humor therapy with residents.    By the end of the study there was a reduction in both physically and verbally aggressive behavior.  In addition, residents showed signs of reduced agitation at least 26 weeks after therapy began.

IAHSA and Alzheimer’s Disease International are sponsoring a study tour in California October 2012 that will explore research and treatment protocols for early stage dementia as well as provide a shared learning experience through site visits to communities providing care for individuals with Alzheimer’s and related dementias.     Please join us on this important tour.

This week, The LeadingAge Center for Aging Services Technologies [CAST] released Preparing for the Future, a case study initiative, providing a comprehensive view of the way in which 19 aged care leaders in the US have adopted and deployed technologies in their communities.

The 19 organizations featured in this case study collection offer a full range of long-term services and supports in a variety of settings, including nursing homes, assisted living communities, independent housing, continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs), private homes and other community settings. They are located in urban, suburban and rural areas.

Many technology solutions employed by case study participants were designed to help the organization carry out strategic initiatives and were tied to a specific and well-developed operation, service or support. Those solutions included technologies for infrastructure, safety, health & wellness, documentation and social networking.

Many of the organizations included in the study will be part of the IAHSA/CAST Technology Study Tour in April 2012.  Participation on this tour provides an excellent opportunity to learn first hand about how to integrate these into your organization.  Register today!!

The 8th World Congress on Long Term Care in Chinese Communities was held last week in Hong Kong.  IAHSA Board Member Dr. Edward Leung chaired the Congress, which bought together providers and researchers from across Asia.   To help members of the IAHSA family learn more about ageing in Hong Kong, we are providing you with the remarks to the Congress by Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, the Secretary for Labor and Welfare.

About this blog

IAHSA’s Global Ageing Network Blog was created because of you!! We got your message loud and clear – “Provide us with a quick and nimble communications vehicle so we can stay connected and create community across borders".

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Virginia Nuessle, Study Tour Director

Majd Alwan, Director, CAST

Alla Rubinstein, Program Administrator, IAHSA

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