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Doctors have been saying all along that physical exercise is essential for healthy ageing, better moods and fewer accidents.  But it’s not just aerobic exercise like walking – the exercise of choice for the majority of seniors – that keeps the doctors away.  While walking is “beneficial to heart fitness [it] does little to protect the exerciser against falls or loss of bone mass” says the Sydney Morning Herald.

The Australian Journal of Science and Medicine featured a study “Walking not enough for older Aussies” that looked at Australians over 65 years of age using the Exercise Recreation and Sport Survey.  Not only applicable to Aussies, this study gets at the heart of the overload of information out there on what’s healthiest, what seniors should be doing, and how best to do it.  Every person holds different interests, ability and fitness level that might work best for them.  What is important is that seniors seek out the regiment that works best for them while integrating various forms of exercise.

Key findings from the study are applicable no matter what the choice of fitness may be:

  • Varying exercise routinely increases your health
  • Combining aerobic, strength and balance exercises is key to maximizing health benefits
  • Exercising in groups increases motivation and reduces loneliness
  • Combining exercise with healthier eating habits optimizes your health
  • Some physical exercise is better than none at all

“Raising awareness on the types of activities that can most benefit the elderly, including those that achieve several fitness dimensions all at once, given that few older adults choose to participate in multiple activities is certainly warranted,” says Dr Dafna Merom, lead author of the study.

Old Runner A3

[Photo Credit: Maxwell GS, Flickr]

It seems everywhere around the world, drastic changes in aged care reform and funding are culminating this summer.  As the United States awaits a Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act and Patient Protection Act this Thursday, the American people are on the edge of their seats waiting to hear what will happen to their future in health care. 

In Australia, the residents are already dealing with a crisis. Aged & Community Services Association, a member of IAHSA, is following the cut-backs of the Aged Care Funding Instrument (ACFI) and its impact on aged care services to begin around July 1, 2012. The Department of Health and Ageing (DoHA) will be cutting back about $50 million in the next year, which can seriously impact the staffing and care of vulnerable residents. The impact on the industry would result in a $500 million loss as a result of the funding cuts.

Nursing homes around Australia say they will have to cut staff within two months, at this rate of financial loss.

Providers in Australia are speaking out by forming monitoring groups to ensure that adequate funding is available to support elders’ needs.

Gerard Mansour of Leading Age Services, Australia, points out “how can we tell the sons and daughters of the frail aged that their mum or dad will get less care support than someone of the same care needs admitted prior to 1 July 2012?”  

Let’s ask what we can do to help the aged get the services they need, and how we can join forces around the world to prevent the vulnerable from suffering.  As the great Gandhi had said “A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.”

Last station nursing home

[Credit: ulrichkarljoho]

Recently, a law professor in Iowa has been encouraging nursing homes in the U.S. to extend their policies to allow residents to have pets. She has also been pushing for state legislation that would ease the ability for elders to move into their new homes with their furry friends.  The professor points to several studies that indicate the benefit of pets on the aging.

Feeding the dog

[Credit: Ed Yourdon]

 
According to such studies, pets have a very positive effect on the elderly:

1) Pets lower blood pressure and pulse rate
2) Patients with pets have 21% fewer visits to the doctor
3) Pets decrease depression and feelings of loneliness
4) They enhance social opportunities
5) Allow seniors to become more active
6) Pets offer affection and love
7) Pets ease bereavement of a loved one
8) Allow seniors to take better care of themselves
9) Provide a sense of security

Though a majority of aging care facilities still prohibit pets to make the transition with their owners, and reasonably so – some elders are too frail to take care of the pets, residents may have allergies that caregivers want to avoid, pets can carry illnesses, and facilities may not want to be burdened by the extra expense pets bring – the effects of these studies are touching hearts and catching on.

There are many options out there for promoting the use of pets in nursing-home care while maintaining the balance of your aging care community, and countries around the world are seeing the benefits:

Therapy Dogs International, a volunteer-based organization offers dogs as therapy by visiting nursing homes, hospitals and other facilities as needed.

In Scotland, an experimental program by Alzheimer’s Scotland and Dogs for the Disabled has been training dogs to help people with dementia.  The program will take affect this September with the aim of helping dementia patients maintain their routine and provide social benefits.

In Australia, the Center for Companion Health at The University of Queensland has been conducting research through clinical studies by bringing pets into hospitals and clinics.

In Japan, pets are quickly starting to outnumber people. Birth rates have been on a decline in Japan for several decades, and the aging community has found relief from loneliness in the companionship of pets.  Previously considered outdoor creatures, the Japanese are starting to welcome pets as one of the family, indoors.

Is this a growing trend in nursing homes and living facilities around the world or is it losing speed? Please share your experiences and stories of therapy pets in your region.

        Today, May 21, 2012, University of Adelaide is launching the Australian Population and Migration Research Centre (APMRC) focused on developing a sustainable population and workforce strategy for Asia Pacific and Australia. Research will include topics such as the impact of aging on the workforce, modern communications technology for the elderly, and issues of obesity among many others.

       This is a rare and exciting opening of a one-of-a-kind research institute. Research will be collaborated by a number of leading universities in the region as well as the United States and the United Kingdom.  Leading the center will be Professor Graeme Hugo and Deputy Directors Dr. Dianne Rudd and Dr. Helen Feist.  Professor Hugo had been studying labor mobility trends and implication of international migration on economic change.  Most recently, he has written a publication titled “Australian Population and Immigration Policy: An Opportunity”.

        The APMRC team have had 6 papers accepted for the International Federation of Aging conference which will be held in Prague in May 2012.

        We can’t wait to see what interesting findings come out of this exciting venture!

Chart: Projected population size for selected age ranges.

Credit: The Treasury, Australian Government; Australia’s demographic change

 

Today, the government of Australia released their blueprint for reform of the aged care sector.  The proposal would strengthen government support of in-home care, increase wages for care workers and increase government funding for dementia care.  While the plan tightens means-testing for elder care, Prime Minister Julia Gillard contends that means-testing increases fairness. The plan introduces more payment flexibility, changing the current system which requires up- front payments, to one in which users may pay either with a lump sum or over time.   Interested in learning more? Check out the full report.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard

Photo courtesy  MystifyMe Concert Photography™

The Australian Counsel on the Ageing and the Department of Health and Ageing released results on a national listening tour on concerns surrounding aged care. The Minister of Health and Ageing, Mark Butler, participated in over 30 meetings with concerned citizens throughout the country. The conversations yielded some valuable insights, such as the fact that most Australians state that they would like to remain in their homes and receive services at home if possible. People also want a system that is easy to understand and use, and they want payment procedures to be transparent. Interested in the full report? Just click here.

Want to learn more about housing with wrap around services? Consider joining our study tour.

Photo Courtesy of  mugley.

Aged and Community Services Australia reminds you to register for the 4th Community Care Conference by Friday 6 April to receive early bird pricing.

The Conference will be held 21-22 May 2012 at the Adelaide Convention Centre. The conference will give both service provider and consumer perspectives in a wide range of sessions including dementia care, falls prevention, using technology to maintain independence and making mealtimes enjoyable. Delegates will hear about the UK experience of system reform and the similarities and differences to proposed reform in Australia. There will be an opportunity to learn from older people sharing their invaluable insights and voicing what is critical for them in community care, while also hearing consumers’ perspectives on the immediate future. Leaders from Australia’s aged care sector will consider what is actually on the table in terms of aged care reform, particularly for community aged care in the future.
An exceptional array of national and international speakers are on offer, including this year’s keynote speaker, BBC science presenter, writer and executive director, Dr Michael Mosely. To register, visit the conference website.

Interested in learning about aged care reform in Australia? Check out this video that outlines key issues at stake.

Earlier this week ACSA announced the appointment of Adjunct Professor John Kelly AM to the role of CEO. He will be based out of Canberra. “It’s a significant time for the sector and the community as the Government prepares to formally respond to the PC’s Report ‘Caring for Older Australians’ and the discussions surrounding the establishment of the Australian Charities and Not for Profits Commission,” Professor Kelly said. “I look forward to advocating on behalf of ACSA’s membership in these critical discussions.”

Professor Kelly has over 15 years of experience as a director of not‐for‐profit and remunerated health and aged care related organisations. He is also a recognised expert on health law, health administration and health policy.  In 2010 he temporarily held the position of Commonwealth Aged Care Commissioner, appointed by the Australian government.

Check out this video where Professor Kelly discusses the future of robotics in elder care.

Feros Care is set to boost their presence in the Hastings area with the official opening of a service hub in Port Macquarie.  Here are some fabulous pictures from the inauguration!

 

 

The Town of Victoria Park in West Australia has constructed a “Rejuvenation Station” to encourage physical activity and fun among seniors. Exercise can help maintain strength and balance as you age, and can improve physical and mental wellbeing. The equipment in Read Park has been designed with seniors in mind and complements other activity programmes for seniors. Check out the full story on the town of Victoria Park website.

Does your community have a park to encourage elders to stay active? Would you use such a park if it was available?

Photo courtesy Town of Victoria Park

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".

Questions? Email us at iahsa@leadingage.org.

Authors

Virginia Nuessle, Study Tour Director

Majd Alwan, Director, CAST

Alla Rubinstein, Program Administrator, IAHSA

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