In the previous section we have highlighted the importance of community particularly when it comes to looking after the elderly. It has been great therefore to come across several initiatives that have been developed by non-health providers to step-up and play their part.
Kudos to UK supermarket Waitrose who have launched an important scheme that enables the elderly to remain as independent as possible. These vulnerable citizens can now register a “secondary contact” with the retailer which enables their drivers to raise the alarm if there is no answer at the door. This contact might be a relative, a neighbour or a carer. The idea is that this added peace of mind might just extend how long an elderly person can remain independent.
Ole Kassow in Copenhagen is also stepping up to play his part in supporting the elderly in his community. He started off by visiting a man in his local nursing home offering to take him around the city on his two-seater passenger bike. This became so poplar that he now runs a network of rickshaw “pilots” in 25 cities – some even in other countries. Kassow calls this scheme “Cycling Without Age” and he is now trying to raise money for new bikes, training and outreach. As has so often been the case, the volunteers seem to like it almost as much as the elderly citizens and keep coming back to do it over and over again, proving yet again that simple acts of kindness can be incredibly rewarding.
In other cases, senior citizens are giving something back to the community. In San Diego, members of the Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) support 70 partner organisations throughout the county. Activities include tutoring children, working in museums, maintaining local parks, supporting veterans etc. They also support the police by responding to traffic accidents – providing traffic diversion support and using computerised licence plate readers to identify missing vehicles. They also check on houses when owners are away on holiday. Benefits have not only been emotional because of an increased sense of purpose but also increased longevity and lower rates of heart disease.
Another example of a “win-win” relationship is with “Speaking Exchange” – a project organised by FCB Brazil. The premise is very simple – it links young Brazilians who want to learn English with elderly Americans living in retirement homes. These web chats not only develop the ability to speak English but also enhance relationships for both parties. All conversations are recorded and what is clear is the depth of relationships that start to emerge over time. Teachers can then use these videos to evaluate the development of their students.
But community projects aren’t just about helping the elderly. Sufferers of Crohn’s disease can sometimes need to use a bathroom up to 20 times a day. The GoHere Washroom Access Initiative is a scheme in Calgary, Canada which provides easy access to bathrooms through local businesses. These businesses display a simple red, black and white decal in their window so community members know they can use the facilities. They can use a washroom finder app which also includes a virtual access card which shows their proof of medical need if required.
For the sixth section of this trendsletter click here. Alternatively you can download your full PDF edition of TMI-Spy Health Winter 2015 here or you can also email [email protected] to receive your copy straight into your inbox.