Intervention may be needed to assist our aged population to maintain as much activity as possible in their lives, initially through family, but also via public and private services in an attempt to prolong and reduce long term health costs.
Society should have a wish to empower and connect our elderly citizens when it comes to seeking access to services: they need ‘care and cure’ options.
Rodd Bond of Netwell Casala (Dundalk Institute of Technology) recently gave a very informative presentation on this matter as part of a European Regions and Cities event recently held in Brussels.
According to the Netwell Casala website, Mr Bond and his colleagues “create new ideas that enhance the quality of life and well-being of older people and those who care for them, through more integrated community-oriented services, more sustainable home and neighbourhood design, and more age-friendly technologies – with the ultimate aim of enhancing longer living in smarter places. We work collaboratively to provide the services that older people need, when they need them, in the place they call home.”
In Brussels, Mr Bond presented several forward thinking proposals and posed many questions for policy makers, such as what are the current and future needs facing the aged in Ireland?
He feels that we need to plan and invest with the elderly in mind, while being cognisant of he legacy pressures and household means.
In this regard, Mr Bond has worked with Fingal County Council, devising new ideas for the adaptation of housing, for example. Social connections strengthening these points are very important considerations and he extolled the virtues of civic and social participation.
Preventive, predictive and re-activate were key words in his presentation.
Safety and security are also very important for older people, especially if they are living alone and or with an elderly partner.
So with that in mind, there is a need to create a community model for smarter living and create more age-friendly housing. Mr Bond feels we should be helping people to help themselves so that they can have independent living. This is an area in which local authorities and the HSE could collaborate.
Helping the elderly become more tech-savvy (through large digit mobile phones, for example) would be a welcome step forward in terms of keeping them connected with the outside world, particularly in cases where people are either housebound, living in isolated communities, or both.
This of course may be impeded by broadband provision and should also focus on empowering the elderly to stay in touch via modern methodologies.
The isolation of the elderly, particularly in rural communities, was a matter which Mary McAleese raised during her presidency, and perhaps it now ought to be re-examined and given additional national impetus.
A national database examining how they heat and secure their homes and the method of transport they use, particularly after they stop driving (the average age of such a cessation is 74), ought to be established.
Indeed, this data may already be largely gleaned from the latest Census and could also include home furniture and footwear types (a point once made by then Taoiseach Charles Haughey), and what best suits the respective needs of senior citizens.
Digital skills and home support staff availability are important for the elderly. Day care centres, such as the Dr Martin Centre in Portlaw, for example, can be very positive.
Future housing developments, mixing generations together, would surely represent a positive step. Previous generations saw grandchildren often living with grandparents: might the wheel come full circle in that respect again?
This remains a common occurrence in both France and Italy, where students often rent out accommodation within a property owned and lived in by a senior citizen. In Germany, more and more elderly friends are sharing homes, ensuring greater social interaction and also saving on bills. Why could this not be introduced in Ireland, given that it already occurs in retirement homes/communities? Could the migrant community (those with sufficient qualifications, that is) be put to use in this regard?
A loosening of the ‘Fair Deal Scheme’ (Nursing Home Support) and the enhancement of home care provision were also suggested by Casala Netwell during the Brussels seminar.
Rodd Bond and his colleagues have made significant advancements in this field and are well; worth paying further attention to. We wish them well.
Photo: Rodd Bond of Netwell Casala, which is based at Dundalk Institute of Technology.