Sunday, June 27, 2010

Technology for the Elderly Maturing

By Karlin Lillington, The Irish Times
March 12, 2010


When it comes to the business of ageing and the technologies that will change how a greying world population is cared for and managed, Ireland has particular opportunities on which it should capitalise.

Speakers at a Business of Ageing conference in Dublin last week noted that several Irish companies were leading developments in related areas. They were also confident that the country could become a focal point for research and pilot schemes involving new technologies in the field of ageing.

When it comes to looking towards a better-managed future for an ageing population,“technology plays a major role, particularly in ambient assisted living”, according to Dublin City University computer science lecturer Brian McGrath, who chaired a session on technology and ageing.

“Ireland has a particularly strong opportunity to do something of global significance . . . It might be the ideal place in the world to develop technologies in this area,” he said.

Peter Nelson, chief executive of Valentia Technologies, said: “The elephant in the room is the demographic time bomb that’s coming at us.”

Some 28 per cent of the population will be over 60 by 2030 and more than 45 per cent by 2050, he noted. This would lead to a shortage of qualified healthcare professionals and healthcare costs rising rapidly and becoming unsustainable.

To continue with our current healthcare model for elderly care, we would have to start building hospitals and care facilities for this older population rapidly, said Nelson.

“But there aren’t enough doctors and nurses to work in these hospitals, even if they were built. The whole solution is to treat them in the community,” he said. “We have to start managing people at home.”

Interestingly, developing countries are deploying technologies and services in a way that developed countries would find difficult to achieve, according to Nelson.

But resources are needed to manage the data onslaught that such services would generate. “We will need command and control centres with a significant back end to deploy resources.”

Using sensors in a variety of applications could transform home care and independent living, argued Gary Carroll of sensor technology company EpiSensor.

Mesh networks of multiple sensors could monitor energy (heating, cooling, lighting), respond to ambient conditions, and monitor occupancy and movement as well as giving automatic meter readings.

These technologies “can be brought together” to give a remote overview of activity within the home, Carroll said, which in turn could enable older people to maintain an independent lifestyle for longer.

As an example of how sensors might work to monitor the safety and activity of an elderly person, he said a sensor could monitor appliances within the home.

“If you can monitor appliances, you pretty much know what’s going on in the home,” he said. For example, if a kettle is turned on in the morning, it indicates the resident is awake and active.

Carroll said Ireland could be a potential test market for such technologies. “If it works in Ireland, it will work anywhere.”

Intel Ireland’s Technology Research for Independent Living (Tril) Centre is doing a few such trials. Tril was set up in 2007 to research technologies to assist the ageing, with one current project at St James’s Hospital involving 600 patients and others enabling older people to test new devices.

Tril’s initial focus has been on fall prevention, cognitive functions and social connection.

“We need new models of care that enable people to live longer in their own homes, with more acute care coming out of centres in the community and in the home,” said Tril academic director Brian Caulfield.

This requires a multidisciplinary approach that goes well beyond having technologists build new devices. “We can’t do it just by having technologies,” he said. “They’ll develop wonderful technologies, but not technologies that are necessarily useful.”

Hence, he said: “If you can think of a discipline, you name it and we’ve got it at Tril.”

Ethnography specialists are particularly helpful. “Our ethnography research unit enables Tril to understand the needs of the older person and allows their voices to be heard.”

In the case of falls, Tril uses sensors to assess gait and predict when individuals are heading towards problems that could result in falls, ideally letting physicians address a problem before a fall occurs.

Sensors are an inexpensive solution compared to the motion-capture technologies used previously, Caulfield said.

In the area of cognitive assessment, Tril is working on simple technologies that analyse how a person is putting words into sentences. Older people can dial in to use a simple phone assessment program, for example.

In social networking, Intel has developed a phone-based device that enables people to make calls, manage contacts, send e-mails and chat with friends in a chat room (called a “tea room” by choice of the older people who helped in its development).

If this is the future of ageing, how close are we to achieving such technology-driven lifestyle and care approaches? “All the building blocks are there, but it is commissioning all these types of services,” said Nelson.

“There are a lot of challenges in deploying these technologies for the first time. How to connect them up, for example? It’s a national dialogue, really. Pilot programmes are needed that will lead to a national implementation.”

All the speakers felt Ireland could contribute, and even lead, in certain areas of this technological transformation of ageing.

EpiSensor’s Carroll said he believed that if Ireland led with a pilot scheme that connected 1,000 homes to a range of these new technologies and services, it could raise our international profile in the area. “It would get Ireland noticed,” he said.

Government-led purchasing of some of the products provided by Irish companies would also be a positive step. Ireland has “unique characteristics” that could make it “a very competitive place” in the area of the business of ageing, Carroll added.

“Ireland is the perfect place to become a test bed for technology,” said Tril’s Caulfield.

Valentia’s Nelson concluded: “I think we have all the right ingredients.” /2010/technology%20for%20aging.htm


As a result of the current ageing scenario, there is need for all aspects of care for the older persons namely, social, economic, health and shelter. In line with the living arrangements and the needs of elderly, security and abuse of older persons are also emerging as issues of greater concern in India. With this background, HelpAge India felt the need to understand the issue of elder abuse, its nature and extent of prevalence across cities, perceptions of the elderly and other stakeholders. The present study having both quantitative and qualitative components was carried out by HelpAge India and Sigma, based on which the report has been prepared. The fieldwork for the quantitative component of the study was carried out by HelpAge India, while Sigma was engaged by HelpAge India to design the study and carry out
the In Depth Interviews.

The present study aims at identifying the symptoms of elder abuse and finding out its
existence and reasons for the same. The quantitative study covered the elderly in the age group of 60+ years across 8 cities viz. Delhi, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Kolkata, Bhopal, Chennai, Patna and Hyderabad with a sample size of 100 per city.

For the qualitative part, In Depth Interviews (IDI) among legal experts, members of Senior Citizen’s Association, Police Officers, medical experts, Social Welfare Officer, Community Based Organizations (CBOs), Corporate and Individual Donors, and Psychologists were carried out by Sigma. In all, 57 IDIs with various target groups were carried out.

The SALIENT FINDINGS of the study are presented below:

1. The mean age of the elderly across the cities is 68 years. More than half of the elderly in Kolkata (54%) are of 70+ years.
2. Three fourth (74%) of the elderly are currently married, while one fifth (23%) are
3. The mean number of children the elderly have is 3, with 2 sons and 1 daughter in all cities except Hyderabad, Kolkata and Patna where it is 4.
4. Half of the elderly stay with son, while one fourth (27%) stay with spouse. One tenth (10%) of the elderly are living alone and their children come to visit them.
5. Four fifth (82%) of the elderly are literates with one fifth (19%) and one tenth (13%) being Graduates and Post Graduates respectively. Close to one fifth (18%) of the elderly are illiterate.
6. Proportion of illiterate is highest in Kolkata (42%) and lowest in Patna (3%).
7. As regards the last main occupation, 26% of the elderly were homemakers, while 19% were working as unskilled workers.
8. One fifth of the elderly are currently engaged in economic activity.
9. More than two fifth (45%) of the elderly currently economically active are self
employed/ professionals. Nearly one fifth of the elderly are shop owners.
10. The average monthly household income of the elderly is Rs. 12045. About three fifth (59%) of the elderly have a monthly household income of less than Rs 10,000.
11. More than two fifth (45%) of the elderly have pension as the main source of income and one fifth get income from interest on savings and fixed deposits.
12. Half (51%) of the elderly own property and this is highest in Delhi (68%) and Patna (68%) and lowest in Hyderabad (28%) and Kolkata (36%).
13. Close to three fourth (73%) of the elderly are living in their own house while 18% are living in a rented place.
14. More than two fifth (46%) of the elderly are financially dependent on others, with
highest being reported in Chennai (63%) and Kolkata (61%).
15. More than half (57%) of the elderly are financially dependent on their son and around one fourth are dependent on their spouse.
16. More than two fifth (44%) of the elderly consider negligence as elder abuse.
17. More than one third each of the elderly feel that elder abuse constitutes emotional
abuse (39%), verbal abuse (37%), economic abuse (35%), showing disrespect (34%)
and physical abuse (34%).
18. About one third (35%) of the elderly feel neglected with 21% of the elderly in the age group of 60-69 years feeling so.
19. Half (51%) of the elderly feel neglected sometimes while 40% feel neglected
20. Feeling of being neglected stems from the family related factors such as family
members not spending time and not interacting.
21. More than two fifth (46%) of the elderly reported that the family members are busy with their own work/lives and thus neglect them.
22. More than one third (36%) of the elderly have experienced any type of abuse with this being reported highest in Bhopal (79%) followed by Chennai (59%) and Kolkata
23. The elderly faced various types of abuse with showing disrespect being the most
common form of abuse followed by verbal abuse, neglect, economic abuse and
emotional abuse.
24. Abuse in terms of showing disrespect was reported more in Chennai (71%) and
Kolkata (54%).
25. Verbal abuse was reported more in Mumbai (79%), Ahmedabad (57%) and Kolkata (53%).
26. Emotional abuse was reported more in Delhi (62%) and Kolkata (54%).
27. Physical abuse was reported more in Kolkata (23%), Hyderabad (22%), Mumbai
(21%) and Ahmedabad (20%).
28. Abuse is reported more from the family members, with son and daughter in law
emerging as the major abusers.
29. Abuse by son was reported most in Bhopal (70%) followed by Patna (57%), and
Kolkata (54%).
30. Abuse by domestic help was reported more in Delhi (19%) and Ahmedabad (13%).
31. One third (35%) of the elderly faced abuse due to property issues.
32. Nearly one third each of the elderly reported facing abuse because of lack of
emotional support (30%) and lack of basic necessities (29%).
33. Half (53%) of the elderly did not take any action when they faced abuse. This is
reported highest in Chennai (80%), Bhopal (69%) and Ahmedabad (62%).
34. Most (92%) of the elderly did not register any complaint against the abuser.
35. Among the elderly who registered complaint, 33% reported that nothing concrete
came out of it, while 27% reported about the police carried out home visit, as a result
of the complaint.
36. Nearly half of the elderly (48%) are willing to take concrete action against abuse in
37. Unwillingness to take any action against abuse stems from the perception among the elderly that - ‘nothing concrete will happen’ if any action is taken, followed by a
sense of shame in the community and fear of further abuse.
38. Awareness about laws, policies and programmes against elder abuse is low among the elderly.
39. One third (33%) of the elderly are aware of existing laws and programmes against
elder abuse.
40. Among the Elderly who are aware of the laws, policies and programmes, majority
(88%) are aware of the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizen’s Act,
(56%) of the elderly are aware of the National Policy on Older Persons, (67%) are
aware of the Protection for Women against Domestic Violence Act.
41. Awareness of the law enforcing agencies is low as only one fifth of the elderly (18%) are aware of these.
42. Close to two fifth (38%) of the elderly perceive the role of police and lawyers as non supportive in tackling abuse.
43. One fourth of the elderly (26%) did not know about the role of the law enforcing
agencies in controlling elder abuse.
44. More than one fourth (27%) of the elderly are of the view that the Police is not
equipped to handle cases of elder abuse.
45. The major measures to be taken up by the law enforcing agencies suggested by the elderly include ‘giving protection’ and ‘carrying out home visits’.
46. It was also suggested that the Police should assist the elderly in getting maintenance from the children under the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizen’s Act.
47. ‘Having steady cash flow’, ‘making adjustments within family’ and ‘having own
property to reduce economic dependency’ are the major measures suggested by the
elderly to control elder abuse.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Delhi tops in caring for its elderly

Delhi tops in caring for its elderly
Survey Reveals Senior Citizens In City Face Least Abuse, 68% Own Property
Rumu Banerjee TNN

New Delhi: Delhi may have a reputation as a city without a heart but a recent survey by an NGO shows that it is also the place where elderly face least abuse. The survey, carried out across various metropolitan cities in the country, found Delhi has the least percentage of elderly abuse reported — 15.4%. In comparison, in Bhopal 79.3% respondents faced some form of abuse while in Kolkata 22.8% reported physical abuse.

The survey, carried out in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore, Bhopal, Patna, Kolkata and Hyderabad, polled senior citizens above the age of 60 years. The findings thrown up are interesting, especially in the backdrop of Delhi’s alarming trend of crimes against senior citizens. And while the survey, done by HelpAge India underlined the need for a better support system for the elderly in the country — a shocking 92% said they had not registered a complaint against the abuser — it brings some good cheer for the capital which has been in the news for some petty crimes against the old people in the past year.

The capital also have the highest number of elderly owning property in the country (68.3%), with 62% deriving their main source of income from pension.

The survey found that 19% of abuse victims faced it from their domestic help. But the maximum abuse was inflicted by their own children, with 53.6% admitting they had faced some form of abuse from their son. As usual, the main context of abuse was property (35.4%) followed by lack of emotional support (30.2%).

The bad news is that a large number of elderly seem unaware of existing laws to protect them, with only one third of the elderly (33%) being aware. For Delhi though, there’s a silver lining, as the HelpAge survey revealed that the awareness of laws and programmes is highest in Delhi (53.8%) followed by Mumbai (44.7%) and Kolkata (40.3%). The awareness level is lowest in Bhopal (8%).

The survey by HelpAge brings home the need to not only widen the scope of policing in curbing elderly abuse but also spread awareness about the laws. Said Sonali Sharma of HelpAge, ‘‘Awareness about the issues is the first step in tackling the problem.’’ The National Crime Records Bureau 2008 had shown Delhi had the maximum number of crimes against the elderly (15%).