Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Innovative Seniors' Housing

Every now and then, there is an article about the anticipated 'senior tsunami' that will be upon us in less than 20 years. Recently there was an article in the paper that anticipated that before long, 25% of our population will be senior. The first question that comes to mind when I read things like this is - how are we going to look after our elderly in the future? How will we manage care? And how will many afford care?  Keeping in mind that with medical advances people will live longer, and hopefully healthier for longer, there may be less of an anticipated need for homes that provide care, and more of a need for 'ageing in place'. This, coupled with varying degrees of financial independence may indeed push the seniors industry as a whole, to look more at innovation in current settings and less at constructing buildings.

Lessons and ideas for Canada, can be learned by looking at other countries and what they are doing that works and doesn't work. In the Netherlands 'Apartments for Life' with mixed levels of care is commonplace. In Scandinavia there are smaller scale seniors communities that work well for their population. In the US there are things like congregate housing /seniors communities, neighbourhood based retirement programs, naturally occurring retirement communities and senior co-housing (which is starting to occur a bit in Canada as well). There are things like Campuses of Care popping up in various areas where there is a range of care levels all in one setting. And there are a few universities that are building retirement settings on their campuses for seniors who wish to continue learning. We are hearing about new kinds of memory care which offer innovative ways to care for people with memory problems. And lately I have read several articles about advances in technology which allow for people to stay in their homes with the assistance of technology that alerts people off site if there are problems. Clearly there will be more research and technology aimed at seniors in the future which looks at maximizing independence in a cost effective way.  We are also seeing new fields of training - in the US there are now 'Geriatric Care Managers' and 'Certified Ageing in Place Specialists'. Active Ageing is becoming a common term and even the World Health Organization has created a definition for it.

The next 20 years will be a time of substantial growth for the 'senior care industry' as it is forced to look at different ways to provide care to our elderly. It may also be a time in which our governments are forced to look at pension and health care reform as it learns to cope with the ageing population and limited resources. Gaps in service will need to be addressed as will changes to the infrastructure of of communities to accommodate the growing number of seniors. Without doubt we are entering a time of change and challenge. The seniors of tomorrow will be the ones who will  inspire us to be innovative and creative.


Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Senior-Friendly Communities

Is your community senior-friendly? Do you know what that means & how to achieve it?

Several years ago I was visiting a new retirement home. On taking a private tour with the marketing person, we stopped in a lounge with a large window over looking a traffic light. I watched for a few minutes to see how long the traffic lights stayed on green and red. As I watched cars whip by and pedestrians run across the road to catch the green light, it occurred to me that anyone with a physical impairment or with an inability to 'run' would not make the light. I asked the person touring me if she had notified the city of this and in fact, she had not even noticed the issue. That factor aside, the city was well aware that a seniors home was going up close to a very busy intersection. One would wonder why the lights were not adjusted the moment that home opened to ensure that no one got injured crossing the street. I suppose the argument could be made that the responsibility rested with the home but I wonder if we don't have a collective responsibility to keep our vulnerable residents safe?

We all know our population is ageing. And many cities were built at a time when 'senior safety' was not a priority and even if it was way back when, many areas have infrastructures that are older and need updating shortly. So what can we do to look after our current and future seniors? In the first place, things like traffic lights need to be looked at - as do increasing the number of cross walks in areas where there is a large space between lights - especially in an area where there are many seniors that frequent. Other important changes to look at include: making public transportation more accessible and even expanding it in certain areas, creating more spaces to sit and to walk safely, fixing side walk issues, increasing disabled parking spots, increasing areas in and outside that are wheelchair/walker accessible and allow for easy movement from road to side walk if you do use a wheelchair.

Beyond this though, we also need to look at how we care for our seniors - moving forward innovation will be the key... but more on this in a future blog.........

Friday, 13 June 2014

Happy Father's Day!!!

On Sunday June 15, 2014 all of North America will celebrate Father's Day. The very first Father's Day was celebrated on June 19, 1910. In Canada and the US it is celebrated on on the 3rd Sunday in June but many other countries celebrate it on other days in the year.

As much as many identify Father's Day, Mother's Day and Valentine's Day as Hallmark Card days, the reality is, it is nice to have at least one day a year to stop to recognize our parents and the sacrifices they have made for us over the years.

Parenthood is probably the hardest 'job' in the world. Something that comes without an instruction book and leads to a lifetime of worry but also, a lifetime of joy. I think few people actually realize how difficult parenting another human being is until they have a helpless baby in their arms. Few children realize the sacrifices their parents made for them until they have children of their own.

On some level, it is unfortunate that we need to denote one day a year as special for a parent however, in our fast paced world, for those who take a parent for granted every other day of the year, its nice that there is one day that we can actually devote to them (and in some cases, that they let their kids 'spoil' them).

If you ask most dads they would say that spending time with their kids is far more important than any 'gift' they can get. Often that is all most of us want. The gift of 'time' is one of the most precious things you can give someone any day of the year. We are often so busy worrying about what to 'buy' someone, that we often forget that the best gifts don't have a dollar value attached to them.

So do acknowledge your dad this weekend - be it your real father, stepfather or grandfather. Let them know how much you value them and all they do for you all year long.

Happy Father's Day!

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Happy Seniors' Month!!

Every June Canada celebrates Seniors' Month. 2014 is the 30th Anniversary of this celebration in Ontario with the theme for this year being "Aging Without Boundaries: 30 Years of Celebrating Seniors". There are events throughout the province, and indeed Canada as a whole, that recognize seniors and their ongoing contribution to society. It really is quite wonderful that we denote a month to recognize seniors and to encourage events and opportunities to do this. Seniors who are involved in activity programs or with seniors agencies will likely know about many events taking place throughout this month however, if a senior is not connected in that way, they may not be aware of this.
If you have seniors in your life, you may want to let them know that they can easily find out events through their local seniors agency, the website for the senior secretariat, or simply doing a search online for seniors events in June in their region.
While group celebrations are great, the personal touch is far more important. So if you do have a senior in your life, take some time to let them know you appreciate all they have done - a small gesture often goes a long way!

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

A Senior with a Spy Cam

I read an article yesterday about a senior who managed to 'catch' a caregiver who was stealing from her using a spy camera placed in a clock in her home. Not only did she have the presence of mind to realize the small amounts of money missing over time, but she also figured out how to catch the thief! Wonderful and amazing. But I also think unusual. I don't think most people would have the presence of mind to figure out what to do in such a situation and it leads one to wonder how many other seniors are financially exploited unknowingly. Especially those who don't have family watching or visiting regularly. Those are the people I worry most about.

I often wonder what kind of person would take advantage of someone in their care, someone vulnerable who trusts them. I wish I had an answer.

When people ask me how to find a good caregiver for a loved one or even a good home, my number one answer is research. As much as its important to trust people with caring for your loved ones - be it children or seniors, there are always people who will take advantage of a situation or worse. We often read stories of bad experiences people have in homes or with caregivers and one has to wonder how common this is. However, even if it's a one in a million chance, it still doesn't negate the need to be careful and get references. If you are that one, it really doesn't matter what the chances were!

So what's the lesson we can take from this? I think it's do what you can to protect the seniors you love. Make sure someone you care about isn't in a position to be exploited by anyone. Listen if they have concerns about someone looking after them. Research choices & options to make sure they are safe. Get references. Be careful. Ask questions. Understand that there are many good people out there but a few that are not so good. Buyer Beware is my rule of thumb for anything we do or anyone we hire for someone I love.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Do you know what it costs???

A few years ago, I was speaking with an investment advisor about what he thought people needed in their retirement years. He gave me a figure - I can't recall what it was - that just seemed very unrealistic - way too low in my estimation, especially if one ends up requiring care or a retirement home. I asked him if he knew what it costs to live in an average retirement home. He had NO idea! I was actually surprised, but I shouldn't have been. He was a young guy, probably didn't know anyone living in a retirement home and it likely never occurred to him that he should educate himself about this information. Every time I spoke with an investment person after that, I asked them the same question. Do you know what it costs to live in a retirement home on a monthly basis? The only ones that had an idea were those who had older clients who had told them the costs - still, it didn't seem to be something that they factored in when discussing with the average client, what you needed in your bank account to retire comfortably. I came to realize that beyond investment managers, the average person really didn't investigate retirement homes or extra costs if  they need care when older.

Most people only start asking the question when they or a close relative need it. For many that is way too late if they haven't invested or saved over their many working years. If I can give anyone advise early on in their working lives, it would be to start asking financial questions early on. To start thinking about the kind of life you want moving forward and what you can do to get there. Of course, you can never map out your life fully and for most there are bumps and detours in the road over time, but its important for people to at least start thinking about savings and retirement when they still have time to work toward saving for it. An average retirement home in today's dollars can range in price from the mid-$2000's to as much as $10,000/month depending on who owns it, where it's located and several other factors. And this figure may not include care. In some places we are looking at more for care, and of course for incidentals. Multiply this by the number of years you may potentially live in one of these homes and the figures can be daunting. While right now there is a government pension fund available to all Canadians, it is never going to be enough if you need extra care. What about if you want to stay in your home with care? What would the cost be for that? It depends on what you want in terms of care - live in or live out. And where you live. And what's available in your community. There are financial products currently that can help with this - long-term care insurance is one of those things. When I looked into it, I found the premiums very high. But if you can't save enough over time to help with your potential future needs, maybe this is an option to consider for some..... This whole topic can be mind boggling for some and may seem way too far in the future to consider for many, but aging is inevitable so this is not something any of us can ignore forever.....

As difficult a topic as this is to discuss or consider, it needs to be something more financial and insurance professionals need to educate themselves on and raise with their clients. And it needs to be something we are comfortable opening a discussion about with those we care about.

Thursday, 15 May 2014

Do you remember where you were?

This morning I saw some of the live feed of the dedication of The National September 11 Memorial Museum in New York which will be opened to the public next week. As I watched President Obama so eloquently pay tribute to those who lost their lives that day, I couldn't help but think back  almost 13 years ago to the moment we heard and realized how horrific a tragedy it truly was.

I was working at a large hospital that had a trauma centre. I had wandered to the end of the ward where there was a TV on with the news - little did we all know how much our world would change that day. A doctor sat in the lounge, speechless. It took a bit of time for it to all sink in. And then the word spread. We were tasked with discharging all stable people to make room for mass casualties. Even though we were in Canada, it was thought in those early minutes (before we truly understood how terribly tragic the whole situation was) that we were close enough to New York that if their hospitals ran out of space, we would be able to assist. We were bracing ourselves to help but sadly, we were not called upon to do so. Little did we know that so many had died - and that hospital space across the border, would not be necessary.

I suppose, much like the day Kennedy died, September 11, 2001 has gone down as a day anyone alive that could comprehend the events of that day, will always remember.

I think we will always be amazed of stories of heroism and selflessness. With so many lost, to know the stories of each person and their families, seems an impossibility. Yet, perhaps this museum is the best way to memorialize them both individually and collectively. It gives the survivors a place to mourn & perhaps to heal. It gives others a place to remember, to learn, to never forget the evil that is in this world and to marvel at the importance and possibility of moving on and overcoming the impossible. Most fitting is a quote from Mayor Michael Bloomberg: "The stories are the proof that what we do and the choices we make affect each others' lives and the course of human history....this museum is a testament to the resilience, the courage and the compassion of the human spirit..."