Elder care: overlooking the root of the problem
An article in Sunday's NYTimes begins with a somewhat breathless description of a remote-sensing system for looking after older adults living in the community. The system involves video cameras and a little box, connected to the Internet, in which folks can answer questions about how they're doing with the push of a button. An expert on aging services then admits that the systems are not a substitute for human caretakers, and the article finishes up with some discussion of choosing care managers (such as social workers and nurses).
The article does not present any context regarding the prevalence and health impact of isolation of elderly people from their communities. While we're thinking about designing communities to increase physical activity, is it too late for us, as a society, to structure communities to support the needs of older adults, too, so that they are safe, well looked after, and have meaningful human contact on a regular basis? In many societies, and formerly in our own, older people lived with their families. Real communities could, to some extent, obviate the need for the fixes described in the Times article.
The risks of isolation are vividly described, and a case for connected communities made, in Eric Klinenberg's Heat Wave, a terrific, compelling book that makes you forget you're reading a work of sociology.
Labels: health aging health_news