Some of the Interesting Topics and Research Covered this Week in Dublin at Europe's Biggest Conference on Ageing and Older People
Caring for grandchildren is good for older people’s health
Looking after grandchildren is actually beneficial for your health even if you are looking after them for over 20 hours a week. Grandparents who have had prior ill-health or low incomes also appear to benefit from caring for young grandchildren. Though some evidence suggests that ‘less is more’ in that lower-intensive child care is better than long hours minding young children.
The team studied the health histories of older people caring for their grandchildren and factoring in life experiences such as their marital history and experiences of bereavement.
The research findings from a team at Kings College London will be discussed at a major European Conference on Ageing and ‘Unlocking the Demographic Dividend’ in Dublin next week.
One-fifth of vulnerable older people are neglecting themselves
Self-neglect by older people such as not eating, washing or having regular medical check-ups is a growing concern for community health and social service providers.
Health and social professionals find it difficult to intervene effectively when older clients fail to look after their needs, as a team from University College Cork has found from studying specialist social workers’ reports. They found that background self-neglect accounts for 18 to 20% or one-fifth of all cases reported to specialist social workers while 5% of elder-abuse cases also involved elements of self-neglect.
The UCC researchers interviewed older people experiencing self-neglect and observed their home surroundings. They found that leading contributors to self-neglect included past life experiences; frugal life-style vulnerability; disconnected from neighbours or family; and refusal of social services and supports.
Complementary work at the University of Sussex found that mental capacity and the refusal by some older people to accept support or assistance was a factor in three-quarters (77%) of the self-neglect cases they studied. They highlight the need for clear follow-up pathways for social service agencies and moves to build personal trust between carers and those experiencing self-neglect.
High costs are forcing the increased use of remote healthcare
Health care cuts and increasing numbers of older patients mean that health services internationally will have no choice but to develop ‘telehealth’ options according to research work being undertaken Flinders University in Australia.
They looked at patient reactions to different telehealth delivery models as an alternative to attending a healthcare centre. They also examined the different costs involved and the approach of clinical staff.
‘Telehealth’ seems to work best when it is a follow-up or support following initial face-to-face consultation. It proved very cost-effective in situations where the patient is more than 100km from their health centre or has difficulty getting to an outpatient consultation.
Call for EU action on severe discrimination against older workers
Older workers find it very hard to get work in Poland due to discrimination according to an EU study of job opportunities for older people. Employers seem to be more ‘ageist’ than the general population according to the EU-funded employment research.
The Warsaw university researchers found that three-quarters (76%) of Polish people feel good around older people while over two-thirds (67%) think that older people are wise. It found that urban-dwellers were more ageist than those in rural communities. Polish people’s attitudes towards older people were influenced by their level of education and whether they lived in cities or rural areas. The research team has proposed a wider EU study to compare attitudes towards employing older people in other EU-member states.
Women over-55 often forced into retirement
Are women over 55 just past it? This is a research topic explored by a team at Laurea University in Finland which looked at the employment prospects for women aged between 55 and 64. It is part of an EU-wide move to ensure that people in their mid-50s should work for at least five more years that at present.
The researchers found that efforts to promote longer working lives had extended it by just nine months, well short of the five years target. They looked at working life patterns of women and how they go about seeking jobs. In addition they report that Finnish employers seem more reluctant than in other European states to take on women in the mid-50s.
Dementia carers make novel use of digital technology
A study of how people with dementia or serious memory loss and their family cope has shown that products and devices need to be adapted or redesigned to help them. Newcastle University researchers in England have looked at how households with a dementia sufferer adapt everyday items and ‘assistive devices’ to make their lives easier.
Families innovate and adapt items whether just leaving ‘sticky notes’ as reminders to using iPads, mobile phone alarms or video monitors to assist them coping with dementia. Some of these ‘make-shift’ solutions are because people are unaware of the range of “assistive technologies” available.
The researchers are calling for designers and innovators to pay more attention to the needs of dementia sufferers and their carers and to look more closely at how they adapt technologies.
Allied to this a team in Vienna, Austria, found that a “digital divide” is hindering the use of newer technologies to make life easier for dementia patients and their families. They found little knowledge of Ambient Assisted Living (AAL) products and suggest that professional health and social care professionals should get to know more about these technological options and explain them to their clients.
Less-educated suffer greater isolation in old age
People living in isolated places in Australia are becoming even more isolated as they are left behind by the technological or digital revolution. Researcher in Victoria, Australia looked at rural lifestyles of older people and the impact of them using tablet computers.
They found that levels of education and comfort using information and computer technologies were major factors in whether people could overcome their isolation. A key recommendation is that positive steps need to be taken to help older people overcome the digital divide to prevent them becoming disadvantages and facing a more isolated existence.
It is the 21st century version of older people having access to a phone which was so important for older people keeping in regular con tact with family and friends who did not live nearby for the second half of the 20th century.
Leaving school during a recession can be a life-long handicap
What happens to you when you are young at work or if you leave school during a recession will impact on your later quality of life according to a Euro-wide study of over 10,200 older people. Children who grow up in deprivation will probably see ‘hard times’ follow them to the grave.
Researchers in Britain and Germany looked at the lifetime experiences of retired workers in 13 European countries. They found that those with advantages when young and who gets secure jobs have a higher quality of life in their older years.
It is the first general study of the relationship between childhood experiences and labour market disadvantages with quality of life in older years. It has serious future implications for those currently experiencing precarious employment and disappearing pension funds.