Setting the context:
I saw old people boarding a bus after visiting the wet market. Presumably it was a trip organised by some RC. I also know that RCs organise trips for usually the elderly to the veg farms in Lim Chu Kang, so all of these isn’t new.
What’s new however, is the intensification of the ageing demographic in Singapore. This will stretch the caregiving capacity of the individual families, and the state, and maybe the retirement homes.
I do know that cognitive enhancing drugs already exist, what is uncertain is when these drugs will be widely available.
I also know that medical sensors could soon be widely available and at an affordable price. I think this will be hugely important and could create a new market for healthcare and monitoring – you guys remember the Microsoft videos on the future of healthcare?
I also recognise the problem of mobility – how will the elderly move about in the community they are likely to live in – not that all of the elderly will end up in retirement homes.
Managing aging-in-place will need the combination of both the technology and the local social networks to allow the elderly to age with dignity. Community leaders/private providers could be place-specific, getting to know the local community, and to investigate the health conditions of the elderly using the healthcare applications that we’ve seen in the video.
The elderly will also need to move around – mobility and cognitive impairment could converge to form prickly issues. Hence I propose the need for a elderly ombudsman – someone whose job will be to oversee the activities of the elderly in collaboration with the community. Along with sensors, the ombudsman would be able to know the health conditions of the elderly in the area.
Mobility – how about a modified electric golf cart with seats/spaces for the wheelchair-bound to take them around the community, driven by that ombudsman?
The alternative solution would be the next-gen of exoskeleton, but given that the shape of the first-gen exoskels are not available, I’m not too sure about that.
Although the future will always be to some extent techno-centric, the social element of community life will always persist. Technology will have to be harnessed, although in what form – will be an open question.
If we play this well, we could find ourselves operationalising the solutions to the wicked problem of aging.