AUTONOMY AS A CONQUEST

Ce.R.R.Co. Centro Ricerche e Relazioni Cornaglia
Collection “I quaderni dei Grandi Adulti”. 
Quaderno n. 2 — Autonomy as a Conquest”

Around half the world’s population lives in a state of reduced autonomy. More than 15% of the various causes are related to ageing. Today, scientific knowledge, technological solutions, practical applications and means of communication allow us to do something about this lack of autonomy through formative and welfare processes.

 

Nowadays there are resources which can help older people suffering from lack of autonomy. This Primer examines the obstacles to autonomy and look a suitable aide to overcome them. It illustrates some key principles of Physic which are fundamental in identifying the point of force within the human body. The text is fully illustrated, making it easer to read and more meaningful. It also consider the principle of Gerontechnology, the new science devoted to the study and development of technical equipment and environmental projects which can improve the quality of life of the Older people. »>enter for more information

With regards to this objective, after having examined the obstacles to mobility, this Primer looks at the aids suitable to overcome them. It illustrates a few principles of physics, fundamental to identifying the points of force of the human body (the centre of gravity, the centre of movement, etc) on which to count in order to carry out movements without risk and with minimal effort. The other topics addressed are: the ability to perform movements which enable the accomplishment of daily activities in total autonomy; training to this purpose; getting to know instruments and aids which are readily available and of possible personal use in making life easier at home and in maintaining one’s body in full working order, thus working together with carers. The text is fully illustrated, making its reading easier and more meaningful. The book is particularly addressed to the over sixty-fives, the “Great Adults”, to show them what the modern life, technology and aids can offer. According to the experts, people who live long lives are those who have taken most advantage of such “compensating aids” as central heating, lifts, telephones, dentures, hearing aids insulin, pacemakers, emergency assistance networks etc. These, along with modern medicine and geriatrics have determined the phenomenon of longevity. The difference between longevity and ageing is to a great extent represented by the level of psychological and physical autonomy in a context where having good psychological autonomy allows compensation for a decrease in physical ability. What it can be done today, to preserve, improve or supplement the autonomy of seniors in their own environment, that of their own homes and towns? It’s a question of organisation and quality. Engineers, architects, doctors and medical technicians are able to plan, measure, manage and promote the quality of the environment, which in turn shares in forming the quality of life.
This is the outcome of forms of behaviour (information, training and learning, decision-making control) and means (resources, technology, communication) which one can find and use in any socio-economic context and which are inspired by the same basic philosophy (improving the quality of life in old-age) even though they produce differing levels of quality dependant on the varying socio-economic situations. Only the level of the quality obtained will change, not the underlying philosophy. Accessibility is defined as “the right to freedom of movement”. When obstacles prevent this, we speak of “barriers”. The first barriers that come to mind are architectonic, but the concept of a barrier as an impediment has a much wider meaning. Biological barriers (climatic, sound and sight pollution), health barriers (infections) and relational barriers (lack of communication or services) can all obstruct “freedom of movement” in the built up environment. This booklet looks at some of these, illustrating them with drawings and cartoons in such a way that the reader can recognise the main barriers and, if they can, either avoid them or overcome them, possibly with the help of aids made for this purpose. A person who has to live in poorly accessible surroundings can easily have accidents in the home. To the contrary, in surroundings properly modified to suit his condition, he perceives safety and comfort thus optimising his remaining autonomy and making any kind or level of outside assistance easier. In addition, the introduction and correct use of appropriate technology in these surroundings becomes a component of organisation, facilitation and quality of life. In order to better understand the movement needs of people with reduced mobility, the book illustrates some aspects of Anthropometry and to obtain a reduction in the strains incurred accomplishing daily tasks it looks at some of the principles of physics. Gerontechnology: in collaboration with the most advanced Gerontology centres, Gerontechnology is devoted to the study and development of technical equipment and environmental projects that can improve the quality of life of the elderly. Not only does it pay particular attention to their autonomy and their physical efficiency, but also, as far as possible, to the treatment of their pathologies and their rehabilitation. Research and design play an important role, from furniture to aids for everyday life, from cars to public transport, from the building industry to systems engineering to town planning. Amongst the elderly, there are active autonomous or semi-autonomous people, who are consumers of medicines, cosmetics, tourism etc. But there are also people who are neither active nor self-sufficient, who are chronically ill or poor. The needs and demands that come from these citizens are thus various, being dependent upon factors such as state of health, social position, level of culture and buying power. Through engineering and technology and in consultation with Geriatrics, Gerontechnology searches for new methods and new instruments to supply adequate answers and, above all, to improve the lives of those people who grow old in their own homes. Living in one’s own home helps to forestall, as far as it is possible, morbidity, or at least to create a surrounding situation favourable to the best possible quality of life and to the satisfaction of seniors. Thanks to Gerontechnology, they can consequently live at home or with relatives until it is possible, with home solutions that are able to guarantee maximum autonomy, independent of psychophysical condition or state of health. Even the hospital can be transferred to the home, from the staff to the various technologies. In this way the effectiveness of the therapy will be helped along by well-known, familiar and loved surroundings, those of one’s own house. In addition, experience has shown that a person who makes use of technology doesn’t become dependent on it, but rather establishes a certain relationship with it. This, nevertheless, doesn’t ever go so far as turning his life upside down, even when he doesn’t personally operate the equipment he uses. In any case, he must be prepared to use it so as not to become an appendage to technology, however well it may be conceived. He must understand its use and internalise it as an aid that has been prepared for him, as a person, in order to live better. Aids are instruments that have been designed and built to facilitate and develop autonomy, but their use requires certain parts of our body to be in good working order: joints and muscles which are genuine engines capable of giving life to these instruments. Thus, it is important that we keep our muscle tone and the mobility of our joints fit. In fact, we use our arms, hands and legs as if they were levers or other machines to carry out everyday, natural actions which, however, under ergonomic analysis (that is, with technical scanning) often result as being very complex. If a person goes to live in a Residential Home he carries out the change from his own home to a room that will now become his new home. The few things that he will be able to bring and keep with him will become his most precious objects. The things that surround us are part of our lives, they are what we have desired, and they are the fundamental reason why the elderly stay in their own homes with their own things. Nevertheless, in the name of safety, security and the psychophysical wellbeing, this book deals with the possible risks the home may hold for the elderly. This little manual treats and illustrates many examples of integration and fitting-out (furniture with integrated technology) of bedrooms, kitchens and bathrooms to make them more comfortable, accessible and safer and to be able to use them with the greatest autonomy possible. Thanks to Domotics, intelligent systems, which are equipped with control elements, automatic functions and memory run by microchips and real electronic calculators, allow one to easily check and operate doors, windows, blinds, curtains, gas and water taps, light switches, telephones, intercoms, ovens, the various heating systems and much more. People continually evolve and their growing and rapid emancipation makes them ever more aware of their rights and of their remaining abilities. Increasingly, Elderly want to and can be protagonists of their own lives and masters of their own choices. They can train themselves, learn how to maintain their physical and mental wellbeing for as long as possible. They know how to ask and to choose, and that they want to live in their own homes, adapting them to suit their new needs, with the new design projects. Medicine, engineering, architecture and computer studies diligently and successfully study methods and appliances which allow the performance of necessary daily actions in a way which is effective and suitable to the new psycho-physical conditions of old age. An update on these subjects is an inalienable requirement to improve the quality of life of our protagonists, the Great Adults, to which this book wants to offer its contribution.

Author :
Dario Bracco – Sociologist Dr., retired entrepreneur, is working on healthcare consultation and researches as expert in Clinical Governance. He is also journalist and member of various International associations. He has written and edited a number of publications on the subject of Hospital and Medical Technology, accessibility, environment and architectural barriers. He is the President of Ce.R.R.Co., the Italian representative of ISG the International Society of Gerontechnology and the founder of the So.M.I.Par the Italian Medical Society of Paraplegia.

The Primers of Ce.R.R.Co. are not for sell, but can be distributed as long as are available. For more information please contact: Ce.R.R.Co – Via Perugia, 2410152 Torino– Tel. 011 240 80 88 – fax 011 240 88 89

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