The Elder that Will Be: Well-being and Technology, “from Care to Take Care”. People

Le pubblicazioni Ce.R.R.Co.
Collana “I quaderni dei Grandi Adulti”
Quaderno n. 7


People born after the World War II went through the economic boom (‘50 and ’60) but just today, for the first time in human history, they are asked to support up to three generations: parents, children, grandchildren (and sometimes, great grandchildren). Still at work, with their own burden of problems, they are pledging all their resources — goods,experience, health, strength and courage – to remain independent, free and useful to other people. Here is the Elder that will be! But in the future who will take care of them?

 

The Elder that will be” is now in his/her sixties or seventies, he/she is very different from older people described everywhere, so far, by social and health studies. The “new elders” are the ageing Baby Boomers: they are plenty, they are educated, aware and committed.
They have seen the evolution of technologies, media, science, medicine in particular, and the conquest of space. They witnessed World War II and the wars in Korea, Vietnam and Middle East. They are friendly with technology, they move freely in the built environment, travel and speak foreign languages. They are socially involved and available. They long for a true well-being that means deep serenity without stress and the feeling of being worth something for humanity.

The new Elders are looking for more sophisticated services. Living at home is not always the best way to get them. New “tailored” residential facilities, instead of “old” nursing homes, could be the best solution especially when health problems come out. This fastgrowing market should integrate the basic welfare services balancing equity and profit
with a sound accountability about structures, technology, professional competence and human caring.
This booklet, The Elder that Will Be: Well-being and Technology, “from Care to Take Care”, shows the results of a three year multidisciplinary study on the “new Elders” living an active ageing and looking forward to lengthening their life of up to — and maybe over – one hundred years. They are very different from previous generations: more active, more educated, more aware of their rights, very engaged in helping or supporting three other generations:
1. Their parents, often still living but in need of assistance: the “new Elders” are usually their first caregivers.
2. Their children, facing unemployment or endless studies: often, at least in Italy, they are still living at home (or are forced to come back home for economic reasons) even though they should take over their parents’ responsibilities and help them.
3. Their grandchildren they have to take care of and sometimes even to support economically.
4. Their great grandchildren… if the “new Elders” got married very young, they happen to see their third generation! In Italy, as well as in other “Latin” Countries, this “bittersweet” phenomenon is not too uncommon!
So, what is the care they will need like? And which way we can qualify the new generation of health professionals and caregivers that will take them into care? These are the questions our research started from and the answer is: “from Care to Take Care”. The plane assistance is no longer enough: at home as well as in nursing facilities, the “new Elders” need a wide range of services and activities to ensure an “holistic” – physical, mental and spiritual – well-being. Even in Countries with a sound public welfare, a new public-private-partnership formula can be the flexible solution we are looking for.
Italy is the second oldest Country in the world though not one of the better off in Europe. Certainly caregivers, users, managers and decision makers could take advantage from the experience of a Country that has to cope with such a challenging situation and we think that our “Latin human touch” is the value added to technology and organization to get the
result. Our research takes into consideration:

  • the “new demographic trends” (longevity, baby boomers’ “cohort effect”, “silver tsunami”, new life styles etc. )

(the demographic pyramid)

  • the awareness that the present welfare and health care are no longer economically sustainable
  • The increased need for person-centered care and a good quality of life, at home as long as possible
  • The development of complementary services (although for a fee!), more modern and extensive than the essential ones covered by the public welfare: culture, arts, spirituality, bodily expression etc, in order to empower more and more an already active aging .

What Baby Boomers, the “Elders will be” are looking for?

This point of view is fully shared by the “Personalistic” Bioethics: the basic idea is “from care to take care”. A holistic, 360 degree approach to activities, interpersonal relationships and – why not? – supplies for this new demand in the market as tai-chi, yoga, music therapy, bio-dance, meditation, courses to drive, to improve memory, physical fitness and posture, activities producing good emotions and environmental stimuli. In a nutshell: the general pleasure of being in the world, though old or very old, though disabling or already chronically disable.
Topics maybe “unexplored” and “unorthodox”, but certainly of great interest for “the Elders that will be”… This “book” is dedicated to them, hoping that the Institutions — the Health and Social Services in particular – will take more and more into account the new concepts of Human Caring and Medical Humanities. Last but not least, new guidelines are needed in training the professionals (medical or not) and, generally speaking, all sort of caregivers. MD specialists of our research team describe the medical aspect of the topic, from epidemiology to health management and economy to the so called “therapeutic alliance”, the better way to create an interpersonal relationship between the “new Elder” and all the people taking care of him/her. Beyond technology and organization, the “human touch” (“from care to take care” … do you remember?) is
the key of every person-centered service. But it should not be just a slogan; for a working therapeutic alliance, Elders and all the people suffering from illness or disability, need a sound professional training in “Medical Humanities” and a  certification/selection based on professional quality and specific skills.

From a management standpoint, the quality of a health company/system should be evaluated not only from an economic point of view, but also using the so called “Balanced Scorecards” (BSC) that take into account customer satisfaction, innovation, quality assurance and professionals/manpower satisfaction.
When the research is finished, Ce.R.R.Co will share the results by means of its booklets distributed, free of charge, to all those interested: aged people and their associations, Institutions, professionals etc. But first of all the book is dedicated to the “boomers”, just now beginning to age: the true “new elders” of tomorrow. Moreover Ce.R.R.Co is engaged in operational programmes or project planning about these topics and hopes to take part this way in increasing older people’s quality of life in Italy and abroad.

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