Building a better world: can architecture shape behaviour?

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US architect Frank Lloyd Wright, who designed Fallingwater, believed that appropriate architecture would save the US from corruption.
Via Tsuji

Jan Golembiewski, University of Sydney

In 1966, a British planner called Maurice Broady came up with a new term for the architectural lexicon: architectural determinism.

This was to describe the practice of groundlessly asserting that design solutions would change behaviour in a predictable and positive way.

It was a new phrase but the belief system behind it – that buildings shape behaviour – had allowed the heroes of architecture to make all kinds of outlandish claims.

A hopeful history

Leon Battista Alberti, an Italian Renaissance-era architect, claimed in the 1400s that balanced classical forms would compel aggressive invaders to put down their arms and become civilians.

Frank Lloyd Wright, the US architect who designed one of the most famous buildings in America, Fallingwater, similarly believed appropriate architecture would save the US from corruption and turn people back to wholesome endeavours.

British author and thinker Ebenezer Howard believed companies would be more efficient if their employees lived in village-like garden communities.

Swiss-born French architect Le Corbusier made claims about how his Villa Savoye building in France would heal the sick – and when it did just the opposite, he only avoided court because of the commencement of the second world war.

It took a long list of failures over the millennia before postmodern theorists took to critiquing architectural fantasy with malevolent vengeance. The high-point of this trend was the delight shared over the demolition of the famously dangerous and dysfunctional Pruitt-Igoe urban housing complex in St Louis in the US.

It was designed by architects George Hellmuth, Minoru Yamasaki and Joseph Leinweber to provide “community gathering spaces and safe, enclosed play yards.” By the 1960s, however, it was seen as a hotspot for crime and poverty and demolished in the 1970s.

The demolition of Pruitt-Igoe in 1972 fuelled resistance to deterministic thinking.
Wikimedia

The loss of faith in architecture’s power has been regrettable. Architects’ well-meant fantasies once routinely provided clients with hope and sometimes even with results.

Without this promise, the profession was left inept before the better structural knowledge of engineers, the cumulative restrictions imposed by generations of planners, the calculations of project-managers and the expediency of a draughtsman’s CAD (computer-aided design) skills in turning a client’s every whim into reality.

Without fiction, architecture has become a soulless thing. But was determinism dismissed too soon? Is there a role for imagined futures without rationalist restrictions?

Restoring the faith

Just think of some of the ways architecture can manipulate your own experience. In his book, Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design, US author Charles Montgomery points out that some environments predictably affect our moods.

The fact is that environments do affect us, regardless of whether by design or by accident. In 2008, researchers in the UK found that a ten-minute walk down a South London main street increased psychotic symptoms significantly.

In my own research, I find that the healthier a person is, the more a good environment will affect them positively and the less a bad one will affect them negatively. Mentally ill patients show about 65 times more negative reactivity to bad environments than controls and all these reactions translate directly into symptoms.

The same patients have about half the positive responsiveness. That’s fewer smiles, less laughter and a reported drop in feeling the “fun of life”.

But that’s not all. The potential for architecture is richer still. The ease with which architecture can embrace sublime aesthetics makes it great for generating awe.

Psychiatrists have found that awe reduces the prevalence and severity of mood disorders. Could sublime architecture even potentially save lives?

The psychological effects of architecture are difficult to prove, but difficulty doesn’t dilute the value of a building that hits the right notes and creates a sense of awe. Each building type has different functions, and for each there’s an imperative to use the building to help create an optimal mood, desire or sense of coherence, security or meaning.

Awe reduces mood disorders: Gaudi’s Sacrada Familia church in Spain.
Wikimedia

Fortunately, there’s a resurgence of belief that buildings can change behaviour, led by a few architectural journals: World Health Design, Environment Behavior and HERD.

Most of these focus on health care design, because that’s where behavioural changes have life and death consequences.

But nobody dares make any promises. As such, research rarely opens the black box of environmental psychology, leaving findings unexplained and prone to failure.

To give architecture back its mojo, a new interest in how architecture changes us must be fostered. Clients have to learn to trust architects again and research funding bodies have to re-gear to encourage research into how buildings affect our mood, health and behaviours.

Finally, architecture schools have to teach students how they might predict psychological, emotional, healing and functional effects.

The ConversationAll innovation, ultimately, is led by the imagination – even if that means taking risks and sometimes getting it wrong.

Jan Golembiewski, Researcher in Environmental Determinants of Mental Health, University of Sydney

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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MIND Diet May Slow Cognitive Decline in Stroke Survivors 

Study results presented at the American Stroke Association International Conference

News Releases – Rush University Medical Center

January 25, 2018

A diet created by researchers at Rush University Medical Center may help substantially slow cognitive decline in stroke survivors, according to preliminary research presented on Jan. 25 at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference 2018 in Los Angeles. The findings are significant because stroke survivors are twice as likely to develop dementia compared to the general population.

The diet, known as the MIND diet, is short for Mediterranean-DASH Diet Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay. The diet is a hybrid of the Mediterranean and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diets. Both have been found to reduce the risk of cardiovascular conditions such as hypertensionheart attack and stroke.

“The foods that promote brain health, including vegetables, berries, fish and olive oil, are included in the MIND diet,” said Dr. Laurel J. Cherian, a vascular neurologist and assistant professor in Rush’s Department of Neurological Sciences. “We found that it has the potential to help slow cognitive decline in stroke survivors.”

Cherian is the lead author of the study, which was funded by the National Institute of Aging (grant numbers R01AG054476 and R01AG17917).

Study assessed survivors’ cognitive function, monitored their diets

Study co-author Martha Clare Morris, ScD, a Rush nutritional epidemiologist, and her colleagues developed the MIND diet based on information from years of research about what foods and nutrients have good, and bad, effects on the functioning of the brain. The diet has been associated with reduced Alzheimer’s risk in seniors who adhered to its recommendations. Even people who moderately adhered had reduced risk of AD and cognitive decline.

Rush is currently seeking volunteers to participate in the study, which aims to show whether a specific diet can prevent cognitive decline and brain changes with age. Those interested in participating in the study can call (708) 660-MIND (6463) or email mindstudychicago@rush.edu.

The MIND diet has 15 dietary components, including 10 “brain-healthy food groups” and five unhealthy groups — red meat, butter, cheese, pastries and sweets, and fried or fast food.

To adhere to and benefit from the MIND diet, a person would need to eat at least three servings of whole grains, a green leafy vegetable and one other vegetable every day — along with a glass of wine — snack most days on nuts, have beans every other day or so, eat poultry and berries at least twice a week and fish at least once a week. The diet also specifies limiting intake of the designated unhealthy foods, limiting butter to less than 1 1/2 teaspoons a day and eating less than five servings a week of sweets and pastries, and less than one serving per week of whole fat cheese, and fried or fast food.

“I was really intrigued by the results of a previous MIND study, which showed that the people who were most highly adherent to the MIND diet cognitively functioned as if they were 7.5 years younger than the least adherent group,” Cherian said. “It made me wonder if those findings would hold true for stroke survivors, who are twice as likely to develop dementia compared to the general population.”

From 2004 to 2017, Cherian and colleagues studied 106 participants of the Rush Memory and Aging Project who had a history of stroke for cognitive decline, including decline in one’s ability to think, reason and remember. They assessed people in the study every year until their deaths or the study’s conclusion, for an average of 5.9 years, and monitored patients’ eating habits using food journals.

The researchers grouped participants into those who were highly adherent to the MIND diet, moderately adherent and least adherent. They also looked at additional factors that are known to affect cognitive performance, including age, gender, education level, participation in cognitively stimulating activities, physical activity, smoking and genetics.

Related diets not associated with slower cognitive decline

The study participants whose diets scored highest on the MIND diet score had substantially slower rate of cognitive decline than those who scored lowest. The estimated effect of the diet remained strong even after taking into account participants’ level of education and participation in cognitive and physical activities. In contrast to the results of slower decline with higher MIND diet score, stroke survivors who scored high on the Mediterranean and DASH diets, did not have significant slowing in their cognitive abilities.

“The Mediterranean and DASH diets have been shown to be protective against coronary artery disease and stroke, but it seems the nutrients emphasized in the MIND diet may be better suited to overall brain health and preserving cognition,” Cherian said.

According to Cherian, studies have found that folate, vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acids, carotenoids and flavonoids are associated with slower rates of cognitive decline, while substances such as saturated and hydrogenated fats have been associated with dementia.

The right foods may protect stroke survivors’ cognition

“I like to think of the MIND diet as a way to supercharge the nutritional content of what we eat. The goal is to emphasize foods that will not only lower our risk of heart attacks and stroke, but make our brains as resilient as possible to cognitive decline,” she said.

“Our study suggests that if we choose the right foods, we may be able to protect stroke survivors from cognitive decline.” Cherian cautions, however, that the study was observational, with a relatively small number of participants, and its findings cannot be interpreted in a cause-and-effect relationship.

“This is a preliminary study that will hopefully be confirmed by other studies, including a randomized diet intervention study instroke survivors,” she says. “For now, I think there is enough information to encourage stroke patients to view food as an important tool to optimize their brain health.”

Source: MIND Diet May Slow Cognitive Decline in Stroke Survivors – News Releases – Rush University Medical Center

If you develop Alzheimer’s, will your children get it too?

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Rebecca Sims, Cardiff University

The most common question I get asked is “Will my child get Alzheimer’s disease?” In my experience, this concern is one of the biggest worries for sufferers, and given the devastating effects of the disease, it is not hard to see why it is a difficult thought to contemplate.

For those people with a familial form of Alzheimer’s disease, the answer is quite straightforward. This type of disease is caused by one or more mutation(s) in one of three genes: the amyloid precursor protein (APP), Presenilin 1 (PSEN1) and Presenilin 2 (PSEN2). All of these genes are involved in the production of the amyloid protein. This protein accumulates to form sticky buildups known as plaques, which are found between the cells of the Alzheimer brain and are characteristic of disease.

Those of us who are concerned that they may be at risk from familial Alzheimer’s disease can get a definitive answer through one of the many genetic tests available. A single copy of the mutated gene inherited from an affected parent will ultimately cause disease, with symptoms likely to be noticed before the age of 65 and typically between 30 and 60 years of age. Anyone concerned that they may suffer from this form of Alzheimer’s should seek a referral to a genetic counsellor.

Fortunately, families with a familial form of disease represent less than 1% of all families afflicted by this debilitating disease. For the remaining Alzheimer’s disease families, the answer as to the inheritance of disease is much less clear, and disease onset is certainly not inevitable.

Influencing disease

A combination of both genetic and environmental factors, such as age and gender, contribute to non-familial (also known as sporadic) disease risk, but how these risk factors interact and how many risk factors are required to cause disease is still unknown.

The genetics of non-familial Alzheimer’s is complex: we know that nearly thirty genes, common in the general population, influence disease risk, with potentially hundreds more involved. Additionally, two genes of low frequency have consistently been identified, with an imminent publication by the International Genomics of Alzheimer’s Project, showing another two rare genes have a relatively large effect on disease risk.

Perhaps most excitingly for researchers, genetics scientists have shown that four biological processes in Alzheimer’s disease – that were not previously thought to play a casual role in disease onset – are actually involved. The first process is the immune response, in particular the actions of immune cells and how these potentially dysfunction, attacking the brain, which results in brain cell death.

The second is the transport of molecules into the cell, suggesting that there is a mechanism for the movement of damaging proteins into the brain. The third process that has a role in the onset of Alzheimer’s is the synthesis and breakdown of fatty molecules. And the fourth is the processing of proteins that alters protein breakdown, movement, activity and interactions – all of which are essential for normal protein function.

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Lifestyle risk

Age is the greatest risk factor for disease, with the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s roughly doubling every five years over the age of 65. Women also have more chance of developing the disease than men, potentially due to a reduction in female hormones after menopause.

Medical conditions that increase risk for dementia include cardiovascular factors (type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and obesity), and depression. While lifestyle factors such as physical inactivity, a diet that increases cholesterol, smoking and excessive alcohol intake, have all been shown to influence disease risk.

Even for those with a high number of genetic, environmental and lifestyle risk factors, Alzheimer’s disease is not inevitable. Likewise, individuals with a low number of risk factors for disease are not precluded from developing Alzheimer’s.

Given this lack of certainty and the lack of effective treatments for Alzheimer’s, most experts don’t recommend genetic testing for non-familial disease. This thinking may well evolve in the future, however, when research identifies new risk genes and improves our understanding of the dysfunctional processes in Alzheimer’s disease.

The Conversation

Answering the burning question, whether you will pass Alzheimer’s disease on to your children, is therefore still a near impossibility. But, as early diagnostic techniques improve, and with the prospect of a number of vaccines and therapeutics currently in clinical trials, risk prediction for Alzheimer’s disease may become mainstream and part of a developing precision medicine culture.

Rebecca Sims, Research Fellow, Division of Psychological Medicine and Clinical Neurosciences, Cardiff University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Older Adults Are Still Likely Underestimating Cognitive Impairment in Their Families

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News release

 Study Finds Racial Differences in Reporting and Overall Trend of Underreporting Cognitive Impairment

An increasing number of older adults are reporting cognitive impairment in their families over the past two decades, according to a new study led by researchers at NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing and East Carolina University’s Brody School of Medicine.

The study, which also finds ethnic and racial differences in reporting cognitive impairment, is published in Preventing Chronic Disease, a journal of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The aging population in the U.S. is growing rapidly, with the number of people age 65 and over in 2010 (40.2 million) projected to more than double by 2050. With the rapid increase in the aging population, the size of the population with cognitive impairment and dementia will continue to accelerate, highlighting the importance of identifying cognitive changes.

“Cognitive impairment may serve as a precursor to future dementia. Early detection of cognitive impairment can facilitate timely medical treatments, appropriate care planning, and prevention efforts,” said Bei Wu, PhD, Dean’s Professor in Global Health and director of Global Health & Aging Research at NYU Meyers, co-director of NYU Aging Incubator, and the study’s senior author.

The study sought to examine the trends of self-reported cognitive impairment among five major racial/ethnic groups from 1997 to 2015 in the United States. The researchers used data from the National Health Interview Survey, including 155,682 individuals age 60 and above in their sample. The large sample included people of a variety of races and ethnicities, including Asian Americans,  Blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans, non-Hispanic Blacks, and non-Hispanic Whites.

Rather than using a screening test or clinical examination to evaluate cognitive impairment, respondents were asked to report if any family member was “limited in anyway because of difficulty remembering or because of experiencing periods of confusion.”

The researchers found an increasing trend in self-reported cognitive impairment: the overall rate increased from 5.7 percent in 1997 to 6.7 percent in 2015 among older adults in the U.S. This finding may suggest that awareness of cognitive impairment, perhaps from heightened public attention to and interest in Alzheimer’s disease, has improved to some extent.

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When looking at each racial/ethnic group, however, the increasing trend was significant only among White respondents. In Whites, the rate of self-reported cognitive impairment increased from 5.2 percent in 1997 to 6.1 percent in 2015. Asian American, Black, Hispanic, and Native American respondents had higher rates of self-reported cognitive impairment than Whites, but these rates did not significantly increase from 1997 to 2015.

Regardless of the overall increasing trend, the rates of self-reported cognitive impairment were still low, which may suggest underreporting. The researchers note that the rates of self-reported cognitive impairment are much lower than the estimated prevalence of cognitive impairment. For adults 65 years and older, the rate of self-reported cognitive impairment was 6.3 percent in 2000 and 7.5 percent in 2012, while the estimated prevalence of cognitive impairment in the same age group was 21.2 percent in 2000 and 18.8 percent in 2012.

These findings underscore the need to further promote awareness of cognitive impairment, especially in minority populations. Different cultures hold different beliefs and perceptions of disease and aging. For instance, research has found that compared to Whites, minorities are less likely to seek treatment for psychiatric symptoms because of lack of access to care or due to stigma.

“Culturally specific health education is needed in individuals, family members, and healthcare providers to improve awareness and knowledge of signs and early symptoms of Alzheimer’s and other dementia,” said Huabin Luo, PhD, of East Carolina University.

In addition to Wu and Luo, Gary Yu of NYU Meyers coauthored the study.

Why a drug treatment for dementia has eluded us

 

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Have our hopes of a drug treatment for dementia been dashed by drug company Pfizer giving up on research efforts?
from http://www.shutterstock.com

Jürgen Götz, The University of Queensland

Finding a cure for neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s is challenging. They’re difficult to diagnose, and drugs struggle to get into the brain as the brain’s blood supply is largely separate to the rest of the body. Not surprisingly, several companies have left this territory in recent years. This week, pharmaceutical giant Pfizer announced it will stop research into developing drugs to treat Alzheimer’s disease, after costly failed attempts over the past decade.

In recent years some clinical trials involving potential dementia drugs have had disappointing setbacks. In 2012, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson halted development of the antibody drug bapineuzumab, after it failed in late-stage trials to treat patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s.

Despite this week’s announcement, Pfizer’s support of the UK’s Dementia Discovery Fund, an initiative involving the government, major pharmaceutical companies, and Alzheimer’s Research UK, may be where their money can make the most impact in this space. The fund aims to boost dementia research investment by financing early-stage drug development projects. And other pharma companies, such as Eli Lilly, Biogen and Novartis have continued to pursue dementia drug development with modest but promising success to date.

So what makes dementia such a difficult condition to treat with drugs, and is progress being made towards a treatment?


Read more: Alzheimer’s breakthrough? Have we nearly cured dementia? Not just yet…


Why dementia is so hard to treat

Despite the vast number of people affected globally, with an estimated 46.8 million people currently living with dementia, there is currently no cure. While current treatments manage symptoms (the latest drug to gain FDA approval was memantine, in 2003) they offer no prospect of recovery.

Part of the difficulty in finding treatments for dementia stems from the fact it’s not a single disease, but a complex health problem with more than 50 underlying causes. Dementia can be better thought of as an umbrella term describing a range of conditions that cause parts of the brain to deteriorate progressively.


Read more: What causes Alzheimer’s disease? What we know, don’t know and suspect


Most drug treatments currently in development have targeted the pathology of Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, which accounts for about 60 to 70% of all cases.

Finding a successful treatment for Alzheimer’s faces two major hurdles: the first being we still don’t know enough about the disease’s underlying biology. For example, we don’t know what exactly regulates the toxic build-up of amyloid-β plaques and tau tangles in the brain that are found in Alzheimer’s patients, which specific types of these are toxic, or why the disease progresses at different rates in different people.

It doesn’t help that symptoms of Alzheimer’s develop gradually and slowly and a diagnosis might only be made years after the brain has started to undergo neurodegenerative changes. To boot, it’s not uncommon for Alzheimer’s to be present as well as other forms of dementia.

The second major hurdle to finding a treatment is that drugs need to first cross the blood-brain barrier. The blood–brain barrier provides a defence against disease-causing pathogens and toxins that may be present in our blood, and by design exists to keep out foreign substances from the brain. The downside is that it also keeps the vast majority of potential drug treatments from reaching the brain.


Read more – Explainer: what is the blood-brain barrier and how can we overcome it?


The brain has a blood barrier that protects it from pathogens that invade the rest of our body, which also means drugs can’t get in there.
from http://www.shutterstock.com

Promising steps in the right direction

Currently available medications such as those which block the actions of an enzyme that destroys an important chemical messenger in the brain for memory (acetylcholinesterase inhibitors) or blocks the toxic effects of another messenger, glutamate (memantine) temporarily manage symptoms. But new treatments are focused on slowing or reversing the disease process itself, by targeting the underlying biology.

One approach, called immunotherapy, involves creating antibodies that bind to abnormal developments in the brain (such as amyloid-β or tau), and mark them for destruction by a range of mechanisms. Immunotherapy is experiencing a surge of interest and a number of clinical trials – targeting both amyloid-β and tau – are currently underway.

Aducanumab, an antibody targeting amyloid-β, has shown promise in clinical trials and phase 3 trials are currently ongoing, as are several tau-based strategies. If any are successful, we would have a vaccine for Alzheimer’s.


Read more – How Australians Die: cause #3 – dementia (Alzheimer’s)


It’s estimated only 0.1% of antibodies circulating in the bloodstream enter the brain – this also includes the therapeutic antibodies currently used in clinical trials. An approach my team is taking is to use ultrasound to temporarily open the blood-brain barrier, which increases the uptake of Alzheimer’s drugs or antibody fragments.

We’ve had success in mice, finding ultrasound can clear toxic tau protein clumps, and that combining ultrasound with an antibody fragment treatment is more effective than either treatment alone in removing tau and reducing Alzheimer’s symptoms. The next challenge will be translating this success into human clinical trials.

The task of dementia drug development is no easy feat, and requires collaboration across government, industry and academia. In Australia, the National Dementia Network serves this purpose well. It’s only through perseverance and continued investment in research that we’ll one day have a treatment for dementia.


The ConversationWith thanks to Queensland Brain Institute Science Writer Donna Lu.

Jürgen Götz, Director, Clem Jones Centre for Ageing Dementia Research, The University of Queensland

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

How the brain selectively remembers new places

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Neuroscientists identify a circuit that helps the brain record memories of new locations.

MIT News release – Source: How the brain selectively remembers new places

When you enter a room, your brain is bombarded with sensory information. If the room is a place you know well, most of this information is already stored in long-term memory. However, if the room is unfamiliar to you, your brain creates a new memory of it almost immediately.

MIT neuroscientists have now discovered how this occurs. A small region of the brainstem, known as the locus coeruleus, is activated in response to novel sensory stimuli, and this activity triggers the release of a flood of dopamine into a certain region of the hippocampus to store a memory of the new location.

“We have the remarkable ability to memorize some specific features of an experience in an entirely new environment, and such ability is crucial for our adaptation to the constantly changing world,” says Susumu Tonegawa, the Picower Professor of Biology and Neuroscience and director of the RIKEN-MIT Center for Neural Circuit Genetics at the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory.

“This study opens an exciting avenue of research into the circuit mechanism by which behaviorally relevant stimuli are specifically encoded into long-term memory, ensuring that important stimuli are stored preferentially over incidental ones,” adds Tonegawa, the senior author of the study.

Akiko Wagatsuma, a former MIT research scientist, is the lead author of the study, which appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences the week of Dec. 25.

New places

In a study published about 15 years ago, Tonegawa’s lab found that a part of the hippocampus called the CA3 is responsible for forming memories of novel environments. They hypothesized that the CA3 receives a signal from another part of the brain when a novel place is encountered, stimulating memory formation.

They believed this signal to be carried by chemicals known as neuromodulators, which influence neuronal activity. The CA3 receives neuromodulators from both the locus coeruleus (LC) and a region called the ventral tegmental area (VTA), which is a key part of the brain’s reward circuitry. The researchers decided to focus on the LC because it has been shown to project to the CA3 extensively and to respond to novelty, among many other functions.

The LC responds to an array of sensory input, including visual information as well as sound and odor, then sends information on to other brain areas, including the CA3. To uncover the role of LC-CA3 communication, the researchers genetically engineered mice so that they could block the neuronal activity between those regions by shining light on neurons that form the connection.

To test the mice’s ability to form new memories, the researchers placed the mice in a large open space that they had never seen before. The next day, they placed them in the same space again. Mice whose LC-CA3 connections were not disrupted spent much less time exploring the space on the second day, because the environment was already familiar to them. However, when the researchers interfered with the LC-CA3 connection during the first exposure to the space, the mice explored the area on the second day just as much as they had on the first. This suggests that they were unable to form a memory of the new environment.

The LC appears to exert this effect by releasing the neuromodulator dopamine into the CA3 region, which was surprising because the LC is known to be a major source of norepinephrine to the hippocampus. The researchers believe that this influx of dopamine helps to boost CA3’s ability to strengthen synapses and form a memory of the new location.

They found that this mechanism was not required for other types of memory, such as memories of fearful events, but appears to be specific to memory of new environments. The connections between the LC and CA3 are necessary for long-term spatial memories to form in CA3.

“The selectivity of successful memory formation has long been a puzzle,” says Richard Morris, a professor of neuroscience at the University of Edinburgh, who was not involved in the research. “This study goes a long way toward identifying the brain mechanisms of this process. Activity in the pathway between the locus coeruleus and CA3 occurs most strongly during novelty, and it seems that activity fixes the representations of everyday experience, helping to register and retain what’s been happening and where we’ve been.”

Choosing to remember

This mechanism likely evolved as a way to help animals survive, allowing them to remember new environments without wasting brainpower on recording places that are already familiar, the researchers say.

“When we are exposed to sensory information, we unconsciously choose what to memorize. For an animal’s survival, certain things are necessary to be remembered, and other things, familiar things, probably can be forgotten,” Wagatsuma says.

Still unknown is how the LC recognizes that an environment is new. The researchers hypothesize that some part of the brain is able to compare new environments with stored memories or with expectations of the environment, but more studies are needed to explore how this might happen.

“That’s the next big question,” Tonegawa says. “Hopefully new technology will help to resolve that.”

The research was funded by the RIKEN Brain Science Institute, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and the JPB Foundation.

Dementia: number of people affected to triple in next 30 years

WHO News release – Source: Dementia: number of people affected to triple in next 30 years 

News release

 As the global population ages, the number of people living with dementia is expected to triple from 50 million to 152 million by 2050.

“Nearly 10 million people develop dementia each year, 6 million of them in low- and middle-income countries,” says Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO. “The suffering that results is enormous. This is an alarm call: we must pay greater attention to this growing challenge and ensure that all people living with dementia, wherever they live, get the care that they need.”

The estimated annual global cost of dementia is US$ 818 billion, equivalent to more than 1% of global gross domestic product. The total cost includes direct medical costs, social care and informal care (loss of income of carers). By 2030, the cost is expected to have more than doubled, to US$ 2 trillion, a cost that could undermine social and economic development and overwhelm health and social services, including long-term care systems.

First global monitoring system launched

The Global Dementia Observatory, a web-based platform launched by WHO today, will track progress on the provision of services for people with dementia and for those who care for them, both within countries and globally. It will monitor the presence of national policy and plans, risk reduction measures and infrastructure for providing care and treatment. Information on surveillance systems and disease burden data is also included.

“This is the first global monitoring system for dementia that includes such a comprehensive range of data,” said Dr Tarun Dua, of WHO’s Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse. “The system will not only enable us to track progress, but just as importantly, to identify areas where future efforts are most needed.”

Encouraging results in planning for dementia and support for carers

To date, WHO has collected data from 21 countries (1) of all income levels. By the end of 2018, it is expected that 50 countries will be contributing data.

Initial results indicate that a high proportion of countries submitting data are already taking action in areas such as planning, dementia awareness and dementia-friendliness (such as facilitating participation in community activities and tackling the stigmatization of people living with dementia) and provision of support and training for carers, who are very often family members.

Of the countries reporting data so far:

  • 81% have carried out a dementia awareness or risk reduction campaign
  • 71% have a plan for dementia
  • 71% provide support and training for carers
  • 66% have a dementia-friendly initiative.

All of these activities are recommended by WHO in the Global action plan on the public health response to dementia 2017-2025. The Plan provides a comprehensive blueprint for action, in areas including: dementia awareness and dementia-friendliness; reducing the risk of dementia; diagnosis, treatment and care; research and innovation; and support for dementia carers. It suggests concrete actions that can be taken by policy-makers, health- and social-care providers, civil society organizations and people with dementia and their careers. The Plan has been developed with attention to the importance of respecting the human rights of people with dementia and engaging them in planning for their care. Targets against which progress can be measured are included.

Diagnosis and research require significant effort

Just 14% of countries reporting data could indicate the number of people being diagnosed with dementia. Previous studies suggest that as many as 90% of people with dementia in low- and middle-income countries are unaware of their status.

The data also highlight the need for rapid scale-up of research. There have been some encouraging signs in funding available for investment in research for a cure for dementia in recent years, but much more needs to be done. The number of articles in peer-reviewed journals on dementia in 2016 was close to 7000. This compares with more than 15 000 for diabetes, and more than 99 000 for cancer during the same year. Research is needed not only to find a cure for dementia, but also in the areas of prevention, risk reduction, diagnosis, treatment and care.

The Observatory will provide a knowledge bank where health and social care authorities, medical professionals, researchers and civil society organizations will be able to find country and regional dementia profiles, global reports, policy guidance, guidelines and toolkits on dementia prevention and care.

Dementia

Dementia is an umbrella term for several diseases that are mostly progressive, affecting memory, other cognitive abilities and behaviour and interfering significantly with a person’s ability to maintain the activities of daily living. Women are more often affected than men. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia and accounts for 60–70% of cases. The other common types are vascular dementia and mixed forms.

Editor’s note

WHO’s work on the Global Dementia Observatory is supported by the governments of Canada, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the European Commission.

For more information, please contact:

Alison Brunier
Communications Officer
World Health Organization
Tel: +41 22 791 4468
Mobile: +41 79 701 9480
E-mail: bruniera@who.int

Fadela Chaib
Communications Officer
World Health Organization
Tel: +41 22 791 3228
Mobile: +41 79 475 5556
E-mail: chaibf@who.int


(1) Australia, Bangladesh, Chile, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Fiji, France, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Maldives, Mauritius, Myanmar, Netherlands, Qatar, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Togo, Tunisia

 

Architecture And Design Help the Brain to Recover

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How does the hospital environment affect our rehabilitation? New research from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, into how the space around us affects the brain reveals that well-planned architecture, design and sensory stimulation increase patients’ ability to recover both physically and mentally. Digital textiles and multisensory spaces can make rehabilitation more effective and reduce the amount of time spent in care.

In an interdisciplinary research project, Kristina Sahlqvist has used research into the recovery of the brain to examine how hospitals can create better environments for rehabilitation.

“We want to help patients to get involved in their rehabilitation, a side effect of which can be an improvement in self-confidence,” says Sahlqvist, interior architect and researcher at the University of Gothenburg’s School of Design and Crafts (HDK).

The project drew on all the expertise used on a ward, with input from neurologists, rehabilitation doctors, nurses, psychologists, occupational therapists and physiotherapists. The result is a conceptual solution for an optimal rehabilitation ward.

“Our concept gives the ward a spatial heart, for example, where patients and their families can prepare food and eat together, which allows for a more normal way of spending time together in a hospital environment,” says Sahlqvist.

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In tandem with her research work, she has teamed up with a designer and researcher at the Swedish School of Textiles in Borås on an artistic development project where they redesigned furniture, developed easy-grip cups and cutlery and used smart textiles, in other words textiles with technology embedded in them. The concept includes a table and chairs, a rug and a muff with integral heating, a cardigan with speakers and a soft bracelet that is also a remote control.

In order to measure and test the research theories Sahlgrenska University Hospital will be developing an intensive care room featuring multimodal stimulation, where all the senses are affected. The work involves an architect, doctors, hospital staff, musicians, a designer, an acoustician and a cognition specialist. In a bid to see what kind of results the environment can produce in practice, the researchers will take account of the entire social situation of patients, family and staff.

There are other interesting tricks in the field of neuroarchitecture, where it is possible, for example, to use spatial expressions to improve learning. Although these are currently used predominantly in schools, they could also have potential for the elderly.

“It’s worth wondering why there are so many educational models for preschool children but so few for the elderly. Many old people need a far more stimulating environment than they have at the moment,” says Sahlqvist.

Date: November 3, 2011
Source: University of Gothenburg
Release from University of Gothenburg

建筑和设计帮助大脑恢复

发布日期:2011年11月2日。
哥德堡大学发布 

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医院环境如何影响我们的康复? 瑞典哥德堡大学的最新研究发现,我们周围的空间如何影响大脑,显示出精心策划的建筑,设计和感官刺激可以提高患者身心恢复的能力。 数字纺织品和多感官空间可以使康复更有效,并减少花费在护理上的时间。

在一个跨学科研究项目中,Kristina Sahlqvist利用大脑恢复研究来研究医院如何创造更好的康复环境。

哥德堡大学设计与工艺学院(HDK)室内设计师兼研究员Sahlqvist说:“我们希望帮助患者参与康复治疗,其副作用可以提高自信心。

该项目利用了病房的所有专业知识,由神经科医生,康复医生,护士,心理学家,职业治疗师和物理治疗师提供投入。 结果是最佳康复病房的概念性解决方案。

Sahlqvist说:“我们的理念给病房提供了一个空间的心脏,例如,病人和他们的家人可以一起准备食物和一起吃饭,这样可以在医院环境中更加正常地花时间在一起。

在她的研究工作的同时,她与布罗斯的瑞典纺织学院的一位设计师和研究员合作开展了一个艺术发展项目,重新设计了家具,开发了易握杯子和餐具,并使用了智能纺织品,换句话说纺织品其中嵌入了技术。 这个概念包括一张桌子和椅子,一个地毯和一个带有整体加热装置的手套,一个带扬声器的开襟衫和一个也是遥控器的软手镯。

为了衡量和测试研究理论,萨尔格林斯卡大学医院将开发一个以多模式刺激为特征的重症监护室,所有感官都受到影响。 这项工作涉及建筑师,医生,医院工作人员,音乐家,设计师,声学家和认知专家。 为了研究环境在实践中能产生怎样的结果,研究人员将考虑患者,家属和工作人员的整个社会状况。

在神经体系结构领域还有其他一些有趣的技巧,例如使用空间表达来改善学习。 虽然这些目前主要用于学校,但也可能对老年人有潜力。

Sahlqvist表示:“值得一提的是,为什么学龄前儿童的教育模式如此之多,而老年人的教育模式却很少。许多老年人需要的环境比现在更为刺激。

Alarming amounts of noise demand ways to silence noisy hospital environments

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Spending a night in the hospital is not only stressful, but also loud. The constant beeps, whirrs and alarms ascend to a cacophony that produces anything but a relaxing, restful environment. Researchers will summarize the limited number of studies available on hospital noise and discuss the different approaches health care facilities are taking to bring restful repose to patients across the country during the 174th ASA Meeting, Dec. 4-8, 2017, in New Orleans, La.

Source: Alarming amounts of noise demand ways to silence noisy hospital environments

Hospital noise is a growing concern for patients, family and staff, but many facilities are looking for new approaches to reduce the din and bring peace back to their environment.

Public Release: ACOUSTICAL SOCIETY OF AMERICA

WASHINGTON, D.C. December 6, 2017– Spending a night in the hospital is not only stressful, but also loud. The constant beeps, whirrs and alarms ascend to a cacophony that produces anything but a relaxing, restful environment. Ilene Busch-Vishniac, of BeoGrin Consulting in Baltimore, Maryland, will summarize the limited number of studies available on hospital noise and discuss the different approaches health care facilities are taking to bring restful repose to patients across the country.

According to the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey, noise is the top complaint of patients, staff and visitors. “Nearly everyone has a stay in a hospital at some point,” Busch-Vishniac said. “Noise is a universal problem in hospitals around the world.”

Busch-Vishniac will explore these concepts during the 174th Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America, being held Dec. 4-8, 2017, in New Orleans, Louisiana. Noises emanate from a variety of sources at the bedside. Airflow and the noisy machines controlling it are kept on high to prevent pathogens from lingering near patients, and overhead pages alert staff of needs or announcements. Equipment alarms are the most egregious source, and although they are designed to alert staff of changes in the patient’s medical condition, many also sound when medication needs to be changed or when battery conditions are low.

“Alarms in hospitals are being horribly abused,” Busch-Vishniac said. “Most of the time, they don’t in fact indicate urgent situations.”

Previous studies showed that alarms at a patient’s bedside sound an average 133 times per day. With so many alarms, staff often face alarm fatigue as well.

“Most alarms are being responded to eventually, but not all in a timely fashion,” said Busch-Vishniac. “Staff also may not respond quickly because they recognize that the sound is not critical and the situation will right itself.”

Besides the obvious barrier to rest, high noise levels have been associated with changes in the patient’s heart rate, respiration and blood pressure. These changes increase stress levels and may impair healing. The noise can also impair communication between patients and staff.

With noise levels on the rise, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) initiated the HCAHPS survey in 2008 to assess consumer perception of health care providers and systems. Today, more than 5,500 hospitals contribute to the report, which consists of patients’ responses on seven composite measures, including questions focused on room cleanliness and quietness.

The survey has teeth. Hospital value-based purchasing links up to 30 percent of CMS payments to hospitals across the country to the results of the survey.

“Faced with a loss of money, many hospitals are looking for ways to address noise levels in a way that patients can see as an improvement,” said Busch-Vishniac.

Hospitals have been developing and implementing noise control programs that can be broken into two categories: engineering and administrative interventions.

Engineering interventions aim to find ways to quiet the room. The solutions can be as simple as closing the door to a patient’s room or as complex as installing acoustical absorption materials along the walls and ceiling to dampen the noise level. Administrative interventions focus on changing behaviors. Many hospitals have instituted quiet hours when doors are closed and voices are kept low.

One of the big changes during the past 10 years has shifted alarms from solely sounding at the patient’s bedside to also alerting a central monitor at the nursing station. This approach improves the ability of staff to identify and respond to alarms set at a reduced volume.

According to Busch-Vishniac, it may be possible in the future to remove alarms from the bedside. A quiet hospital may not be a pipedream for much longer.

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Presentation 3pIDa: “Hospital noise: how bad is it?” by Ilene Busch-Vishniac is at 1:45-2:05 p.m. CST, Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017, in Salon E in the New Orleans Marriott. https://asa2017fall.abstractcentral.com/s/u/M8hKSrQu66E

Green for wellbeing – science tells us how to design urban spaces that heal us

 

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Generic plotting of ‘green space’ on an urban plan does not target mental wellbeing unless it is designed to engage us with the sights, sounds and smells of nature.
Zoe Myers, Author provided

Zoe Myers, University of Western Australia

One in five Australians will suffer from a mental health issue this year and living in a city makes it far more likely. Research shows that city dwellers have a 20% higher chance of suffering anxiety and an almost 40% greater likelihood of developing depression.

Promisingly, however, research has also found that people in urban areas who live closest to the greatest “green space” are significantly less likely to suffer poor mental health.

Urban designers thus have a significant role to play in lowering these rates of mental illness, and the data on how nature affects our brains are central to changing the ways we design. As depression is the world’s biggest cause of disability, we cannot afford to ignore the impact of public environments on mental health.

Multiple stressors associated with city living have been shown to increase activity in the parts of the brain corresponding to the “flight or fight” response.


Further reading: Vanishing Australian backyards leave us vulnerable to the stresses of city life


How does exposure to nature reduce these stresses? There are two enduring theories on how nature affects the brain. Both are based on nature having a restorative effect on cognitive and emotional function.

Hyde Park, Perth, allows for an immersive ‘escape’ from the urban world.
Zoe Myers, Author provided

It is not emptiness or quiet, however, that has the effect. Nature in its messy, wild, loud, diverse, animal-inhabited glory has the most impact on restoring a stressed mind to a calm and alert state. This provides a more complete sense of “escape” from the urban world, however brief.

This idea is not new, nor is it surprising. Many people seek out nature to restore wellbeing, and multiple disciplines have sought to measure these restorative effects.

The result is more than 40 years of research quantifying specific neurological, cognitive, emotional and physiological effects of “nature” elements. These effects include increased calm and rumination, decreased agitation and aggression, and increased cognitive functioning – such as concentration, memory and creative thought.


Further reading: Biophilic urbanism: how rooftop gardening soothes souls


A neglected resource for urban design

This wealth of data has been largely overlooked in driving good urban design.

Much of this can be attributed to the data being siloed into scientific disciplines separate from design. All use different languages and are often hidden behind academic journal paywalls.

Also significant is the complexity of mental health issues. This makes it difficult to draw conclusions on environmental effects. To use this data required first a meta-analysis of these methodologies and outcomes, and my own interpretation of how the data applied specifically to urban design.

There are some notable conclusions.

This pedestrian and bike path in Perth is unlikely to maximise the benefits of green space.
Zoe Myers, Author provided
  1. Different natural elements can induce different benefits. This means generic design plotting of “green space” on an urban plan, however aesthetically pleasing, does not specifically target mental wellbeing.
  2. Time plays a significant role. There is no point having great green spaces if these do not provide good reason or opportunity to linger long enough to experience the restorative benefits.
  3. How you engage with your environment matters. Results differ depending on whether the user is observing, listening, or exercising in the space. Taking these variables into account can produce a vast combination of design scenarios.

For example, despite the many studies on the restorative effects of forests, these are not the most accessible option for most city-dwellers. Urban parks are an alternative, but creative, natural interventions in urban spaces that encourage incidental interaction with green space can also produce much benefit.

Much has been written about how walking or exercising in green spaces seems to amplify the effects on the brain of viewing nature. Indeed, as little as five minutes of “green exercise” can produce these benefits.


Further reading: Higher-density cities need greening to stay healthy and liveable


What’s wrong with existing green spaces?

Many urban parks and green spaces – particularly in residential areas – are unimaginative, repetitive and lack basic elements to evoke these references to nature. Nor do they encourage walking or enjoying the natural elements for any length of time.

A typical reserve in Perth, Australia.
Zoe Myers, Author provided
A residential footpath and verge in Perth, Australia.
Zoe Myers, Author provided

For example, paths without shade or protection do not encourage walks long enough to achieve benefits. A lack of landscape diversity does little to activate fascination or interest, and fails to offer incentive to visit them, especially given the ways in which parks can be separated from their surroundings.

In an attempt to create spaces to serve function, such as ensuring enough turf for a game of football, much biodiversity has been removed, thus also removing the sights, sounds and smells needed for an immersive, multi-sensory experience. This applies equally to many suburban footpaths and residential streets.

A suburban residential street in Perth, Australia.
Zoe Myers, Author provided

When urban design gets it right

Septuagesimo Uno Pocket Park, Manhattan.
‘Jim Henderson, Atlas Obscura’

Compare this to urban areas that employ creative uses of incidental nature to capture attention and offer genuine interaction.

Successful parks and urban green spaces encourage us to linger, to rest, to walk for longer. That, in turn, provides the time to maximise restorative mental benefits.

Urban design’s role in shaping our cities is becoming less about the design of physical spaces and more about extracting principles that can be applied to urban spaces in ways specifically tailored to context, site, region and climate.

This means urban design can have a real impact on mental wellbeing, but we need to look outside our discipline for data to make it effective.

A Tokyo road reserve.
from Tokyo DIY Gardening

The ConversationFurther reading: Greening cities makes for safer neighbourhoods

Zoe Myers, Research Associate, Australian Urban Design Research Centre, University of Western Australia

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Digital life stories spark joy in people with dementia

 

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Creating a ‘digital story’ of their memories using photos, music, text and video, can hep dementia patients open up to their fear and move into optimism.
(Shutterstock)

Elly Park, University of Alberta

I was sitting on the sofa across from Christine in her home. She offered me a cup of coffee. Each time I visited, she sat in the same spot — the place where she felt most comfortable and safe. She had shared stories from the past and decided to talk about the birth of her daughters, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

For Christine, a research participant in a multi-sited study into dementia and digital storytelling, the fear dementia brings is that she won’t be able to be a part of special moments such as the celebration of birth.

As we worked together in Edmonton, creating a multimedia story from her memory, Christina started to remember new things. She became emotional when she talked about her daughters becoming mothers themselves. She pointed out that the project was so much more powerful than looking through a photo album. Like many participants, she said she recalled stories she hadn’t thought about for years.

As a post-doctoral fellow in occupational therapy under the supervision of Dr. Lili Liu, at the University of Alberta I worked with several participants in this study. Funded by the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging, one of our goals was to investigate quality of life and how technology affects the lived experiences of persons with dementia.

Technology and quality of life

In this research project we defined digital storytelling as using media technology — including photos, sound, music and videos — to create and present a story.

Most previous research on digital storytelling and dementia has focused on the use of digital media for reminiscence therapy, creating memory books, or enhancing conversation. Collaboratively creating personal digital stories with persons with dementia is an innovative approach, with only one similar study found in the United Kingdom.

During this project, I met with seven participants over eight weeks. Our weekly sessions included a preliminary interview to discuss demographics and past experiences with technology. Then we worked on sharing different meaningful stories, selecting one to focus on and building and shaping the story. This included writing a script, selecting music, images and photographs and editing the draft story.

“I was blessed with wonderful parents, and I was a mistake,” begins Myrna Caroline Jacques, 77, a grandmother of five.

Participants worked on a variety of topics. Some told stories about family and relationships, while others talked about a particular activity or event that was important to them. After all participants completed their digital stories, we had a viewing night and presented the stories to family members.

Happiness in the moment

It was an intense process. Eight sessions working one-on-one with persons with dementia required a significant amount of thinking, remembering and communicating for the participants. There were challenges, such as when participants found themselves unable to express their thoughts or remember details.

In this digital story, Christine Nelson talks of her love for her children and her fear of forgetting special moments.

Although many participants were tired after a session, they all felt that it was a beneficial and meaningful activity. Working in their homes on a personally gratifying activity with a tangible outcome seemed to keep them motivated and eager to continue. The process was also enjoyable and gave the participants something to look forward to each week.

There was a sense of happiness in the moment. And the way that participants responded to me, along with their ability to remember who I was and the purpose of our sessions, all indicated a deeper positive connection. The participants all felt a sense of accomplishment and family members were proud to see the end product at the viewing night.

Into the future

I have met with one of the research participants again recently, and she still remembers me. I would like to follow up with the others to get a sense of the long term impact of this digital storytelling project. I am also eager to see how the findings in Edmonton line up with those from the studies in Vancouver and Toronto.

The ConversationFor the participants, talking about memories helped them open up about having dementia. Getting past the fear and looking ahead with optimism was the message I heard, and one that I hope to keep hearing.

Elly Park, Assistant Clinical Lecturer in Occupational Therapy, University of Alberta

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Japan offers us many lessons in embracing longevity

Japan offers us many lessons in embracing longevity

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With a quarter of the population aged over 65, Japan has had to be innovative in catering for their wants and needs.
Martyn Jones, Author provided

Marco Amati, RMIT University; Marilena Kavoura, RMIT University; Martyn Jones, RMIT University, and Robin Goodman, RMIT University

Japan is famous for the longevity of its citizens. A quarter of its population is older than 65. That is a proportion that Australia is likely to reach only by 2056. Japan’s experience makes it an interesting example to learn from in the area of aged care.

In 2000, following a decade of stagnant growth, mounting public debt and skyrocketing hospitalisation, Japan introduced the Long-Term Care Insurance Scheme (LTCIS). This universal and compulsory scheme provides support to assess and deliver care through institutional or community-based services for all people over 65. It provides sufficient funds to allow everyone to age in place – even those in public housing and with late-onset dementia.

The scheme represents one of the boldest social democratic experiments in aged care policy in the last 30 years. Yet with bold experiments come surprises.

To the chagrin of the scheme’s designers the LTCIS has been too successful. Cheaper to implement than the policy it replaced, it is still oversubscribed and contributing to Japan’s public debt (230% of GDP).

Happy Active Town in Kobe is a public housing estate where more than 50% of residents are older than 65.
Photo: Martyn Jones

The universal acceptance of the scheme contributes to a paradox: while Japan has the largest ageing population in the world, it is difficult to make a business of providing aged care, as the collapse of Watami, the food chain-cum-nursing home provider, demonstrates. So what can this experience teach Australia’s aged care sector?

Care happens within the community

The first set of lessons concerns community-based integrated care. Here, the LTCIS, following 2012 reforms, mobilises support through community general support centres.

Australia is seeking to improve integration of multi-level care. The support centre in “Happy Active Town”, Kobe, provides an example. This public housing estate houses many refugees from the 1995 Great Hanshin Awaji earthquake. Its proportion of residents over 65 is more than 50%.

The LTCIS, with the local government, provides a care hub for volunteers, social workers and health professionals to provide services and respite care free to all residents on and off the estate. Community hubs such as these are designed to support a range of needs from intense support to community and family engagement in care across the life course.

Happy Active Town in Kobe houses many aged survivors of the devastating 1995 earthquake.

Harnessing technological innovation

The second lesson comes from watching and observing the Japanese experience of integrating technology in care provision. Dense, multistorey buildings of small units are typical in Japan. New, so-called “Platinum” housing integrates universal design and new technologies to ensure safe independent living for the elderly.

Retrofitting large areas of public housing to this standard is complex and expensive. A limited number of exemplary regeneration projects where the local municipality, private providers and the LTCIS work together guide the way. One example is Toyoshikidai, a public estate built for young families in the 1950s in Kashiwa to the north of Tokyo.

Alongside these urban changes a generational change is afoot. As the digitally literate generation reaches old age, smart home devices and new security and communication technology assume increasing importance. The business opportunities alone could amount to US$1 trillion by 2035.

The Japanese government supports this shift with its “Silver ICT” agenda. This includes a raft of e-strategies to bridge the digital divide between “active and inactive” elderly populations.

Yet in the nation where the development of robotic assistive technologies enjoys vast sums of research and development support, there is little sign of this in daily life. In Japan, applying technology in aged care is fraught with ethical, personal and logistical challenges. The solution, for now, centres on the involvement of humans.

The ConversationThe Japanese experience of ageing is unique and varied, but presents a foretaste of the future for many post-industrial societies. The “Happy Active Town” of Kobe, 20 years after a major natural disaster, is one example of a place where public policy, housing and technology converge to create solutions for an ageing society. Its mechanisms to support the passion and commitment of the people working and living there can teach Australia how to age with dignity.

Marco Amati, Associate Professor of International Planning, Centre for Urban Research, RMIT University; Marilena Kavoura, Manager Industry Linkage, RMIT University; Martyn Jones, Associate Professor of Social Work, RMIT University, and Robin Goodman, Professor of Urban Planning, Deputy Dean, Sustainability and Urban Planning, RMIT University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Trishaws anyone?

A beautiful intergenerational activity to celebrate the love of cycling, a spot of reminiscence, and the great outdoors.

 

How lovely is this? As a child, my mother and I use to jump on a trishaw after our trip to the wet market. I use to watch the spokes go round and round and I still can hear the “Tak tak tak” sound the wheels make as we head home. It’s always a magical experience no matter how short the trip was. Took less than 5 minutes to reach our home from the market on a trishaw and I’ve sat in it for years and years with my mum, but it never grows old. With the wind in my face, the clicky round of the rickshaw, and just cuddled beside my mum with all our groceries at my feet, the world was our oyster.

When Cycling Without Age it just brought back all these lovely memories of my childhood. I wondered how wonderful would this be for it to be reintroduced into the community. There would be so many older adults in Asia whose main form of transport was the bicycle or the trishaw at a point of their time in their youth. As we aged and our physical abilities deteriorate, we lose our abilities to cycle and with it, our memories of freedom, that wind in your hair, the road just beneath your feet, to go wherever you wanted to go and be wherever you wanted to be.

Such an intervention can only bring generations together, a real intergenerational project of adventure and bonds. To bring people closer through the love of freedom and the outdoors.

I’m so glad to see this in Singapore and I hope that more Singaporeans will jump on board to support this movement!

If you have time, have a read of these 21 inspirational stories from Cycling without Age http://cyclingwithoutage.org/book/

Ageing in Place? Yes, we can!

Article: Why it’s good to be old in Wakabadai estate, where nearly half the residents are elderly

Read about a community that has come together to age together at the Wakabadai public housing estate.

Recently Channelnewsasia did a piece on the Wakabadai housing estate in Yokohama, Japan. It’s a really interesting estate and the means in which the estate has been configured bears many similarities to the high rise housing estates found in the big cities where we all live a wall away from our neighbours. However, despite living in the same building for 30 to 40 years a lot of us may just be acquaintances, saying the passing “hi” and “hellos” as we greet each other at the elevator or when we pass each other along the corridors.

A few years ago, I visited a couple who lived alone in a little apartment with two bedrooms, their children had moved out and the husband was caring for his wife with dementia. She is very quiet and apathetic. His greatest worry was that he may suffer a stroke or a heart attack and is unable to get help in time and both of them may pass away in their apartment despite being surrounded by hundreds or thousands of people living in the building. He cited a neighbour living a few floors below them, who had passed away without anyone noticing until a number of days later. He talked about the need for services for families like them, and many services assume that because they have children, there would be someone watching out for them. However, with the busy lives that his children lead, looking after their families and juggling work, they could only call in on the weekends and rightly so with the changing landscape of the economy.

His son offered to have them stay with him but leaving their much familiar neighbourhood might be too much for his wife. Even now she would get agitated if they left the vicinity. For them this is home, this is where they had built their lives, house their memories, thrived in their love, and they wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.

Why is it that when we grow old, we have to move away? We have to sell our home, move into a retirement village and start all over again. I want to live in a place that will evolve and age as I age, that grows old as I do.

Back to Yokohama, the Wakabadai public housing estate is just that, with slightly less than half of the residents 65 years and older, the people living in the estate are ageing in place together. To date, there is a total of 14,658 residents living in the estate in 6,304 units. To ensure that they needs are met, they have come together with organisations and council to organise a range of services.

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Map of Wakabadai

Social Engagement for Older Adults:

The Wakabadai Non-Profit Organisation enables social activities such as health, music, cultural and sporting events to be held in the vicinity. Himawari provides a space for volunteers to interact with older adults over a cuppa. Residents are also keenly aware of “kodokushi”, which refers to people who are living alone and have passed away and their deaths have gone unnoticed by the community. In Wakabadai, residents band together and keep a keen eye out for the sudden build up of mail or newspaper in the mailboxes of older residents and the mail continues to be left unattended with no notice that the resident might be away.

A paid service is also available at the Himawari Community Centre where they can have a staff to ring their phones to ensure they are alright. They can also have a spare key stored at Himawari for approximately 500 yen.

In addition, celebrations during festive periods are arranged by the organisation to encourage engagement among the residents. Sports events are also organised regularly to encourage and promote a healthy lifestyle among residents.

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Wakadabai Estate

Creating an Intergenerational Community:

To encourage engagement from children and younger adults, a facilty for mothers group known as Wakaba Family Plaza Soramame can be found in Wakadabai. A safe space for mother’s of infants and toddlers to interact, support and exchange vital parenting information with each other and older adults. Older adults with early childhood qualifications can find work as advisors, helping to support young mothers, sharing with them their years of wisdom. Coming into Wakaba Family Plaza Soramame, you may find three generations interacting and hanging out together.

Meaning Occupation:

The Wakabadai Non-Profit Organisation also helps to find jobs for older adults.

Older adults can also showcase their culinary skills at Haru Dining, a restaurant staffed by older women living in the area serving up old school, heartwarming home cooked meals.

japan-cuisine-2336228_960_720

Assistance with Activities of Daily Living:

Residents can also tap on a home help service at the cost of 490 JPY per hour which covers everything from house chores to transport to get their food or groceries delivered. Transport is highly efficient with buses running every 3 mins to the major train station, currently, residents are campaigning for a train station to be built close to their vicinity.

Other accessible facilities in the area include a post office, supermarkets, salons, restaurants, shops, gyms and parks.

Healthcare:

When it comes to healthcare, the Community Centre run by the Yokohama City Council also provides exercise classes for older adults, a care facility for older adults during the day, and medical staff such as nurses are available to provide older adults health and medical advice.

In addition, Asagao, a district nursing service consisting of nursing and medical staff from an acute hospital in the area man an emergency hotline that is accessible for residents in the estate at all times of the day or night. On top of the hotline, staff also provide and provide home care to the residents in the community.

When it comes to high care needs, residential aged care facilities are also located in the estate for residents who are too frail to reside in their own home.

With all the facilities to encourage a positive ageing in place, it is no wonder that the rates of older adults requiring nursing care much lower than the average rates found in other estates in Yokohama. In Wakabadai, the rates of nursing care currently stand at 12 percent whereas, on average 17.5 percent of older adults in each estate is found to require nursing care at home.

Wakadabai has shown that ageing in place is possible and it is achievable in the big cities with high-density living. With key elements in place, council and community support, we all can grow old gracefully in the luxury of our homes.

A study shows that 1 truly remarkable change can improve lives and help save cost in residential care homes!

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In residential aged care, how many times have you heard the howls of frustrations as management and staff, shake their fist in the air, bicker and scratch their heads to work out how to improve dementia care at the same time balance the books. It’s a constant frustration, not just for the staff but for the residents with dementia and caregivers as well as they continue to pay for care and feel that they are unheard, unseen and their needs have gone unnoticed.

Good news, the latest study was presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference from the University of Exeter and carried out in collaboration with University College London, Hull, Bangor and Alzheimer’s Society UK. The study evidently highlighted the fact that activities carried out in line with the philosophy of Person-Centred Care, coupled with a week of social activities resulted in a reduced in responsive behaviours in dementia and improve the quality of life for residents with dementia in a residential care home.

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The large scale study funded by the National Institute for Health Research was carried out in 69 residential care homes in the United Kingdom and consisted of 800 residents with dementia. Each of the 69 residential care home had two staff attend a four-day session, training them to socially engage with residents with dementia and finding out what residents would like in the areas of their care needs. When executed, this person-centred care approach coupled with an hour of social engagement found that not only was there a reported in the increase in quality of life but a reduction in responsive behaviours of dementia resulting in cost savings in dementia care to the organisation compared to care without such interventions.

“Taking a person-centred approach is about really getting to know the resident as an individual – knowing their interests and talking with them while you provide all aspects of care. It can make a massive difference to the person themselves and their carers. We’ve shown that this approach significantly improves lives, reduces agitation and actually saves money too. This training must now be rolled out nationwide so other people can benefit.”

-Dr Jane Fossey ( Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust)

With the success of this study, the researchers are potentially aiming to have this intervention carried out in 28,000 residential care homes in the country, potentially positively impacting up to 300,000 residents with dementia.

What is ‘cognitive reserve’?

What is ‘cognitive reserve’? How we can protect our brains from memory loss and dementia

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Engaging in cognitively stimulating activities can help build your resilience to cognitive decline.
Gene Wilburn/Flickr, CC BY

Michael Ridding, University of Adelaide

As we get older we have a greater risk of developing impairments in areas of cognitive function – such as memory, reasoning and verbal ability. We also have a greater risk of dementia, which is what we call cognitive decline that interferes with daily life. The trajectory of this cognitive decline can vary considerably from one person to the next.

Despite these varying trajectories, one thing is for sure: even cognitively normal people experience pathological changes in their brain, including degeneration and atrophy, as they age. By the time a person reaches the age of 70 to 80, these changes closely resemble those seen in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s Disease.

Even so, many people are able to function normally in the presence of significant brain damage and pathology. So why do some experience symptoms of Alzheimer’s and dementia, while others remain sharp of mind?

It comes down to something called cognitive reserve. This is a concept used to explain a person’s capacity to maintain normal cognitive function in the presence of brain pathology. To put it simply, some people have better cognitive reserve than others.

Evidence shows the extent of someone’s cognitive decline doesn’t occur in line with the amount of biological damage in their brain as it ages. Rather, certain life experiences determine someone’s cognitive reserve and, therefore, their ability to avoid dementia or memory loss.

How do we know?

Being educated, having higher levels of social interaction or working in cognitively demanding occupations (managerial or professional roles, for instance) increases resilience to cognitive decline and dementia. Many studies have shown this. These studies followed people over a number of years and looked for signs of them developing cognitive decline or dementia in that period.

As we get older we have a greater risk of developing impairments in cognitive function, such as memory.
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Cognitive reserve is traditionally measured and quantified based on self reports of life experience such as education level, occupational complexity and social engagement. While these measures provide an indication of reserve, they’re only of limited use if we want to identify those at risk of cognitive decline. Genetic influences obviously play a part in our brain development and will influence resilience.

Brain plasticity

The fundamental brain mechanisms that underpin cognitive reserve are still unclear.
The brain consists of complex, richly interconnected networks that are responsible for our cognitive ability. These networks have the capacity to change and adapt to task demands or brain damage. And this capacity is essential not only for normal brain function, but also for maintaining cognitive performance in later life.

This adaptation is governed by brain plasticity. This is the brain’s ability to continuously modulate its structure and function throughout life in response to different experiences. So, plasticity and flexibility in brain networks likely contribute in a major way to cognitive reserve and these processes are influenced by both genetic profiles and life experiences.

A major focus of our research is examining how brain connectivity and plasticity relate to reserve and cognitive function. We hope this will help identify a measure of reserve that reliably identifies individuals at risk of cognitive decline.

Strengthening your brain

While there is little we can do about our genetic profile, adapting our lifestyles to include certain types of behaviours offers a significant opportunity to improve our cognitive reserve.

Activities that engage your brain, such as learning a new language and completing crosswords, as well as having high levels of social interaction, increase reserve and can reduce your risk of developing dementia.

Regular physical activity increases cognitive reserve.
Jenny Hill/Unsplash, CC BY

Regular physical activity also improves cognitive function and reduces the risk of dementia. Unfortunately, little evidence is available to suggest what type of physical activity, as well as intensity and amount, is required to best increase reserve and protect against cognitive impairment.

There is also mounting evidence that being sedentary for long periods of the day is bad for health. This might even undo any benefits gained from periods of physical activity. So, it is important to understand how the composition of physical activity across the day impacts brain health and reserve, and this is an aim of our work.

The ConversationOur ongoing studies should contribute to the development of evidence-based guidelines that provide clear advice on physical activity patterns for optimising brain health and resilience.

Michael Ridding, Professor, University of Adelaide

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

The Lantern Project Australia

The Lantern Project Australia, founded by Cherie Hugo, is about giving aged care residents the quality of life they deserve through good food and nutrition.

Source: The Lantern Project Australia

Stories waiting to be told

Why we need to open our hearts & listen to the people we care for

I wanted to share this beautiful video of Raelene and Soo Ren, who opened their hearts poured out their life story in this short 11-minute film. Raelene touches on the challenges in their life of being an inter-racial couple in the UK, their life settling down in Singapore in a house with 30 members of the family and later as a caregiver for her husband who is living with cognitive impairment. No matter the challenges both Raelene and Soo Ren continue to move forward in life, sharing every day together.

I also apologise for not blogging as much and not having any new articles of late. I’m currently 29 weeks pregnant and soon to start a new chapter our lives with a baby boy. In a way, Raelene and Soo Ren’s story strikes a deep chord in my heart because much like them, me and my husband are an interracial couple as well, with me being an Asian and my Husband being a Caucasian. We do face similar stigmas but possibly not those as aggressive as what Raelene and Soo Ren had experienced in the 60s and 70s. I do ponder the needs and the types of assistance that an interracial couple may require in the areas of dementia care, be it bilingual literature on dementia, or even training especially for expatriates and immigrants, hearing their stories. Most of us will become aware of the cultural differences that both will have to overcome to be together and as cognitive impairment and dementia sets in, can we say that we can we deliver care services that can meet the needs of interracial couples? Is there more that we can do?

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On top of the discussions on inter-racial couples, it is also important to recognise that everyone, everyone that you see has a story. As a nurse and a personal care assistant, I have heard of stories of women who worked in the times of war in the UK, wearing their hair in “victory rolls” and working on machines, the life of a submariner and the experiences of a WW2 Vet. There was a lady who took 7 months to sail from Australia to the UK, which to me was an incredible feat in itself. A man who knew more about the history of Singapore than I did, having visited Singapore in the 70s and 80s. A lady who thought me that when it comes to fashion quality far surpasses quantity, pulling out a teal dress she bought 20 years ago for a wedding that continued to look stunning on her at 80. A teacher who taught me all about baking and I’ll never forget five women who agreed in unison that a home cooked meal was the heart and gut of marriage. They opened their heart, they brought me smiles and laughter, sharing with me their adventures, their lives and their memories. I’m here to provide care, and yet it feels like they are providing me with the knowledge and care that I need to mature and grow, learning from their experiences and their stories, nourishing my mind and my soul, an experience that no money can ever buy.

Dementia, prevention & our children

There are 23 million people living with dementia in the Asia Pacific Region in 2015, costing the region a whopping US$185 billion. Little education exists on dementia for our children aside from countries such Australia, Japan, with some children attaining information in countries such as Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and China. However, there is nothing in the national curriculums to prepare children for Dementia or help children to fully understand  the need of dementia inclusive enabling communities or the preventative measures required for them to put in place at a young age to reduce their risk of dementia especially those brought about by lifestyle factors.

Ireland with slightly less than half the number of people living with dementia at approximately 20,000 people, and a population of 1.8 million and a land mass of 14,130 km2. Alzheimer’s Society reported that at least 30% of the young will know a person living with dementia. Last Wednesday it was announced on the Alzheimer’s Society website that Alzheimer’s Society and the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment have included dementia in the school syllabus, making Northern Ireland the first to have a dementia friendly generation.

The resources are also available not just in English but also in the Irish language. Click here to view resources.

PRIMARY SCHOOL: The Archie Project from Reminiscence Learning has created a unique and innovative intergenerational awareness project to reduce the stigma associated with dementia. They believe that by engaging with young children they are dispelling the fear of dementia and changing the attitudes of our workforce for the future, providing education to support early diagnosis. Archie’s Story follows a scarecrow with dementia on his journey from exclusion to inclusion. The accompanying Archie workbook goes on to help children understand how Archie’s state of wellbeing improves by being understood, loved and included — a simple concept but one that both children and adults can relate to. The Archie Project provide books, workbooks, assemblies, scarecrow parades, Archie-related activities, training, drama and recognisable merchandise so that everyone can connect with the Archie character and learn how to engage with people with dementia in their families and communities. Links between schools and care homes enable children to put their new dementia awareness into practice. By increasing their knowledge of dementia, the project gives them confidence to interact with residents during visits to local care homes, where they take part in shared activities such as singing, gardening activities, coffee mornings, shared lunches, snooker, craft activities, tea dances and storytelling. Archie mascots encourage conversation and engagement with people at all stages of dementia. For more information visit www.reminiscencelearning.co.uk/archie (Source Alz Soc Youtube)

The promotion of dementia awareness not only helps us to create a better multi-generational dementia inclusive society but for our children, it will help them better understand the need for education and the impacts of negative lifestyle choices. A study based on a Comparison of the Prevalence of Dementia in the United States in 2000 and 2012 published in JAMA internal Medicine on the 21st November indicated that education appears to be a protector against dementia. Dr Kenneth Langa theorises that education “actually creates more, and more complicated, connections between the nerve cells so that you’re able to keep thinking normally later into life.”

In addition, Director of the Division of Behavioral and Social Research in the National Institute on Aging, John Haaga adds that “Education can not only change the brain, it can change your whole life… It affects what kind of work you do, of course. It also affects who your friends are, who you’re married to, whether you’re married. All aspects of life are affected by educational attainment.”

When children learn about dementia and the brain, they will also learn about the risk factors which will help them to adhere to healthier lifestyle choices. According to Dr Alina Cohen, “factors such as adhering to a healthy lifestyle including a diet that is rich in essential nutrients, regular exercise engagement, and having an adequate cardiovascular profile all seem to be effective ways by which to preserve cognitive function and delay cognitive decline.” This study by York University presented evidence that the delay of dementia is connected with healthy living which in turn aids higher brain function. On a whole, our children will understand the importance of education, strategies to building cognitive resilience and understand the need for a healthy lifestyle for a healthy brain. There are a whole lot more pros than cons in this picture and policy makers should really sit up and start using their brains to look at how this can be implemented. Students will be able to understand the effects of stress on the brain, the importance of prevention and help-seeking behaviours especially in the areas of anxiety and depression. On a systemic level, this will create not only a friendlier, integrated and healthier multi-generational society but one that in the future may potentially see a reduction in healthcare spending as a result of unhealthy lifestyle choices.

SECONDARY SCHOOL: In the summer of 2012, Stoke Damerel Community College was invited to become one of 21 Pioneer Schools as part of the Prime Minister’s Challenge on Dementia. The school took a unique approach to dementia education, placing it across the curriculum into as many subjects as possible and endeavouring to work in partnership with their community and local and national organisations. They placed emphasis on creative processes and outcomes, intergenerational contact and active learning. Subject leaders were actively engaged in determining the shape of dementia education in their own subjects. Some of the most successful projects at the school were those that involved creative ways of working and intergenerational activities. For example, as part of the PE curriculum, people with dementia visited the school to play croquet with year 7 students. For more information visit http://www.sdcc.net (Source Alz Soc Youtube)

In addition to Primary and Secondary school, Scout groups have also joined the cause On such program is A Million Hands a program that supports 4 main social issues, dementia being one of the four that have been selected by the young. The objective is to empower and enable the young and the youths to tackle these issues head on and have the courage to make a change. In the areas of dementia, Scouts may find themselves helping people with dementia to fight isolation or helping with awareness by teaching people to spot signs and symptoms of dementia.They may work to try and work to make communities more accessible and even work to campaign for a cure and improve the lives of people with dementia.

Dementia as part of the educational curriculum could well be a means to improve not just the future of our children but perhaps the society as a whole.

Death and dying, life and living in long-term care facilities in Singapore

Building a dignified system where Singaporeans can choose how we want to live and how we want to say goodbye

The loss of freedom, dignity and respect in places with 11 to 25 bedded wards, lacking in privacy, with staff being paid SGD$350 a month without food and accommodation were reported in a Channel NewsAsia program known as Talking Point. In addition, it was also mentioned by author and research Ms Radha Basu one staff member can be observed responsible for 20 to 32 residents in the night, and residents live with bare necessities such as a toothbrush, bed and a cabinet. The lifestyle was found to be highly regimented with the journalist sharing that there are were only 2 options for times for showers at 6 am or 7 am.  “it was like a hospital for the rest of your life” stated television host Anita Kapoor. She also states that “it’s not a criticism of the facilities themselves, it’s a criticism of the system. You cannot approach eldercare the way you approach hospital visits. It can’t just be a means to an end need. It is a life. You have to think in terms of life and end of life.”

I was really exhausted by the environment  

– television host, Anita Kapoor, 45 years of age.

I applaud Ms Kapoor for taking a stand and putting herself in the resident’s place, experiencing the environment literally for a fortnight first hand, living as residents lived.

Like my previous article about Singapore nursing homes, our story of the wooden bowl? I questioned how we want to care for our older adults, our parents, our grandparents, given the state of the nursing homes in Singapore. How do we care for our loved ones in Singapore with dementia without dementia enabling built environments?

My thoughts have constantly been being echoed in this programme. Pushing for better environments for people with dementia. I dare to say that I can dream for a day when Singapore will be able to have facilities that advocate for independence, dignity and respect for residents. Seeing an assisted living facility in the heart of Bukit Timah, it’s heartwarming and inspiring to see the St Bernadette Lifestyle village, assisted living facility that is just like a home.

It is with a flicker of hope that one day we can have facilities like intergenerational nursing homes inspired from our HDB designs (Taking a leaf from HDB flats for Pocket Gardens & Intergenerational Nursing Homes) which we call home.

In the meantime, I will keep working on a dementia enabling environmental audit tool for Singapore in the hope that we will be able to create dementia enabling long-term care facilities that Singaporeans can call home.

Watch the full episode here http://video.toggle.sg/en/series/talking-point-2016/ep24/458260

Poem: Do not ask me to remember

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Jikka: a beautiful & unique aged care facility in Japan

This is such a heartwarming facility, perhaps not the most dementia-friendly, but it is beautiful, enchanting and absolutely lovely. Nursing homes done differently. Food for thought, this nursing home in Japan was designed by 2 women and is known as Jikka. Created by architect Issei Suma, this facility in the mountains of Shizuoka Prefecture and brings together the community into the care facility.

Wheelchair accessible spa.

What does a person with dementia look like in Asia?

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I spoke to a few people about dementia recently and some were shocked at the fact that people with dementia are able to live in the community. I was quite surprised at the fact that they were surprised, I guess to me it’s been such a norm that I forget that people have different ideas and perceptions about people with dementia. One person even said to me that she thought people with dementia were people who have forgotten how to do anything, and that they get lost all the time, and maybe scream a lot or are angry. Or people who sat around in nursing homes and were the shell of themselves and stared into space all day. It was an incredibly painful feeling to sit and know that people with dementia are thought of that way.

However, with the media continuously labelling people with dementia as “sufferers” and movies portraying people with dementia as people with high care needs, staring into space or being highly disabled, it’s no wonder people have such negative stereotypes. In a cab ride last week, a cab driver pointed out that there’s not much point designing services for people with dementia since there will be a cure or a vaccine out in 5 to 10 years; he had seen the headline in the papers. I listed out the evidence on vaccine development and talked about the damaging impacts of the media and highly misleading headlines that are taking away the focus of providing care to people who are now living with dementia in the public eye. Again, who could blame him, he’s seen it in the papers. I left the cab feeling frustrated.

Media gurus with little understanding of dementia undermine the objective and essence of research, turning publications into another holy grail headline but it is their job to create publicity for the institution or organisation, and most of the time the rehashed facts are close but no cigar. Do these media personnel understand the devastating effect this has on people with dementia and their families, to be constantly thrown a lifeline every day that says a cure has been established only to find out it’s another sensational headline in the making.

Coming back to the person with dementia? Can the media change the way dementia is portrayed? An associate shared a good example of enablement. He talked about how he has a visual impairment and in the past without the aid of glasses, he would be severely disabled, however ,with glasses, he is enabled and can function just like everyone else. People with glasses are accepted just like everyone else. So how can we change the way the public think, accept and include people with cognitive impairment, in the same way as visual impairment? You don’t see a headline every day screaming that my vision can be cured or there’s a vaccine developed for my short-sightedness, could this be attributed to the knowledge base of media personnel having an understanding of visual impairment.

I’ve attached a 6 min trailer of the Last Laugh; here Kate Swaffer shares her experience of living with dementia and her experience after receiving a diagnosis of dementia. She’s an amazing woman, championing the rights of people with dementia, working on her Ph.D., is the inaugural Chair of the Alzheimer’s Australia Dementia Advisory Committee, author of “what the hell happened to my brain” and a founding member of the dementia alliance international.

Below is a video featuring the amazing Christine Bryden who has been living with dementia for 20 years and has been advocating for better quality of care and life for people with dementia. She was diagnosed with dementia in 1995 and when she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease at 46, doctors had prescribed that she stop working and prepare herself for the inevitable. 20 years now, Christine is an author of 2 books, lectures international, is a well-known dementia advocate in Japan, completed her post-graduate studies and is into her 15th year of marriage.

These active champions who have never given up, are true heroes in the face of dementia, and their hard work to make a change while living with dementia is truly admirable. However, looking back at my home encounters in the  last couple of weeks, it was a stark reminder that we still have a lot of work to do in the space of creating awareness about dementia in Asia, because what we think a person with dementia should look like, is not reflective of reality at all.

Taking a leaf from HDB flats for Pocket Gardens & Intergenerational​ Nursing Homes

I recently visited a friend living at Dawson and was really surprised at the gardens located on the upper floors of the housing development board (HDB) flat. There was a sky garden right up the top, but there were gardens found in between the floors as well. There isn’t a void deck in the traditional sense like the older flats would have, instead there are familiar seating areas found in these pocket gardens for the residents which are just like a void deck but with a beautiful view of Singapore filled with a range of greenery that stimulate the senses.

There’s safety and security features found in the garden as well, from lighting, to security cameras, handrails, and high vertical railings. For most parts the garden I visited was sheltered from the weather. There were even play area for kids.

I’ve got a few images of the gardens to share with everyone.

Security Cameras, Handrails & Railing 

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The image below on the left is from a separate HDB block. I added this image in because this was actually a bridge from the HDB flats to the garden. Residents have personalise the bottom of the handrails with little plants of their own on this bridge. The path is open to rain and other environmental conditions, however, the design intrigued me as the gardens are separate from the residents providing me thoughts on how we can link intergenerational services in one facility.

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The railing are really high too, approximately 1.3m in height, but enough that doesn’t have a caged in feel. I understand a lot of clinical staff would be concern about safety in nursing homes especially in the gardens. You can see behind me that an array plants have been strategically placed in front of the railing of fence. Below is the front view of the same railing behind me with the plants in the frnt. You can see that the beautiful lush greenery of the plants distract and divert attention away from the railing that appears to be muted, disappearing into the background.

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There is a number of wheelchair friendly access to the garden as seen below and handrails of different heights. The handrails were not smooth and provided some grip.

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Positive Stimulation (lighting, ceiling, temperature, sound)

The area is flushed with natural light and ventilation.Hanging lights and discreet lighting are placed strategically around the garden and sitting area. High ceiling seen in the garden according to Vartanian et al (2015) are seen to be

  • asthetically more beautiful then areas of low ceiling or closed rooms
  •  activate structures in the brain such as visuospatial exploration and visual motion processing information on objects and space
  • Non-enclosed space deactivates the cingulate region and it’s association with the amygdala

We all know that the Amygdala hijacks our rational thoughts and sends us all into a fight or flights behaviour. For designers working on environmental design for people with dementia, this may be something that we may wish to consider in the design of healing or therapeutic gardens and spaces to reduce the activation and evolutionary response to fear and anxiety brough about by the amygdala.

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Due to the lack of direct exposure to the sun, the temperature was cool and breezy, which made it quite relaxing even for a 32 degree day in Singapore. The chairs were cool to sit on, and none of the siting area was hot to touch. Despite a few older adults, and teenagers hanging around in the area, chatting in the afternoon, I could not hear their conversations until I am right beside them. The area did not appear noisy despite the moderate number of people hanging about.

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Familiar & Inclusive Environments

The garden also contained a number of familiar tables and chairs that we see at our local Kopithams (coffeeshops) found in HDB estates and food courts.

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Areas inclusive for children were also found in the garden containing a little area for hop scotch and for a game of snakes and ladders.

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Integenerational Facilties

Just looking at the garden, and thinking back on nursing home in Singapore, Nursing Homes can be integrated with other services to serve a multitude of generations and become a truely multigenerational facility such as the design below.The draft below is inspired by this garden and thoughts of an integenerational facility.

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I also notice the tables and chairs were great for students as study area but lack facilties such as powerpoints. Living in a crowded, high density city, finding study areas are getting harder by the minute. For people in the western world, this is our Asian phenomennon. We use to joke that rich kids get to study in Starbucks and fork out a ton for drinks while us poorer kids try and tough it out in the libraries or at the cloest Macdonalds or Mos buger. However, libraries may not be close to home, and if we wanted to study in a group, finding a location gets pretty tough. anyway who has to tough it out in eateries to study have to put up with the noise.

Older adults can participate in activities after they have sent their grandkids to kindergarden, or school and all come together in the mornings and return home in the evenings. Grandparents can also relax with their grandchildren in the public garden, grab a coffee and catch up with friends before meeting up with their kids and going home together. This is a dream for a place where communities and families can come together to build that kampung spirit.

If there is a multi-generation facility such as the ones found above, families can remind tigher and stronger despite hussle and bussle of our urbanised cities and dual income lives. We are already spending much time on transport and work, what we really need is some solutions to help support us with maintaining our relationships with out familiies to build a stronger, tighter, and caring Singapore, and we know it starts with family.

 

 

Oversedation in Nursing Homes

Source: Human Rights Watch
Published: 5th Feb 2018

The human rights watch has produced a report on the use of sedation in nursing homes. The report titled “they want docile” highlights the plight of people with dementia being chemically restraint through overmedication of antipsychotic drugs.

 

Read the full report here https://www.hrw.org/report/2018/02/05/they-want-docile/how-nursing-homes-united-states-overmedicate-people-dementia 

Too many times I’m given too many pills…. [Until they wear off], I can’t even talk. I have a thick tongue when they do that. I ask them not to [give me the antipsychotic drugs]. When I say that, they threaten to remove me from the [nursing] home. They get me so I can’t think. I don’t want anything to make me change the person I am.
—Walter L., an 81-year-old man given antipsychotic drugs in a Texas nursing facility, December 2016.

It used to be like a death prison here. We cut our antipsychotics in half in six months. Half our residents were on antipsychotics. Only 10 percent of our residents have a mental illness.
—A director of nursing at a facility in Kansas that succeeded in reducing its rate of antipsychotic drug use, January 2017.

The language of dementia is slowly changing

There has been, for many years, discussions, requests, even what could be seen as begging from may of us diagnosed with dementia to use respectful language. That means, respectful from our point of view, not those who are not diagnosed with dementia.

Of course, people with dementia do suffer some of the time, but we did before dementia too, but were not then termed as sufferers all the time. Some individuals with dementia may wish to refer to themselves as sufferers, and of course, that is totally their right, but I believe it is not ok to do so publicly, as it infers that we are all ok with that negative label.

The following is my guest blog published by Dementia Australia after attending the Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI) Conference in Puerto Rico in 2014

I repeat: “Please don’t call us sufferers”

During the recent ADI2014 conference, it was apparent…

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