Category Archives: Dementia & the Environment

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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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

People with Dementia cope worse in Hospitals, so why are our nursing homes in Asia designed to look like hospitals?

Hospital2.pngBelow is a great a great piece by Prof June Andrews republished free, online or in print, under Creative Commons licence.

 

Why hospitals are dangerous for people with dementia – and why it’s up to families to help

June Andrews, University of Stirling

People with dementia go into emergency hospitals more often than the rest of the population even though these hospitals are run as if every patient has perfect intellectual function. An acute hospital is like a meat grinder for people with dementia – it chews them up and spits them out – so it is worth both avoiding admission in the first place, and learning how to support someone if admission is really necessary.

Your local hospital might be prepared to welcome people with dementia but you can’t be sure. Its management would be wise to do so, as up to 50% of patients, on top of their illness or injury, may be elderly and frail and affected by either dementia or delirium. Delirium is a reversible state of confusion caused by stress and infection. If staff work to reduce delirium, it almost certainly also helps reduce problems associated with dementia.

Slippery slope

How we regard hospitals has developed over time. What was a costly amenity for our great-grandparents is now understood as a regular service. A building that was once viewed with dread because so many people died there is now seen as a desirable place to get treated. People battle against local hospital closures. They attend accident and emergency (A&E) in preference to going to see the GP, as if the hospital was superior.

But if old people with dementia can stay out of hospital, it’s much better. Of course, some things can’t be managed outside a hospital but for many, getting admitted is the top of a slippery slope. They may have been managing perfectly well at home, but during their hospital stay things happen that mean they never go home again.

Dementia patients are twice as likely to suffer preventable complications such as pressure ulcers and pneumonia in hospital. Patients with dementia and a fractured hip tend not to be given as much pain relief as other patients with fractured hip. Uncontrolled pain in dementia gives rise to delirium that is often undiagnosed and untreated in hospitals. As a result, half of these patients who develop delirium die in six months.

Patients with dementia may get missed by accident at mealtimes and have problems eating and drinking which are made worse in hospital. Some hospitals provide guidance but bad stories are more common.

Coping worse in hospital

Research shows that if you have dementia you will stay in hospital longer than other people with the same clinical problem. People frequently say that after admission it was discovered that they had not been coping at home. But in fact, it may be the opposite. A person who does not get enough to eat in hospital may have been eating adequately at home. The person coping on their own with washing and going to the toilet in a familiar home environment may not be able to negotiate the confusion of the ward and start to wet themselves and be unable to keep themselves clean.

Someone who managed to be happy and live quietly at home, sleeping at night and entertaining themselves by day, will be kept awake by noise and light at night, and bored rigid in the daytime, never even seeing daylight. Getting the lighting right can prevent major dementia symptoms such as mood swings, sleep problems, and behavioural issues.

Then when they become noisy and irritable they may be given dangerous anti-psychotic medication in the first instance to quieten them down. It is not unusual after this to have a fall or a fracture, causing a longer period in hospital during which patients can then develop depression and delirium, leading to early death.

This is a terrible human story. And it’s terrible financially too. Staying longer in hospital than others with the same condition makes for a greater tax burden and causes waiting lists. Social services are under pressure now to find care home places for people, when what they had before was a semi-independent person who mainly looked after themselves with a bit of home care. The family, if there is one, and the estate of the person now face the probability of having their assets stripped to pay for a situation that may have been avoidable or at least delayed for months and years.

Families can do more

Logically families should take more responsibility for care of elderly relatives while in a hospital. Be there to help them eat, and to help them with washing, keeping them company and making sure that they swallow their medication.

But hospital staff resist it. For political reasons the NHS has difficulty accepting a situation like this for fear of accusations that the system is failing. Just recommending help from families has in the past been misrepresented in the media or by politicians as an attack on the NHS.

This is because we have been led to believe an unreal fantasy of what hospitals can do. Recommending that families help is not a criticism but a practical response. If families support the frail person in hospital, it helps the nurses, reduces delayed discharges, saves money and maintains the dignity of the patient. Everyone wins. We must all do it out of enlightened self-interest to allow the system to focus on patients who have no-one and nothing.

The alternative is that we assume hospitals can do everything we expect for an ageing and increasingly frail patient group. That in itself is enough to lead to system failure, because we ask too much of them.

The Conversation

June Andrews, Professor of Dementia Studies, University of Stirling

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

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.