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The Serious Benefits of Laughter Therapy for Seniors

The Serious Benefits of Laughter Therapy for Seniors

July 24, 2020

My grandmother was an avid reader of Reader’s Digest Large Print. I was fascinated at a young age that this periodical was at least half the size of other journals; Time, Life, and Better Homes & Garden to name a few. It was comical to me that my grandmother had a pocket-size magazine with large words; why not simply make the pages big, like the others? Little did I know at the time that this particular subscription was due to her poor eyesight. However, the small size allowed this general-interest family magazine to adopt the slogan, “America in your pocket”. 

I enjoy Reader’s Digest as a direct result of observing my grandmother reading it and chuckling to herself. My parents became subscribers, and to continue the legacy, I did as well. Why? As my grandmother articulated to me when pressed, Reader’s Digest is part philosophy, part Americana, and part humor. It is the latter that interested me most. My grandmother offered the following as part of her favorite monthly features; Enrich Your Word Power, Points to Ponder, Humor in Uniform (my grandfather was a verteran of WWII), and Laughter, the Best Medicine.

In essence, there was enough within the confines of this magazine to captivate and mold my young mind. Hearing a grandmother chuckle is enough to fill you with wonder and a budding sense of philosophy and humor; not bad for a publication that reaches 40 million people in more than 70 countries via 49 editions in 21 languages.

Philosophy and Humor

Without diving too deep into a historical and philosophical treatise on humor, the ancient Greeks turned comedy into an art form. Fast forward, French philosopher René Descartes uttered, Cogito, ergo sum – I think, therefore I am. Yes, we humans are meaning seekers; we think, overthink, then think again. Making sense of the world is our reason for being. However, with current events in mind, we know that the whole world cannot be intelligible. Humor is therefore, to some extent, a public phenomenon. Descartes viewed humor as joy mixed with hatred. So, during trying times, a little levity can do a lot of good. This need not mean we have to vacate our intellectual prowess. In fact, wit is intellectual. Austrian-British philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein was convinced that a serious and good philosophical work could be written that consisted entirely of jokes. To illustrate one could say, “I used to be indecisive, but now I am not so sure”.

Taking Humor Seriously

Ancient Roman poet and satirist Horace observed, Ridentum dicere verum quid vetat – What is there against telling the truth in laughter? Certainly, we don’t need to quote a latin-speaking dead guy to experience the obvious. Today, we simply say, “It’s funny because it’s true!” In our post-satirical age, we live in a society where the news is funny and comedy is the news. How many times have you witnessed recent events and thought, you cannot make this up?! Humor and laughter provide needed relief to what ails us. Humor has an indefinability. It breaks conventions and pushes boundaries. Humor is playful. When in doubt, doubt!, as they say. Friedrich Nietzsche, German philosopher and cultural critic, noted that maturity is regaining the seriousness of a child at play. Through this lens, it is worthy for us aging humans to take seriously the benefits of humor and its pleasant byproduct, laughter.

Laughter, The Best Medicine

A study published by PubMed Central (archive of biomedical and life sciences journal literature at the U.S. National Institute of Health’s National Library of Medicine) proves that laughter therapy is an important strategy which has been recommended by experts for increasing health promotion in older adults (see footnote). As the elderly population increases, health problems, especially mental health problems, of such an age become more important. The study uses controlled sessions of ‘laugh therapy’ – where group participants laugh artificially until the laughter becomes genuine, releasing anti-stress and joyful hormones, and ultimately promoting relaxation.

The study concludes that this form of therapy improves general health. Results obtained from this study help authorities in the field of geriatric care to adopt precise plans and policies to increase general health by making “senior citizens and their families aware about the advantages of laughter therapy and establishing laughter therapy clubs”.

We are all aware of mechanisms beyond laughter therapy that can replicate similar outcomes; TV sitcoms, morning coffee with the fellas, a riveting game of pinochle with the ladies, playing fetch with a puppy, watching a friend or relative fall off a dock at the lake, or retelling an old yarn that grandma borrowed from Reader’s Digest. I would be remiss if I didn’t share a few of these jokes for you – dear reader – to help send you on a merry way to overall improved health.

Three old guys were out walking.

First one said, “Windy, isn’t it?”

The second one said, “No, it’s Thursday!”

The third one said, “So am I. Let’s go get a beer!”

“Oh God,” sighed the wife one morning, “I’m convinced my mind is almost completely gone!”

Her husband looked up from the newspaper and commented, “I’m not surprised: You’ve been giving me a piece of it every day for thirty years!”

I’m pretty black and white about most things. Except retirement homes, that’s a grey area.

“Walking is man’s best medicine” – Hippocrates
By Aaron Lamb, Director of Business Development


1Ghodsbin, Fariba et al. “The effects of laughter therapy on general health of elderly people referring to jahandidegan community center in shiraz, iran, 2014: a randomized controlled trial.” International journal of community based nursing and midwifery vol. 3,1 (2015): 31-8.

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“With the right music, you either forget everything or remember everything.”

“With the right music, you either forget everything
or remember everything.”

July 24, 2020

During our childhood we sing the ABC’s to remember the alphabet, listen to nursery rhymes for basic understanding of what’s good and bad, and in many cases share music to connect with others.

As music extends past our childhood and into our adult life, many people go to concerts to feel joy and become one step closer to the artist they love. Others turn up the radio as loud as possible to keep their usually mundane commute interesting. Some invite people to the dance floor to connect and have a good time.

There is something about music and its universal language. No matter where you go, it is always present.

Imagine sitting in a coffee shop and hearing a song you haven’t listened to in years; you can recall the chorus, hum the tune, and in some cases sing every word. For people with dementia, much is the same. It allows them to reconnect with their past, even if only for a moment. For them, music is vital, and it could be one of the last pieces of their history they haven’t forgotten.

I had the privilege to talk with Evie Straus, MT-BC/L (Music Therapist-Board Certified/Licensed). She works with senior living residents to improve their overall health and wellbeing. During our Q&A, She dives deep into the goals and benefits of music therapy.

Q: Why does music last within the brain while other memories are lost? 

A: Our connection to music is typically the strongest during our teen and young adult years because those are the years of self-identification, self-expression, and emotional development. Our memories are often connected to music because of the structure of our brains; the brain thrives on structure and rhythm. That’s why when an older adult can no longer remember what day it is, they can still remember all the words to “You are My Sunshine.” 

Q: What are the benefits of music, specifically for people with dementia?

A: There are so many benefits to using music to connect with older adults, but it really depends on what the resident needs. Sometimes I will pass by a resident in the hall that maybe I have been working with for a goal of memory recall and reminiscing.

 But as I pass by, I notice the resident is agitated and anxious. So, I begin singing a song I know they are familiar with and they begin to sing along. The music can help re-orient them to reality and help them remember and know they are safe. Music can be beneficial for the psycho-social, physical, and emotional needs of a resident. That is what makes music so unique because it helps the whole person.

Q: We have all seen YouTube videos of music “bringing someone back” for just a moment, is there a scientific reason why?

A: Well that takes us back to how the brain thrives on rhythm and melodic structure. Structure is a way we learn and retain. Music is different than simply speaking, the melodic structure is strong in the brain because the brain itself thrives on rhythm and repetitive melodies. That is why we often learn information to the tune of a song such as the ABCs. So, when names, reality orientation, and different memories are lost, music can be recalled because of the melodic and rhythmic triggers. Because of this, different songs trigger different memories and these memories can trigger emotions.

Q: What is your primary job as a music therapist?

A: I work to make connections through music. Before COVID-19, I was doing music groups on each floor. Each group had three main goals, increasing socialization, memory recall, working on cognition, and it also included some sort of movement intervention. Increasing socialization would often involve singing a song the group knows together. Memory recall includes residents singing songs without having the lyrics available and also recalling memories about their younger years. A cognitive intervention could be a fill-in-the-blank song. This is where you take out key lyrics of a song and allow the client(s) to fill them in with their own lyrics. A movement intervention could be using egg shakers to move to the beat of a recorded song such as “Beer Barrel Polka.” While we shake, I give the group various directions on different movements for them to do throughout the song.

An example of a fill-in-the-blank song would be taking out words to the song “I’ve been Working on the Railroad.” You can take out the word’s “railroad” and “captain” and the phrase “Dinah, blow your horn.” Then you give the residents a chance to fill in their own jobs that they have worked, such as working in a diner or in the military. This allows the residents to recall the jobs they worked and when. Some would remember a job they worked in high school while others would name the jobs they worked as adults. For the last phrase of the first verse I will often put a resident’s name in and change the lyrics. So, at the end you are singing “Evie go to work.” The group often finds this funny and this improves camaraderie and socialization.

I also facilitated two sensory music groups for two different floors. When an older adult has advanced dementia, a larger floor group might be too much stimulation for them. These sensory groups had a maximum attendance of 6 residents that I chose for the group. Most of them were non-verbal but responded to music such as opening their eyes, holding my hand, and humming. In these sessions I included tactile, auditory, and sight stimulating interventions. One intervention for auditory stimulation was using an ocean drum in their lap and singing “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean.” The goal of this intervention was having the resident move the drum themselves. For tactile, I played a recorded version of “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles” by Doris Day for the residents and blew bubbles for them. The goal of this intervention was that the residents interact with each other and the bubbles by popping them.

Q: Not including names, have you seen a senior be positively impacted by music therapy?

A: I have worked with a resident who would often have episodes of high anxiety and they would begin crying and become inconsolable. This resident knew me and that I would work with them. They would often sing and reminisce with me about their younger years. When I would observe the resident wandering the hallway crying, I would stop the resident and ask them if they wanted music. If they said yes, I would begin with their favorite songs such as “You are My Sunshine” and “In the Garden.” My relationship with this resident allowed me to help ease their anxiety and redirect them. By the end of the session, the majority of the time, the resident’s affect was bright and they were no longer crying.

Q: Can you explain how music can connect families with their loved one who has dementia?

A: Often when someone has dementia, it isolates them because they do not know what is happening or why they had to move from their home. Singing together and listening to music can help them connect with their families in ways they can’t while talking. Music connects and we all have memories that are associated with music. When someone with dementia is able to reminisce about their memories this often redirects their thoughts and brings them back to the moment. Whether or not they are oriented to that moment and time is not important.

Q: What are some good resources for family members that may want to try music therapy?

A: Music therapy can only be provided by a board-certified music therapist. However, families can use music to connect, try singing songs you know were popular during their twenties such as music by Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, and Doris Day. A wonderful book called “Music, Memory, and Meaning”, by music therapist Meredith Hamons, is a great resource. This book explains different ways you can use music to facilitate conversation between family members and the resident, giving various examples with many songs from the 1930s-1950s.

Q: Is there anything you would like the general public to know about music therapy?

A: Music therapy is an established, allied healthcare profession that uses music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship. Music therapy is done by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program. A music therapist assesses the strengths and needs of each client and uses music to facilitate interactions such as singing, moving to, and/or listening to music. Research in music therapy supports the effectiveness in many different areas such as physical rehabilitation, increasing quality of life, and providing emotional support for the client and their families.

The official definition from the American Music Therapy Association:

“Music Therapy is the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program.”

For more information on becoming board-certified, visit cbmt.org.

For more information on music therapy in general, visit musictherapy.org.

Thank you Evie for providing the WalkWise family with great information regarding Music Therapy! 

Written by Nic Bordwell, Director Of Marketing 

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Why Falling is a Plague

Why Falling is a Plague

July 15, 2020

Let’s talk about falling. As a toddler, it’s simply a part of life as one learns to use their legs for their intended purpose. As a kid, you might suffer a scraped knee while running around the playground with friends or if you fall off a bike. Oftentimes the most exciting plays in sports, such as baseball, volleyball, and soccer, involve an intentional dive to the ground. As an adult, falling becomes less frequent, but who hasn’t slipped on the ice or a freshly mopped floor? These instances rarely lead to serious injury, but even a broken arm will heal with time and some pain medication. Even the recent story of my sixty-year-old father falling into a leaf pile with a 30-pound leaf blower on his back was more amusing than concerning.

So why are falls a plague? Because they are impacting us more and more every year, there is no cure, and they are deadly. There was a time when falls affected almost no one, simply because humans did not typically live long enough for them to rear their ugly head. In this way, they are similar to heart disease and diabetes: modern medicine and food production has helped us live through so many other ailments that we are succumbing to new issues. For us to beat falls, we need to better understand why they happen and why they are dangerous.

Falls become more frequent as we age for several reasons. We lose balance as we lose strength in our muscles. We lose valuable reaction time. Our eyesight deteriorates, and thus we are more likely to miss something on the floor. Chronic diseases cause us to limp or walk with a less-than-ideal gait. Complex medications can cause us to be disoriented. While there are ways to mitigate all these risks, falls are undoubtedly a part of aging in our modern world.

Falls also become more dangerous. First, the falls themselves become less controlled. Despite the fact that younger people fall all the time, they usually have the coordination, muscle strength, and response-time to turn a fall into a controlled fall where damage is minimized. When I slipped on an icy patch in my driveway a few years ago, I was able to put my arm out and use my triceps to minimize the impact to my hip. Had my arm not been quick enough or strong enough, more force would have been delivered to my hip.

Second, more damage is done as a result of impact. Bones becoming more brittle as we age, and the same fall that ended with a bruise when you are 60 might lead to a broken bone when you are 70. Blood thinners are a common medication to reduce the risk of cardiac issues, but they prevent clotting and lead to more severe external and internal bleeding.

Third, uncontrolled falls have a greater chance of resulting in traumatic brain injuries from head impact. TBIs can be fatal themselves, but even when minor they can lead to decreased quality of life and be a complicating factor.

Fourth, our immune systems become more susceptible to infections as we age. Infections are common after an extremely invasive surgery, such as a hip replacement or repair. Of course, open wounds are also of concern. But infections can happen simply by being in a hospital, skilled nursing center, or even by spending too long in bed. When mobility is reduced post-fall, people can easily develop urinary tract infections by holding their bladder and not consuming sufficient fluids.

Fifth, many people do not receive immediate help when they suffer a fall. Social isolation is a well-documented issue among older adults, and this lack of regular human interaction can have huge consequences when it matters most. Even for people with vibrant social lives, they are not with their friends, families, or spouses all the time. Obviously, a call to 911 through a cell phone or emergency response pendant is ideal after a fall, but all too often these devices are forgotten or simply not worn regularly around the house. As a result, a study (1) found that the average response time to a fall is 4.5 hours, but those found deceased had been on the floor about 18 hours before found. If the fall was not fatal, the wait for help may be.

Lastly, many people lose their independence after a traumatic fall, which can lead to accelerated cognitive decline and the loss of will to live. One need only read Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal to understand the story of Alice, who’s loss of independence in a nursing home led to her passing away. The psychology is complex and not fully understood, but the idea that people need to make decisions for themselves and have hope of a better tomorrow is not new. Unfortunately, many of our modern methods for keeping people safe also impede their autonomy and independence.

If falls were a disease, there would be an emergency World Health Organization task force aimed at stopping this plague. While the problem of falls cannot be solved with a vaccine, there are a number of treatments intended to limit risk (using a walker is one of them). When we better understand the issues around falls, we can design solutions to limit the impact of this plague on our lives, and the lives of our loved ones.

 

Written by Peter Chamberlain, WalkWise Founder and CEO.

 

 

 

https://www.nejm.org/doi/pdf/10.1056/NEJM199606273342606?articleTools=true 

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Senior Friendly Ride-Sharing Services

Senior Friendly Ride-Sharing Services

July 2, 2020

Ridesharing has been gaining popularity since 2009 when Uber launched their services into San Francisco. Since then, other competitors have entered the market. Many of them have been forgotten or even acquired. Lyft (founded in 2012) is a direct competitor to Uber and has similar app-based ride sharing services.

Uber and Lyft are often seen as “Millennial taxi services” and older adults (especially seniors) haven’t fully come around to the idea of using them. According to a research article written by the AARP, 94% of Americans age 50 and older have heard of ride sharing services, but only 28% have actually used them and 68% had not planned to use them within the next year. But as technology continues to move at a rapid pace, taxi services dwindling, and increasing commute times year after year, seniors may need to start using these services.

What can we do to help push them out of their comfort zone and into using ridesharing services?

No, the first step is not to download an app! Luckily, there are companies that have wonderful solutions for accessible, safe, and senior-friendly ride-sharing and many of them are ordered byway of a phone call.

Offered wherever Lyft operates

Great Call Rides is a service that provides any Jitterbug user a fast and efficient way to summon a ride via Lyft.

Instead of downloading the application and setting up an account, Great Call has added Lyft as a speed dial number to their jitterbug phones. Dial 0 and it will then direct you to a live operator.

First the user must tell them where they want to go, and the operator will quickly give the wait time and estimated cost for the ride. Lyft will pick the passenger up from anywhere. When it’s time to return home, just dial 0 again and start the process over.

This service charges directly to the phone bill, so a credit card does not need to be imputed into the jitterbug phone and cash doesn’t need to be on hand to pay for the service.

Nationwide coverage

GoGo Grandparent is a service that has partnered with Uber and Lyft to create a ridesharing program specifically for older adults age 50+.

GoGo Grandparent will provide users with an (800) number to save in their contact list. This number allows them access to ride sharing capabilities without having to download an app.

After it’s saved to their phone, they can call and have 7 options to choose from.

  1. Immediate request of an Uber or Lyft
  2. Request an Uber or Lyft where you were dropped off last
  3. Request an Uber or Lyft to a custom pick up location
  4. Request ride sharing through an operator
  5. Request meals to be delivered
  6. Request groceries to be delivered
  7. Speak with an operator about medication management. 

With all of these options, GoGo Grandparent allows their users to get most everything they need all from one number.

The service also includes “by-the-minute” updates to emergency contacts. Caregivers and loved one’s have the ability to stay informed by receiving text messages when a ride is being ordered, when their loved one is in the car, and they can receive the address of the new location.

GoGo memberships cost $9.99 a month and the concierge fee is $0.27 a minute. For non-members, the service costs $12 per ride.

Offered within the San Francisco Bay Area and Kansas City areas.

Silver Ride is a senior ride sharing service that offers help from pickup to drop off.

Silver Ride offers door-through-door assisted ride assistance. This means they will go into the pickup location and assist the passenger into the car. When they are at the dropoff location, the driver will assist them into the location. This helps reduce potential falls and always makes sure there is a helping hand.

According to their website, “The Company has a robust training program that educates drivers how to physically assist riders in and out of the vehicle, up and down stairs, how to provide assistance walking along uneven surfaces, how to help clients in and out of wheelchairs. Drivers are also trained in the myriad of conditions that exist, including tremors, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, vision issues, hearing issues, balance issues.”

Passengers can enjoy a free guest with all of their rides and Silver Ride even has excursion packages to bring them to different sites around their respective city.

The service is cashless, so there will need to be a credit card on file.

If Silver Ride is more than 15 minutes late, the ride is half-price. Ride requests must be submitted a day in advance and the prices are calculated on a per-trip basis.

During the unprecedented times of Covid-19, ridesharing services are taking precautions to make sure they are clean and safe. Rides with more than one group have been completely paused for all users, and there is a maximum number of riders that are allowed to be in the car at one time. Many ridesharing services are distributing cleaning supplies, like clorox wipes and hand sanitizer. Some even have complimentary masks if you forgot yours at home. The drivers are mandated to clean their cars more frequently and more thoroughly than ever before.

Ridesharing can be daunting for seniors, especially since they already know how to use taxis and relying on family members can tend to feel a bit better. But with new services popping up, now is the time to have a conversation with them about ridesharing and how simple the service can be. Though we only highlighted three, there are many other wonderful services across the globe for passengers of all abilities, and a quick google search will guide you to one that best fits your and your loved one’s needs.

  “Walking man’s best medicine” — Hippocrates

   By Nic Bordwell, Director of Marketing

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Caregiver Support Groups

Caregiver Support Groups

June 7, 2019

WalkWise was built to help seniors remain active and independent. We continually talk about how your loved one is doing, how we will alert you if they fall, and how our device can help make walkers more fun and engaging.

But, who is the “You” in these catchy lines we use on our social media channels so often?

The “you” are caregivers. Caregivers are the backbone of our application, and we try to thank the selfless caregivers that are part of the WalkWise family. Caregivers help us advance our product, give feedback about our alerts, and share stories of their day-to-day struggles (and successes!) so we can try to understand what they go through and better optimize our services.

Being a caregiver is tough and sometimes it may seem like you’re on an island alone, but there are many resources for you to be heard, to be helped, and to find peace with your efforts. Listed below you will find a few caregiver support groups and other resources to get connected with people like yourself.

Social Media Support Groups

Caregiver nation is a support group on Facebook. Their main purpose is to connect people who are dealing with the same tasks in life. They have 5,000 members and are growing every day. You can see countless posts a day of encouragement and tips and tricks for caregiving. Caregiver nation is sponsored by Seniorlink (we will get to them later!).

Caregiver Support Group is another fantastic resource for caregivers to connect via Facebook. They have 12,000 members and the activity is very high. Post topics range from caregiver guilt to learning more about your loved one’s conditions. They had almost 3,000 conversations a month and last week added another 149 members. One thing to note about Caregiver Support Group is that they have rules against product promotions, bullying, and their number one rule is to be kind and courteous.

Caregiver connection is slightly different from the two above. They primarily post links and resources for you to follow outside of social media. There is a lot of activity within the comment sections, but this isn’t a group for conversations about your personal experiences. This group is recommended to follow if you find yourself wanting to read professionally written material about caregiving.

Caregiver Support Websites

The American Association of Family Caregivers is a website that provides caregivers with educational courses, a caregiver hotline to talk with someone who understands your worries, and a membership marketplace to buy discounted caregiving supplies. This organization represents over 100,000 family caregivers and can guide you through unique, daily challenges.

Senior Link is a tool that helps caregivers receive emotional coaching and support. Senior link gives caregivers the ability to connect via an app when they have questions. As a member you have access to a library of tips on how to take care of your loved one, but just as important, how to take care of yourself. Seniorlink only operates in select states, so you will want to visit their website and check if your state is one they operate within.

The final great web-based resource for caregivers is usa.gov. They have different links for specific caregiving struggles and resources for help. From Alzheimer’s caregiving to care for caregivers themselves, this web page is a great tool for anyone that is a caregiver.

In your own home town.

Many towns and cities have their own caregiving groups that may meet in coffee shops or have weekly luncheons. These groups are usually small, but it’s a great place to decompress and share your stories with one another. A quick google search will identify groups that meet near you. If you live in a rural area, there are sometimes monthly meetups that are a short distance away.

Caregiving is hard work and there are many resources to potentially lighten the load. Stay connected with other caregivers and share your story. Every day there are new caregivers facing new challenges. If you feel alone, between the groups written above, there are nearly twenty-thousand people to hear your story and help. WalkWise has your back, too; make that twenty-thousand and one!

“Walking man’s best medicine” — Hippocrates 

By Nic Bordwell, Director of Marketing 

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Are Seniors Averse to Technology?

Are Seniors Averse to Technology?

May 29, 2020

“C’mon Ma you have got to try it” I pleaded to my elderly mother. I do not know how my mother lasted this long without ever using the internet, but enough was enough!
“Ok” she said reluctantly settling down by the computer and slowly putting on her reading glasses. “What do I do now?”
“Now I’m going to open the homepage of Google”, I explained. “OK here it is! Now type in ANY question you want into the bar over here and you will find an answer to your question,” I confidently assured her.
My mother looked at me warily, thought for a second, and slowly began to type:
How is Gertrude doing this morning?

The light-hearted humor from this scenario illustrates the tongue-in-cheek societal assumption that our aging population is averse to technology. So much so that inventors in the digital space are scrambling to find inroads to force the issue of older adults embracing technology. However, our senior population lacks the confidence and motivation to pursue using many forms of technology. Why? Joking aside, the answer may lie in how the elderly use different technologies for different purposes and in different contexts. Seeking to explore the relative untapped market of technology for seniors, much has been done by way of market research on how to achieve this – a golden opportunity. It is understood that subsequent generations will embrace technologies and harbor these adoptions as they age. 

However, our seniors are not blind to technology and its creation and proliferation. If you observe the life of an 80-year old who was born in 1940, the following are technological advancements that have occurred during their life:

● 1942 – Nuclear Power
● 1947 – The Transistor
● 1957 – Spaceflight
● 1974 – The Personal Computer
● 2012 – Gene Editing
● 2017 – Artificial Intelligence

This concise list ignores technology that the silent generation has been exposed to and readily adopted along the way. Within this same timeframe, our grandparents handily used the microwave, credit cards, contraception, solar cells, the VCR, ATMs, laser printers, scanning microscopes, contact lenses, personal stereos; the list goes on and on.

Cognitive prowess does indeed decline in our advanced years. Therefore, coming up to speed with digital communication and information technologies prove to be burdensome, as the learning curve can be relatively high. According to Forbes, University of California San Diego researchers from their Design Lab recommend a key focus on obstacles that those ages 60 and older face when using technology. Pew Research Center suggests that those in this demographic spend over half of their daily leisure time engaged with technology on some level: TVs, computers, tablets, or other electronic devices. So why do we still carry the assumption that they are tech averse?

The problem does not lie in owning technology, but in using them. These same researchers have isolated how frustration in using technology is a significant barrier to technology adoption. Therefore, it comes down to good design derived from how our seniors want to use technology: their way. Remember, at one time the microwave was designed and marketed to complete an entire thanksgiving meal, including browning a turkey. Now, the idea seems preposterous. Functionally, the microwave is best suited for reheating, thawing, and popcorn. Other technologies have a similar vantage point for seniors. Simplicity is paramount.

Engagement Technology

Most Seniors prefer to age in place. So, the technologies that serve this demographic well center the user experience around this elective, necessary, and vital environment. Companies like LifeLoop, GrandPad, and BirdSong have simplified the wonderful platform of tablets into consumable and easy interfaces that enhance and encourage engagement, not detract from it.

The three above – feel free to click and check them out yourself – carry a similar theme respectively; smart, simple, and safe ways to connect seniors to their loved ones. With these well-designed tech platforms, low technology-literacy is coded in, removing those adoption barriers that would make something like an app-laden iPad nowhere near as senior-friendly

Low or No Engagement Technology

When the world gets smarter, it can leave an individual feeling rather dumb. This is yet another arena technology innovation has benefited not only seniors, but all of us. Are you prone to losing your keys? How about an eye-scanner or fingerprint sensor that lets you in your own residence! Have you forgotten a key ingredient to your favorite pie recipe? How about asking Alexa or Siri, they seem to know all the answers all the time! Are you all thumbs when it comes to using your TV remote? Try asking it to play your favorite classic Western!

TEMI robots for seniors are a fascinating example of how A.I. can be a uniquely adaptive technology that requires low engagement. TEMI touts itself as “senior living’s newest personal robot”. Imagine your personal robot being able to play your favorite song, display photographs of loved ones, or follow you from room to room to lend a helping “hand” when you need one. What about health concerns? – Ask TEMI to take your temperature or video conference your doctor or nurse practitioner. These adaptive features are designed precisely to enable aging in place.

Some of the more compelling technologies are ones that work when you do not need to recognize they are there. SmartSole is a smartphone sealed within a water-resistant, trimmable shoe insert. The benefit? GPS tracking so a caregiver can know where you are by simple text or email. SmartSole is a clear example of how technology can be uniquely discreet, yet powerfully important for health and safety.

WalkWise uses a “Smart Walker Attachment” that discreetly attaches to walkers. Not only does it encourage walker use – therefore preventing falls – it provides family members and care providers digital activity alerts with usable data to encourage overall wellness and health. WalkWise is a powerful example of how senior-focused design can be accomplished without burdening the user. Seniors understand technology. They also understand simplicity and privacy. This may be a byproduct of wisdom that comes with age. However, they wish technology to be designed well and designed for their needs. Yes, the world’s 65-plus population can be described as the “mother of all untapped markets” when it comes to technology. Step one in tapping this market is to continuously improve technologies by gaining understanding of the ideas and concepts generated by older adults. By default, this will lead to more meaningful technologies for those that may need them the most. 

Aaron Lamb
Director of Business Development

“Walking is man’s best medicine” — Hippocrates 

Posted on 1 Comment

Intergenerational Daycare Q&A

Intergenerational Daycare Q&A

May 12, 2020

Innovation within the senior care industry can come in all forms. Sometimes we see it in technology, medical advancements, or even housing.

Today, you will be introduced to a new side of senior-related innovation that’s rather unique.

Under one roof, seniors and children can go to daycare together. Though their needs are slightly different, and the activities may stray from one another, this approach brings new life back into senior daycare and teaches children life lessons along the way.

Pam Lawrence and Jaime Moran from Kindness Creators Intergenerational Preschool were nice enough to answer some questions and tell us all about this unique approach to daycare. Note that we asked these questions in 2020, during the coronavirus outbreak that closed many senior living communities to visitors.

Q: Would you mind introducing yourself and explain your role with Kindness Creators?

A: We are Pam Lawrence and Jaime Moran and we started Kindness Creators Intergenerational Preschool to bring generations together through love and learning. We are both co-directors and teachers at Kindness Creators.

Q: What are the key benefits of intergenerational daycare?

A: There are many benefits for children when they attend an intergenerational program:

They learn patience, kindness and acceptance of others.

Children become more comfortable with different generations and people of different abilities.

They have higher social maturity and in some cases higher academic performance.

Being with children help seniors to:

Strengthen their emotional, physical, and mental health.

When able to interact with children, seniors feel an increased connection to the world.

Gain a sense of importance and purpose.

And connections between the generations aid in the effects of dementia.

Q: How do children and seniors interact with each other on a daily basis?

A: When we set out to make a true intergenerational program we wanted to be right in the same building as seniors so we are located inside Oak Park Arms Senior Living Center in Oak Park, IL.

The residents at Oak Park Arms can come to our room and volunteer during class time.

We also go and visit residents that cannot come to us in their apartments.

We have some residents that like to walk to the park with us to get exercise.

Everyday we walk around on the main floor to greet our friends as well.

We have ice cream socials with the residents.

We put on an xmas show with the children and choir.

We are always invited to all of their special events, such as senior prom.

We had a luncheon with first responders/community helpers that OPA invited us to.

We basically have an open door policy for the residents. Whenever you want to come down and visit you can come knock on our door.

Our families adopted a grandparent for xmas and bought presents for our senior volunteers.

Q: Have you seen a positive impact (physically and emotionally) for both seniors and children?

A: The impact on both sides is absolutely heartwarming and amazing! When we started this program we were so excited to be able to spend our days with the preschool age children and the seniors; but it has become so much more than what we have imagined. This time together has made us a close knit family. We really miss our children and residents during this unusual time and all we want to do is get back to school and see everyone. Kindness Creators is a second home to the children, to us, and to the residents.

Q: Is there anything you would like people to know about intergenerational daycare that we haven’t covered?

A: Our intergenerational preschool has brought us (Pam and Jaime) so much joy to build and create. We have not one regret and cannot wait until it is safe to get back to our mission: connecting children and seniors through love and learning.

If you would like more information our website is: www.kindnesscreators.org

“Walking is man’s best medicine” – Hippocrates 

Nic Bordwell, Director of Marketing

Posted on 2 Comments

Living Forward – Inspired Life Planning

Living Forward - Inspired Life Planning

April 23, 2020

Living Forward is a concept that has cropped up recently in the world of senior living, even though it is practical at other life stages. Life planning is paramount to happiness and fulfillment, especially as we grow older. To illustrate, Living Forward can be summed up by these pithy sayings:

● A ship is safe in the harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.

● A year from now, you may wish you had started today.

● Nothing really great happens in your comfort zone.

● People lose their way when they lose their why.

These sayings wax on the philosophical, particularly in an ontological sense. Our reason for being can be articulated by stating that our life matters, we are here for a reason, and our job is to determine why. This is where Living Forward plays a vital role. It is a conscious, deliberate action to plan ahead.

Michael Hyatt is co-author of the book, Living Forward, A Proven Plan to Stop Drifting and Get the Life You Want. The book is written in three distinct parts; the first part describes how we drift when we lose perspective on priorities, the second part institutes how to write a life plan, and the final part is about the necessary implementation of this plan.

Social worker Dorlee Michaeli (MBA, LCSW), encourages using the principles of this book to ‘tend to our own gardens’. As a care professional, she recognizes that we must practice before we preach, write our own life plan before encouraging others to take control of their life. So, why create a life plan, especially if you are a senior? Michaeli answers this by means of Hyatt’s book, “To increase your likelihood that you will get to where you want to go [and] live a more fulfilled and balanced life!” Consider the following:

● Clarify Priorities – You will avoid over analyzing or second-guessing; what is most important to you will be clearer.

● Maintain Balance – You will be able to give appropriate attention to each of your life areas (i.e., you may grow at work without diminishing other areas of your life).

● Filter opportunities – You can manage your opportunities rather than be managed by them.

● Face realities – You must acknowledge any problems you may have in health, work or at home etc., to be able to address and improve them.

● Envision the future – You focus on what you see; choose a future/vision that compels you.

● Avoid regrets – You can dramatically increase the chances of doing what you want to do.

Living Forward, a method of inspired life planning, is not a rudimentary exercise to set it and forget it. It is a means to an end. For many seniors it lends towards how they want to be remembered, their legacy. This concept is worthy of constant consideration. I have heard many times that the difference between a goal and a dream is that the dream has a timeline. Living Forward takes wishful aspirations and turns it into achievable realities.

“Walking is man’s best medicine” – Hippocrates
Aaron Lamb, Director of Business Development

Living Forward - Inspired Life Planning

April 23, 2020

Living Forward is a concept that has cropped up recently in the world of senior living, even though it is practical at other life stages. Life planning is paramount to happiness and fulfillment, especially as we grow older. To illustrate, Living Forward can be summed up by these pithy sayings:

● A ship is safe in the harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.

● A year from now, you may wish you had started today.

● Nothing really great happens in your comfort zone.

● People lose their way when they lose their why.

These sayings wax on the philosophical, particularly in an ontological sense. Our reason for being can be articulated by stating that our life matters, we are here for a reason, and our job is to determine why. This is where Living Forward plays a vital role. It is a conscious, deliberate action to plan ahead.

Michael Hyatt is co-author of the book, Living Forward, A Proven Plan to Stop Drifting and Get the Life You Want. The book is written in three distinct parts; the first part describes how we drift when we lose perspective on priorities, the second part institutes how to write a life plan, and the final part is about the necessary implementation of this plan.

Social worker Dorlee Michaeli (MBA, LCSW), encourages using the principles of this book to ‘tend to our own gardens’. As a care professional, she recognizes that we must practice before we preach, write our own life plan before encouraging others to take control of their life. So, why create a life plan, especially if you are a senior? Michaeli answers this by means of Hyatt’s book, “To increase your likelihood that you will get to where you want to go [and] live a more fulfilled and balanced life!” Consider the following:

● Clarify Priorities – You will avoid over analyzing or second-guessing; what is most important to you will be clearer.

● Maintain Balance – You will be able to give appropriate attention to each of your life areas (i.e., you may grow at work without diminishing other areas of your life).

● Filter opportunities – You can manage your opportunities rather than be managed by them.

● Face realities – You must acknowledge any problems you may have in health, work or at home etc., to be able to address and improve them.

● Envision the future – You focus on what you see; choose a future/vision that compels you.

● Avoid regrets – You can dramatically increase the chances of doing what you want to do.

Living Forward, a method of inspired life planning, is not a rudimentary exercise to set it and forget it. It is a means to an end. For many seniors it lends towards how they want to be remembered, their legacy. This concept is worthy of constant consideration. I have heard many times that the difference between a goal and a dream is that the dream has a timeline. Living Forward takes wishful aspirations and turns it into achievable realities.

“Walking is man’s best medicine” – Hippocrates
Aaron Lamb, Director of Business Development

Posted on 1 Comment

3 Lessons from “Tuesdays With Morrie”

3 Lessons from "Tuesdays With Morrie"

April 16, 2020

When I joined the team at WalkWise, I was one month away from being a college graduate, 22 years old, and had never worked in-depth with a senior tech product or an older population. I quickly started reading and learning as much as I could about the senior technology industry, and luckily for me, I was able to do my research about mobility aids, aging, and much more when I was on the clock. The WalkWise team knew it was important for me to understand who we serve, even if it meant slowly learning and reading.

For my onboarding, I also had required reading; the book was “Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End.” by Atuwal Gawande. This book opened my eyes to not only aging, but end-of-life care and hospice as well. Working through the intricacies of end-of-life care is tough, and the decisions one must make can be life altering both positively and negatively.

After reading Being Mortal, I became a big fan of literature on aging and learning more about the population WalkWise serves.

This brings me to my most current read and a book that has taught me even more about aging — “Tuesdays With Morrie,” By Mitch Albom. This book takes the reader along a journey about aging, dealing with ALS, and accepting one’s self every step of the way. Below I will detail 3 lessons I took from this life altering book, “Tuesdays With Morrie.” Hopefully you find them as important as I did, and maybe, you will want to read the book as well.

1. Aging is natural and positive, find a goal, and reach it.

“As you grow, you learn more. Aging is not just decay… it’s growth,” Stated Morrie in one of the most memorable quotes of the whole book. As one ages, like all of us do, we find our way through life. If we didn’t age, we would remain stagnant and bettering ourselves or helping others would not be second nature. How many times have we been told when we were younger, “the world doesn’t revolve around you?” Almost everyone has heard this. The older one gets, the less we hear it. This is because as we age, we learn, we grow, and if possible we give (3rd lesson).

Through his battle with ALS, Morrie imparted wisdom that usually remains unspoken. “… If you have found the meaning of life… you don’t want to go back. You want to go forward. You want to see more, do more.” Finding the meaning of life is different for everyone; it may be traveling to all 50 states, donating your time at a soup kitchen every Saturday, or simply being kind to everyone. Morrie describes aging as the pursuit of finding one’s meaning of life and being okay with growing older because growing older is one step closer to finding that meaning.

2. Self Acceptance

“Accept who you are; and revel in it,” Morrie says as he is reflecting on who he is as a person. When one accepts who they truly are, they can make the impact they would like to in this world.

Morrie challenges every person to be themselves and love the things that make someone uniquely them.

In a world where technology is so intertwined with our daily lives, it’s easier now than ever to demonstrate unique abilities. Strengths and weaknesses are considered unique and every human has something that sets them apart. Start a blog, a youtube channel, or even a social media page about your unique interests. Odds are, there are many people that have similar passions to yours and you will find a community that may help you accept yourself and accomplish your goals.

3. Give (when you can)

“Giving to other people is what makes me feel alive. Not my car or my house. Not What I look like in the mirror,” explains Morrie when talking about the best way to be part of a community. Morrie dives into something that everyone knows, but it’s tough to practice. This takeaway is a combination of the two above. Giving will allow you to age happily, while accepting yourself. Many people can feel ultimate happiness when they do something simple for others. Think of being a child on christmas when you finally got a gift for your parents — you more than likely felt anxious and excited to give it to them. This feeling never changes. When you find a way to give, your love and impact will live on, even long after you’re gone.

Our WalkWise blog generally speaks of aging tips, the population we serve, and our company updates. If you’re a caregiver, senior, or someone working in the senior care industry, I would bet you’re following these three takeaways rather closely. WalkWise continues to follow the journey that Morrie detailed so carefully and we hope that our ability to give seniors and their families a product that can truly help will be impactful.

One step at a time, WalkWise is trying to create a community, provide our technology to seniors and their families, and ultimately make change — long after we’re gone.

“Walking man’s best medicine” — Hippocrates 

By Nic Bordwell, Director of Marketing 

WalkWise Transparent Background Border

3 Lessons from "Tuesdays With Morrie"

April 16, 2020

When I joined the team at WalkWise, I was one month away from being a college graduate, 22 years old, and had never worked in-depth with a senior tech product or an older population. I quickly started reading and learning as much as I could about the senior technology industry, and luckily for me, I was able to do my research about mobility aids, aging, and much more when I was on the clock. The WalkWise team knew it was important for me to understand who we serve, even if it meant slowly learning and reading.

For my onboarding, I also had required reading; the book was “Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End.” by Atuwal Gawande. This book opened my eyes to not only aging, but end-of-life care and hospice as well. Working through the intricacies of end-of-life care is tough, and the decisions one must make can be life altering both positively and negatively.

After reading Being Mortal, I became a big fan of literature on aging and learning more about the population WalkWise serves.

This brings me to my most current read and a book that has taught me even more about aging — “Tuesdays With Morrie,” By Mitch Albom. This book takes the reader along a journey about aging, dealing with ALS, and accepting one’s self every step of the way. Below I will detail 3 lessons I took from this life altering book, “Tuesdays With Morrie.” Hopefully you find them as important as I did, and maybe, you will want to read the book as well.

1. Aging is natural and positive, find a goal, and reach it.

“As you grow, you learn more. Aging is not just decay… it’s growth,” Stated Morrie in one of the most memorable quotes of the whole book. As one ages, like all of us do, we find our way through life. If we didn’t age, we would remain stagnant and bettering ourselves or helping others would not be second nature. How many times have we been told when we were younger, “the world doesn’t revolve around you?” Almost everyone has heard this. The older one gets, the less we hear it. This is because as we age, we learn, we grow, and if possible we give (3rd lesson).

Through his battle with ALS, Morrie imparted wisdom that usually remains unspoken. “… If you have found the meaning of life… you don’t want to go back. You want to go forward. You want to see more, do more.” Finding the meaning of life is different for everyone; it may be traveling to all 50 states, donating your time at a soup kitchen every Saturday, or simply being kind to everyone. Morrie describes aging as the pursuit of finding one’s meaning of life and being okay with growing older because growing older is one step closer to finding that meaning.

2. Self Acceptance

“Accept who you are; and revel in it,” Morrie says as he is reflecting on who he is as a person. When one accepts who they truly are, they can make the impact they would like to in this world.

Morrie challenges every person to be themselves and love the things that make someone uniquely them.

In a world where technology is so intertwined with our daily lives, it’s easier now than ever to demonstrate unique abilities. Strengths and weaknesses are considered unique and every human has something that sets them apart. Start a blog, a youtube channel, or even a social media page about your unique interests. Odds are, there are many people that have similar passions to yours and you will find a community that may help you accept yourself and accomplish your goals.

3. Give (when you can)

“Giving to other people is what makes me feel alive. Not my car or my house. Not What I look like in the mirror,” explains Morrie when talking about the best way to be part of a community. Morrie dives into something that everyone knows, but it’s tough to practice. This takeaway is a combination of the two above. Giving will allow you to age happily, while accepting yourself. Many people can feel ultimate happiness when they do something simple for others. Think of being a child on christmas when you finally got a gift for your parents — you more than likely felt anxious and excited to give it to them. This feeling never changes. When you find a way to give, your love and impact will live on, even long after you’re gone.

Our WalkWise blog generally speaks of aging tips, the population we serve, and our company updates. If you’re a caregiver, senior, or someone working in the senior care industry, I would bet you’re following these three takeaways rather closely. WalkWise continues to follow the journey that Morrie detailed so carefully and we hope that our ability to give seniors and their families a product that can truly help will be impactful.

One step at a time, WalkWise is trying to create a community, provide our technology to seniors and their families, and ultimately make change — long after we’re gone.

“Walking man’s best medicine” — Hippocrates 

By Nic Bordwell, Director of Marketing 

WalkWise Transparent Background Border
Posted on 23 Comments

Social isolation will kill (and save) seniors

Social isolation will kill (and save) seniors

April 8, 2020

Social distancing, isolation, and stay-at-home orders are slowing the spread of the coronavirus, saving the lives of many seniors who tend to be the most vulnerable to complications stemming from covid-19. Lost in the narrative, however, is the number of lives that will be lost due to social isolation of seniors.

Since starting WalkWise, I have heard too many stories about people being “found on the floor”. It has happened to my own family and friends. In one particularly terrible instance, a friend was found on the bathroom floor: two days after having fallen. Would she have survived if this had happened in April of 2020? I’m not so sure.

The problem with falls

Falls are the leading cause of fatal injury for older adults. In a 2008 study*, researchers found that in the event of a fall, 54% of people were found on the floor. About 4 of 5 falls happened while the senior was alone. About 30% of those who fell were on the floor for over an hour on at least one occasion. Some people in the study had emergency response pendants, however, in 80% of falls, people with pendants were unable (or refused) to call for help.

The problem with isolation​

These numbers should scare us, even in the best of times. Unfortunately, seniors are now more isolated than ever and the response time to falls will only increase. Imagine a person who typically attends bingo on Monday, goes to dinner with family on Wednesday, receives cleaning services on Thursday, visits a friend in a senior living community on Friday, and goes to church on Sunday. These are all opportunities for others to intervene, make a visit, or call a neighbor if they suspect anything is wrong. All these activities and visits have now gone away. What’s left?

Connected Social Isolation

We need technology more than ever. Phones can do wonders, but are we really going to call our loved ones five times a day for the foreseeable future? Pendants are helpful, but as the study showed, they are rarely effective. We need ways to understand their hour-by-hour activity, first to make sure they are safe, but also to make sure they are staying healthy and active while sheltering at home. Everyone is different: WalkWise has the solution for walker users. For a daily check-in app, check-out “Snug Safety”. A motion sensor may work for some others.

Whatever we do, we need to do it now, because the danger to older adults is higher than ever.

Peter Chamberlain

Founder & CEO, WalkWise

WalkWise Transparent Background Border

*Fleming J, Brayne C. Inability to get up after falling, subsequent time on floor, and summoning help: prospective cohort study in people over 90. Bmj. 2008 Nov 17;337:a2227.