Whoever said that blogging about elder care cannot lead to fun and adventure never ate reindeer in an 18th century fortress overlooking the Gulf of Finland while discussing innovations in the elder care ecosystem. This past week, I did that and more while attending the Living Lab Conference in Helsinki, sponsored by the Laurea University of Applied Sciences. This "summer school" presented fresh approaches to promote a high quality of life for older adults through the successful application of technology.
After Italy, Finland's population is aging more rapidly then the other EU countries (and nearly as quickly as Japan's) making it a perfect setting for elder care advocates, academics, entrepreneurs and policy makers to gather. On a policy level, Finland is dedicated to promoting home care to ensure that as many older adults as possible can live in their own homes and in familiar living environments (US policymakers should take note).
In Finland, cities serve as the equivalent of US states with regards to their primary role as provider and regulator of social services to older adults. However, the Finnish publicly funded social service sector is under pressure. Despite growing need, in some locations, current municipal income tax rates are as high as 20 percent (18.75 percent in Helsinki) and there is little appetite to see additional city income tax rate increases among the polity. High labor costs and regulatory constraints are additional factors impacting elder care and fueling the need to apply innovation in elder care services.
Unfortunately, applying technology to elder care service delivery has not been widely implemented in Finland, which is not too dissimilar to US experience. Readers of this blog may recall my comments about the 2011 CAST Report which revealed many of challenges experienced by LeadingAge members when introducing technology to their service platforms.
In Finland, by applying the Living Lab methodology businesses and academics are demonstrating to cities that technologies can make a difference and are worth the investment to enhance independent living and healthy aging. This methodology purports to create deeper user and customer involvement by integrating end-users in new product and service development as actual co-developers. Think of market research on steroids and you start to get the idea.
CaringTV a two-way television system first introduced in Finland in 2005 is a great example of how Living Lab methodology is easing the introduction of this new technology. In simplelist terms, CaringTV is a video conferencing system that provides programs and e-services to elders living at home or those who attend adult day services.
Mrs. Amino Salo, a CaringTV client since 2005, shared her delight with CaringTV during an discussion between her and our group of conference participants. She communicated with us, from her home miles away, using the same touch screen screen she uses to participate in daily programs and allows her to visit with an e-Nurse once a week and an e-Doctor once a month. Mrs. Salo told us that she found the technology easy to use and that it improved her daily life.
In my next blog, I'll describe how Living Lab methodology improved the application of this technology and others in Finland. Learn more @AgingInChicago