Buying a house is a bit like planning for your wedding day — there are months packed with excitement, stress, planning, and then, finally, the big payoff. When you’ve started out a couple of decades ago to settle down and commit to the big stuff — spouses, houses and children trousers — daily living as an aged person was likely not a priority then.
During the journey to homeownership, you likely did your research and made sure you have a roof that won’t leak, a solid foundation, proper wiring, matching furniture and so on. But what about the things not covered by the inspection? Have you considered the safety of your home in your older years? Will your house pass the ageing-in-place test? If you are 60 with osteoarthritis and weak knee joints, bending over to plug-in your mobile charger – the socket typically placed below knee level – won’t do you any favours.
Sometimes it is these less obvious factors – like the quality of light, the flow from room to room and even the type of furniture to help you move around easily – that end up making the biggest impact on your day-to-day experience of a house as you or your parents age.
Outfitting The Basics In Malaysian Homes
So what does a home that is senior living friendly look like? With an increasing ageing population growth around the world, homes that are out-fitted for ageing-in-place is a trend that many are giving much consideration to. While perhaps not as matured like Australia, Malaysia’s journey to senior living is beginning to gain traction.
Thus, the Gerontechnology Lab at Monash University gives us a glimpse on how Malaysian homes could be outfitted and purpose built for ageing in our own homes. Monash School of Business Associate Professor, Dr Teh Pei Lee, stated that the lab’s purpose was to develop technology to provide solutions for challenges in ageing in five areas of human activities, which are:
- health and self-esteem (be it physical or cognitive aspects)
- daily housing & living
- mobility & transport
- work & leisure
“These are the current trends that companies should look into and develop technologies that solve the issues of ageing” said Dr Teh.
Simultaneously, the live setting of the lab provides for different technologies and services to be carried out with older people as participants and therefore, refining such solutions through immediate application. Based on some of the research the Gerontechnology Lab has done, let’s take a look at 3 things to consider when you fool proof your home for senior living conditions.
1. Ergonomic Utensils and Lift-Chairs
Especially handy for people coping with swollen joints from arthritis, ergonomic utensils are designed to compensate for reduced range, movement and coordination of older adults. For example, ergonomic forks and spoons are malleable which makes it easy to adjust the utensil to a more convenient angle for eating. Furniture such as Lift-Chairs or Lift-Recliners are built with a lifting mechanism to assist people in standing up. This is especially useful for arthritic people to reduce start-up pains that occur when moving from a sitting position to standing one.
2. Eubiq Adaptors and Power Tracks
First found in 2000 and headquartered in Singapore, Eubiq developed a power outlet system that is track based instead of socket and its plug & play feature makes installation easy. Mounted on a reachable surface or height (e.g. above your bed’s headboard or on a table) with detachable adaptors for any number of your power output needs, the Eubiq adaptors and power tracks provide an adaptable, shockproof and intuitive alternative to powering electrical appliances. This would create a safe environment for both children and older adults if you have concerns about accidental electrocution from touching sockets, especially if you are caring for loved ones with Alzheimer’s. According to Dr Teh, this item is a favourite amongst Malaysians.
3. NSC Set-Top Box – A Basic Smartphone Home System
If you and your loved ones share a love for the movies, you likely have a few remote controls lying around the coffee table for the television monitor, DVD player, Apple TV Box and so on. While it won’t completely negate the need for those remotes, installing a NSC Set-Top Box and syncing basic control functions in a smartphone app would make playing a movie from a DVD or music list easier. Specifically for older adults who aren’t tech savvy, the Gerontechnology Lab demonstrated that a photo-interface can be adapted to the NSC Set-Top Box. For example, a movie can be played by merely tapping the movie’s DVD cover on a NSC enabled phone. Dr Teh stated that since all Android phones and newer iPhone models beyond iPhone 4 are NSC enabled, setting up this basic Smartphone Home System is no hassle and doesn’t cost much beyond the paying for the NSC Set-Top Box itself.
Up, Up and Beyond
Moving forward into the future where Malaysia’s aged population growth would increase to 15 percent by 2030, Malaysians need to start thinking about how their homes can be adapted to be aged-friendly now. On the other hand, the younger generation of adult millennials need to consider multi-generational and aged-friendly features when buying a home.
Some of the groundwork has been laid to spur the aged care industry and incentivise development of technology geared towards ageing-in-place under the Economic Transformation Programme which has three entry points, which are:
- EEP 15 – which talks about Mobile Healthcare Services
- EPP 16 – which revolves around Institutionalised Aged Care, and finally
- EPP 17 – Retirement Villages.
Despite these initiatives, the real challenge is in shifting our paradigm of ageing and the stigma of ageism – which is to discriminate based on one’s age. We need to re-evaluate what ageing means to us and give deeper considerations to how it would eventually affect us individually and our loved ones.
“People don’t think this is a critical issue, but in actual fact is a big national concern because many people will want security support in the future. This is because people providing care are becoming fewer and younger people don’t have the time. So what are we going to do? Hence, technology has to help us to age-in-place” said Dr Teh.
Those looking for assistance to assess their home and advise on aged-friendly features can seek help from Managedcare Sdn Bhd’s Care Administration services, while the Monash Gerontechnology Lab can help to contact the equipment providers.
Aged Care Group (ACG) is an organisation engaged in the business of elevating and providing aged care services in Malaysia. ACG is driven with a strong vision to advocate innovation and transformation in ageing by offering continuum care as a premium choice for enriched living. We operate in an ecosystem that provides integrated care services and products through meaningful partnerships with individuals, government, organisations and corporations. ACG seeks to be the forerunner in all things related to aged care, building on the years of knowledge and experience of its shared holders and management team. A detailed profile of who we are can be obtained at www.agedcare.com.my.