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SOUTH KOREAN CHILDREN COUNTER ALZHEIMER’S: South Korea has launched a remarkable campaign, training thousands of people, including children, to recognize Alzheimer’s symptoms and care for patients.

The funding came from a long-term-care insurance system, paid for with 6.6 per cent increases in people’s national health insurance premiums.

Young people, from nursery school to college, have been recruited in the "war on dementia." Local government officials arrange for nursery school classes to play games with nursing home residents. The hope is these encounters will lessen the stigma attached to the disease.

In the government’s Aging-Friendly Comprehensive Experience Hall outside Seoul, 11 to 13-year-old children strap on splints and fogged-up glasses as they participate in aging simulation exercises. Students view a PowerPoint presentation defining dementia and are trained to perform hand massage in nursing homes.

Meanwhile, college students don blue 3-D glasses for "dementia experience" video journeys, following people disoriented on streets. Nearly nine per cent of the country’s over-65 population has already been hit by the disease.

High schools offer community service credit, encouraging care for dementia patients, whom students call grandmas and grandpas. For instance, teenage girls do foot massage at the Cheongam nursing home and boy’s from a nearby high school help at Seobu Nursing Center, doing art and physical therapy.

Other features of the campaign include:

Early diagnosis to help families deal with the disease and encourage them to care for loved ones at home.

Services: Heavily subsidized day and home care programs help individuals maintain their skills and self-esteem. Free programs at the Mapo Center for Dementia in Seoul include exercise machines, rooftop garden "floral therapy," art classes and music therapy.

The South Korean Alzheimer’s Association provides training for service workers including, bus drivers, hairstylists and mail carriers.

A government dementia database allows families to register relatives and receive iron-on identification numbers.

Silver industries: Entrepreneurs are encouraged to produce items for frail older people, such as chopsticks that are easier to pick up and automated harnesses that hoist people and move them along sliding ceiling tracks to where they want to go.



TOP NOTCH AGE-FRIENDLY TOOLKIT: Researchers at the University of Waterloo and community partners have launched a new planning tool to help individuals and groups bolster community spirit. This Age Friendly Communities toolkit provides a blueprint for action and tips and strategies galore. For more information, visit the Murray Alzheimer Research and Education Program and click on Age-Friendly Communities.


OLDER ADULTS TOUT THE WII: Patients in Tallaght Hospital, Dublin (Ireland) have taken to the Nintendo Wii console as a replacement for physiotherapy to help them deal with severe mobility problems.

The patients, aged 74 to 87, played bowling, tennis and golf on the Wii as part of a pilot project with Trinity College to find out if computer games helped their fitness.

"Some of them were reluctant at first because they were quite new to them," said physiotherapist Anne-Marie Scanlon, who supervised the project. "They may not have used computers or games, but, with practice, they got used to it and really enjoyed it."

The 13 patients had arthritis or were impaired because of strokes or muscle weakness from severe illness. All patients reported improvements in balance and mobility.



PLANNING TO LIVE TO 100: According to anti-aging physician Ron Klatz, more than half of baby boomers will live healthy lives beyond 100.

It is not too early to start planning ahead. Here’s a tip to get you started:

1. Divide your life into the following six domains:

  • activities;
  • finances;
  • health;
  • housing;
  • social relationships; and
  • transportation.

Focusing on one domain at a time, ask yourself what your needs would be if you lived to be 100. As you think about the first item on the list, for example, consider what activities, interests and hobbies will keep you enthusiastic about life when you are 100 or even 110.

2. Jot down the answers.

3. Update your plan regularly.

For more, see Strategies For Living a Very Long Life by Verne Wheelwright in The Futurist (November/December 2010).

Finally, we at Aging Horizons Bulletin want to thank all our wonderful readers and contributors for your support through the year. We wish you many blessings in 2011!
Ruth Dempsey