Any good baseball player knows you have to keep your eye on the ball. It is not easy to separate the chaff from the wheat especially when there are so many distractions like Mike Flynn’s Russia connections, Sean Spicer’s allegations of wiretapping, passengers being pulled off United Airlines, government transparency, AI taking over all our jobs, and the Tar Heels winning the Final Four. This article isn’t about the distractions of the present or the distractions of some far flung future like a Global Disaster created by global warming. Today we are discussing you, your parents, your collective health, the death spiral, and what we can do to avoid grandfather dumping here in the United States like what is happening in Japan.
Let’s make sure we are discussing the right topic when it comes to health and clear up a common misconception here in America:
Neither Obamacare nor Trumpcare have anything to do with healthcare. They are both guaranteed payment systems to health professionals based on distributed liability. This does not guarantee quality or expedient healthcare.
In order to adequately numerate 10 things we must do to ensure a happy and healthy future for you and your parents we discuss demographics, economics, and preventative health.
Our economists and politicians are notorious for calculating future expenses based on straight line, linear, representations of demographics, costs, revenue, and labor supply. Unfortunately we live in a chaotic world with exponential growth and decay functions vastly outnumbering linear growth and decay models. The following intractable statistics will drive our economic future regardless of foreign policy, democratization of the world, Russia’s rigging of our elections, or the outcome of the Final Four this year. In fact, global warming and AI are far distant seconds in terms of global impact on productivity than the effect of the demographic shift towards a global population of 1st world countries dominated by seniors.
Japan’s current problem, a population with 26% of their population being over 65 years of age is representative of a problem facing all first world countries. There is a hidden problem in the demographic shift towards an aging population. You can see it in the Reuters chart, while the population of seniors is getting larger, the population of the employable is shrinking. In fact, if you add the under 14 to the over 65 you will find that the numbers are very close to 1 person employed taking care of 1 person not working. It should be obvious to all of us that from an availability of labor standpoint, this is not a sustainable model, and yet, it is the model we are stuck with. The current outcry that AI will eliminate jobs is probably the brightest light we have shining on the future of our labor force and our potential to deal with the rising tide of seniors. AI will free up labor to do those things absolutely required to manage a society of the young and the old.
We all know that one thing leads to another and an aging population is no exception. 75% of all emergency services in the United States serve the current 12% of our senior population. Emergency services picks them up when they have fallen, shows up when they call 1000 times in a single year, and whisk them off to the hospital in emergencies. It is easy to calculate the additional burden on our emergency services if they remain unchanged. The population of seniors will double by 2030 in the United States. Since 75% of all emergency service costs are absorbed by seniors today it means that the budget to service seniors at today’s abysmal standard of an average of 30 minutes to intervention will double the budgetary requirements for emergency care as a portion of city and county governments. More importantly the labor requirement for these positions will more than double with fewer adults in the labor pool.
The perception that everyone reading this article should be getting by now is that every single facet of society will be affected by the coming change in population distribution. The chart above should scare the hell out of you. Our medical costs are determined by a limited entry profession, healthcare, and a government dancing like a marionette to the fears projected by banks and insurance companies. The demand for medical services in the next ten years will more than double. But what about supply. Are there plans to triple graduates from medical institutions? Are the costs of medicine and tests decreasing? On the contrary, the number of medical colleges and medical graduates is increasing linearly while the population of seniors is experiencing exponential growth. We are not even considering that science is making incredible advances and seniors will live longer than current projections.
It is easily recognizable with the current linear increase in the supply of doctors and the exponential increase in the demand of seniors that prices will escalate beyond our wildest dreams based on standard models of supply and demand.
8 Must Do’s To Keep You and Your Parents Happy
Up until now we have painted a pretty dismal picture of the future based on a massive demographic shift towards a senior population. Let’s face it, what we do best is adapt, and adapt we will. The cost of aging is dominantly in the spiral of death. The following chart shows the extraordinary expenses associated to the last years of life in the United States. In the United States we spend 33% of the all expenditures over our lifetime in the last 2 years of existence. Clearly, if we create the cliff of death, a rapid decline from health to death, we live better lives, save our families extraordinary expenses, and decrease the demand on a system whose capacity has been stretched beyond its ability to supply adequate services.
1 Stay healthy
Surprise! Staying incredibly healthy creates the cliff of death so that all those expenses you see from 60 to 90 are mostly avoided except for genetic diseases and the hip and knee replacements. For those wondering, “What is the cliff of death?” It is a sudden and precipitous fall from health to death, something we all hope for. The rest of the must do’s are about how to accomplish this seemingly trivial objective.
2 Eat Well
Since the 1950’s America has been under attack by big business. C&H Sugar, Monsanto and any number of chemical companies have been stocking our shelves with products that have little if not negative nutritional value. Poor science, inacurate analysis, and market driven fear campaigns have further blurred the lines of nutrition. Our food supply, our birthing habits, our nurturing habits, and our infestation habits have all tainted our health over the long term. The biggest impact on our future in terms of health is obesity, largely a result of the efforts of big business to create an enticing and addictive food supply with the use of sugar, salt, and corn syrup. With aging the effects of these additives is exacerbated due to the decrease in production of key proteins responsible for metabolic balance. Key proteins turn out to be the on/off switches for health and our modern lives have destroyed biomes inside and outside of our body. Biomes are ecosystems of organisms living in symbiosis with us. They live in our armpits, our belly buttons, our eyebrows, and our guts. In fact, they cover every square inch of our body. From an evolutionary perspective, they and we have adapted together over millions of years. Destroying necessary organisms by showering to often, taking ibuprofen in excess, or eating substances that destroy those organisms shuts down necessary feedback loops for a healthy existence. Eat organic, eat less, eat often, shower less, get dirty occasionally.
3 Sleep Well
It should come as no surprise that sleep is a key component of a healthy existence. Intuitively we know machines need rest cycles or they overheat and break. All our athletes are told to get a good night sleep before big events. Just how important sleep is, that is new science.
The study, published in Nature Neuroscience, found that beta-amyloid — a protein that has long been suspected of being a catalyst in Alzheimer’s — aggregates in higher concentrations in the brains of people who suffer from consistently poor sleep. As deposits of beta-amyloid grow, the protein further hampers one’s ability to sleep, which feeds into a miserable cycle that may lead to dementia. Lack of Sleep May Lead to Dementia: New Research Finds It Makes Brain Vulnerable. Cal Alumni Association. Retrieved 1 April 2017
As we age there are many forces that can affect our sleep like melatonin production, pain, restless leg syndrome, and many other factors. Because sleep is a critical factor in our health as we age there are 7 easy steps suggested by the Mayo Clinic to ensuring a good night’s sleep.
- Stick to a sleep schedule — Don’t take naps. Make sure you get a full night of continuous sleep not two 4 hour sleep periods. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day, even on weekends, holidays and days off. Being consistent reinforces your body’s sleep-wake cycle and helps promote better sleep at night. There’s a caveat, though. If you don’t fall asleep within about 15 minutes, get up and do something relaxing. Go back to bed when you’re tired. If you agonize over falling asleep, you might find it even tougher to nod off.
- Pay attention to what you eat and drink — Don’t go to bed either hungry or stuffed. Your discomfort might keep you up. Also limit how much you drink before bed, to prevent disruptive middle-of-the-night trips to the toilet.Nicotine, caffeine and alcohol deserve caution, too. The stimulating effects of nicotine and caffeine take hours to wear off and can wreak havoc on quality sleep. And even though alcohol might make you feel sleepy at first, it can disrupt sleep later in the night.
- Create a bedtime ritual — Do the same things each night to tell your body it’s time to wind down. This might include taking a warm bath or shower, reading a book, or listening to soothing music — preferably with the lights dimmed. Relaxing activities can promote better sleep by easing the transition between wakefulness and drowsiness. Be wary of using the TV or other electronic devices as part of your bedtime ritual. Some research suggests that screen time or other media use before bedtime interferes with sleep.
- Get comfortable — Create a room that’s ideal for sleeping. Often, this means cool, dark and quiet. Consider using room-darkening shades, earplugs, a fan or other devices to create an environment that suits your needs. Your mattress and pillow can contribute to better sleep, too. Since the features of good bedding are subjective, choose what feels most comfortable to you. If you share your bed, make sure there’s enough room for two. If you have children or pets, try to set limits on how often they sleep with you — or insist on separate sleeping quarters.
- Limit daytime naps — Long daytime naps can interfere with nighttime sleep — especially if you’re struggling with insomnia or poor sleep quality at night. If you choose to nap during the day, limit yourself to about 10 to 30 minutes and make it during the midafternoon. If you work nights, you’ll need to make an exception to the rules about daytime sleeping. In this case, keep your window coverings closed so that sunlight — which adjusts your internal clock — doesn’t interrupt your daytime sleep.
- Include physical activity in your daily routine — Regular physical activity can promote better sleep, helping you to fall asleep faster and to enjoy deeper sleep. Timing is important. If you exercise too close to bedtime, you might be too energized to fall asleep. If this seems to be an issue for you, exercise earlier in the day.
- Manage stress — When you have too much to do — and too much to think about — your sleep is likely to suffer. To help restore peace, consider healthy ways to manage stress. Start with the basics, such as getting organized, setting priorities and delegating tasks. Give yourself permission to take a break when you need one. Share a good laugh with an old friend. Before bed, jot down what’s on your mind and then set it aside for tomorrow.
- Sleeping too much — Surprisingly, one of the most interesting outcomes of recent research is that too much sleep can have very negative effects on our health. Some of the health risks associated to too much sleep are:
Cognitive impairment, Depression, Increased inflammation, Increased pain, Impaired fertility, Higher risk of obesity, Higher risk of diabetes, Higher risk of heart disease, Higher risk of stroke, Higher all-cause mortality
Of course, we may not know that our parents are not sleeping well, and they may not either. Knowing that sleeping habits are broken goes a long way towards resolving a potential future of dementia, obesity, pain, and anxiety. With systems like the Zanthion Senior Care Platform it is easy to unobtrusively monitor the sleep habits of yourself or your parents and passively introduce the better habits and conditions.
4 Exercise Often and Manage Injury
Similar to what and how often you eat, exercise is part of the biological mandates for good health. Some of the effects of a regular controlled exercise program that includes rest cycles, endurance cycles and power cycles are:
- The release of endorphins which reduce pain
- A reduction in pain sensitivity
- A boost in the immune system
- Releases toxins from the system
- Strengthens the bones and increases density
- Most Importantly, an overall feeling of wellbeing
I have exercised nearly everyday for over 40 years and want to state upfront the single most important criteria for an exercise program:
Avoid Injury At All Costs
A suboptimal workout where you cannot possibly get injured is better than an optimal workout where you get injured every once in awhile. Why? Because down time changes behavior and behavior is the key to good health. Never, ever, push yourself beyond the comfort level that indicates a potential injury. Stretch as much as you exercise. Be consistent. Enjoy your workouts. Use a designed training program if you can.
Clearly, something is better than nothing. Knowing that your parents are slowing down and a little more fearful about leaving the home is a great help. Having neighbors who need a partner to walk with is even more helpful. Applications like Zanthion Aging In Place notify children if their parent’s activity behavior has changed and notifies neighbors that might want to enjoy a walk with them.
5 Meditate and Exercise the Mind
Exercising goes a long way towards keeping a sharp mind and mental health, but it is not enough. Science has painted a much more holistic image of mental health over the last couple of years. It has become increasingly obvious that what we eat, what lives on our skin, how much blood we feed our brain, how much rest we get, and how much we exercise our brain with muscle confusion helps determine our mental health into old age. The first step to mental health is meditation. It takes very little time and has tremendous benefits. Some of those benefits are:
- Meditation reduces stress.
- It improves concentration.
- It encourages a healthy lifestyle.
- The practice increases self-awareness.
- It increases happiness.
- Meditation increases acceptance.
- It slows aging.
- The practice benefits cardiovascular and immune health.
So here is a meditation practice anyone can do by themselves or with their neighbors in the morning and evening for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Sit or lie comfortably. You may even want to invest in a meditation chair.
- Close your eyes.
- Make no effort to control the breath; simply breathe naturally.
- Focus your attention on the breath and on how the body moves with each inhalation and exhalation.
Seniors have some unique challenges in order to stay mentally alert. Seniors are often isolated from society by physical problems that limit their mobility and their ability to read and hear. The loss of mobility, sight, and hearing eliminate reading, socializing, and watching shows. Current technology for cornea implants, stem cell replacement of the cornea, new earbuds designed to limit external sounds and focus communication, are incredible helpful. The most important action we can take to help our parents stay younger is to protect their assets through constant research and effective mental stimulation.
Mental health is ensured through continued participation in society as a valuable asset. This, is in fact, what Zanthion considers to be the most important asset, the ability to bring the seniors to services and services to seniors. Here are 10 easy ways to keep your parents involved in life.
6 Measure & Notify & Predict
Continuous measurement and a constructive feedback loop are at the heart of any effective process. Our health is no different. We all find it difficult not to gain those 2 pounds during the holidays. Measurement, allows us to observe that weight gain and do something about it. Continuous measurement makes it possible to adjust critical defects in a system immediately. Something as simple as a window left open during the winter in Chicago might lead to ta severe cold. A refrigerator door left open might lead to sepsis. Rolling out of bed at night might lead to fearing sleeping causing anxiety and eventually dementia. Falling, just once, might lead to less mobility, a loss of confidence, and eventually heart disease. Life is in a precarious balance.
It used to be that manufacturing floor managers walked the floor listening to machines for possible problems in the line. Today, manufacturing floor manager’s cell phones beep when the RPM of a cycle machine goes below a certain threshold or a piece of metal is out of alignment. This same technology now exists for our seniors in companies like Zanthion. We place sensors throughout the environment and monitor changes in behavior such as gait, distance, temperature, heart rate, oxygen levels, and in and out of bed. We monitor passively only sending notifications when there might be a need for intervention.
If you do not have a system like this there are some easy steps you can take:
- Check the refrigerator and it’s contents regularly
- Put an air quality sensor in senior homes
- Monitor the temperature of rooms at night
- Monitor sleep habits using fitbits and take appropriate actions
- Monitor walking activity and exercise
Notify people that can make a difference like the senior themselves, neighbors, family, and friends when there is a significant change in activity. If you see a combination of signals such as enduring wounds, loss of appetite, and loss of breath engage the senior in more activity, see a medical professional, and encourage community participation.
7 Work in Teams & Be a Part of Something Bigger
It should come as no surprise to any of us that feeling valued is a major contributor to health and sadly the largest missing healthy component of seniors in America. Seniors are vast stores of knowledge and wisdom relegated to bingo games and history museums. The absolute best way to make a senior, and for that matter anyone, feel like they are part of something bigger is to involve them in decision making about real life important matters like your business, your children, or your understanding of how life works. Equally as important as asking questions is listening attentively to the answers and either implementing them, help them implement them, or bring the seniors into the implementation of an alternative answer. Ask, Listen, Value, and Act.
Seniors are isolated by many factors and neighborhood teams of seniors being active goes a long way towards involving them in something bigger. Neighborhood walks, movie night, bridge, and even 3D computer games. There is a rich world of activities available to our seniors given a little training and incentive to be involved.
8 Live without anxiety and be happy
Recent studies, 2011 Do Stress Trajectories Predict Mortality in Older Men? Longitudinal Findings from the VA Normative Aging Study , of the effects of stress on duration of life and health are surprisingly inconclusive. Studies concerning memory retention, happiness, and quality of life related to anxiety are clear cut, chronic stress and anxiety can affect areas of the brain that influence long-term memory, short-term memory and chemical production.
Here is a great article from project happiness on how to improve your overall health, lower anxiety, and be happy.
We at Zanthion want to remind you not to sweat the small or big stuff, and wish you all happy, healthy lives.