Earlier this year, MimoCare attended the Australian Future of Aged Care Summit where one of the central themes emerging was that around “Positive ageing”, not just living longer, but living better. Although gaining more focus in today’s environment, the idea of positive ageing is not a new one.
First proposed by James Fries of Stamford University in the late 1970s, he discussed a future in which people were active and engaged well into the later years of life, with the onset of morbidity and serious age-related diseases postponed.
At the core of this concept is an emphasis on improvements in preventative medicines and the untapped potential of health promotion and prevention, termed the “Compression of Morbidity”.
“The idea behind compression of morbidity is to squeeze or compress the time horizon between the onset of chronic illness or disability and the time in which the person dies.”
Put more simply , if we can delay the onset of disease and frailty by actively pursuing healthy living for longer, we not only may increase the years we live, but those years will be happier and more productive.
Since Fries’ first raised this concept, much work has been done on the promotion of healthy aging awareness at both the individual and policy levels. Fast forward 30 years however and this concept may be about to come into its own.
With the emergence of modern technologies such as FitBit, wearable heart rate monitors and the IoT enabling big data capture, it has never been more possible to get an accurate view a person’s health.
And if you can’t monitor it, you can’t improve it.
Traditionally, health and wellness programs have focussed on identifying existing health problems and finding ways to correct or minimise them (acute care) as a way of improving quality of life.
But increasingly, products such as MimoCare, have been harnessing these new technology innovations to move more toward a concept of subaccute or “predictive” care. Now it is possible to utilise collected data to predict where health issues may arise and implement early intervention to prevent them becoming a concern in the future.
By gathering a continual stream of data on the normal daily activities of an elderly person, MimoCare utilises trend analysis to collate this data into patterns of “normal” behaviour. By building a profile of normal activity, any deviation from this routine can trigger an alert for further investigation. It may be that the resident is spending longer and longer sitting in the lounge chair, signalling a need for an increase in regular exercise or an increasing difficulty in being mobile. The sensor in the bathroom may be picking up increased activity, indicating more frequent toilet use, potentially a urinary tract infection.
These alerts can be picked up by family members or care providers, or even the elderly person themselves, enabling programs to be put in place to address a potential concern before it becomes a serious problem, thus delaying the onset of morbidity and increasing a person’s quality of life.
After all, in the words of James Fries;
“By minimising the number of years people suffer from chronic illness, we enable older people to live more successful, productive lives that benefit themselves and society. When we consider healthcare reform and new approaches to structuring health care systems, we must recognise that by avoiding long-term periods of morbidity, we reduce healthcare costs and improve the lives of patients at the same time.”
- Compression of morbidity: “Aging, natural death and the compression of morbidity”, Fries, FJ. N Eng J Med – 1980 Jul 17:303(3):130-5
- Compression of Morbidity: researchgate.net (Modified from Blagosklonny 2012)