By Florence Jean, group head of global health business line, Europ Assistance
The Covid-19 Outbreak has completely upended our daily lives with social distancing measures and stay at home orders forcing most of the global population inside. One group who has been identified as being particularly at risk of infection throughout the crisis is the elderly.
Simultaneously because of the lock down procedures people are becoming more comfortable with using telemedicine solutions; during this outbreak period alone, we saw a 70% increase in the use of our phone and video-based teleconsultation services.
With at risk senior population required to stay inside, Telemedicine may prove to be the solution that can both keep our elderly population safe from this deadly virus and ensure they are still receiving the quality medical attention they need remotely.
With the world’s population growing older at historic levels, the “Silver Wave”, is upon us. This refers to the recent surge in the number of people over the age of 65, an age demographic which is anticipated to encompass more than 30 percent of the Europe’s population and 23 percent of the United States’ population by 2060.
This trend is also developing at concerning pace in Asia, where by 2030 it is expected that the region will house over 60 percent of the worldwide population of people age 65 and older. While this may not sound significant on it’s face, the economic implications alone raise several concerns, including a reduced labor force and strained healthcare systems.
Two major structural flaws in the global healthcare system that have been particularly exposed by the current outbreak and must be addressed moving forward.
The impending “Silver Wave” is driven by two factors; declining fertility rates and advances in modern medicine. Over the past 50 years, the global average fertility rate has halved, from 5-7 children per woman to just below 2.5 children per woman in 2018.
Additionally, the global population is benefitting from advances in modern medicine that lead to longer life spans. The number of Americans ages 65 and older will more than double over the next 40 years, reaching 80 million in 2040.
The number of adults ages 85 and older, the group most often needing help with basic personal care, will nearly quadruple between 2000 and 2040. While prolonged life spans signify a country’s strength, it can create financial and social hardships when combined with low fertility rates.
This worrying change in demographics coupled with the new post-pandemic reality means that business models that allow seniors to remain independent and stay at home at an affordable price will gain further traction.
These new and improved platforms are designed to not only replicate the level of care offered by traditional healthcare facilities but provide access to new state-of-the-art care services as well. These improvements come as a result of expertly crafted digital health service offerings, such as medical advice and health monitoring, in-home caregiving, emergency monitoring and response, just to name a few.
Revolutionary business models are dramatically changing the economics, efficiency, and the benefits of caring for the elderly. Instead of living in a nursing home or similar facility, these models enable seniors to preserve their autonomy and remain in a comfortable and familiar environment, while getting the same or, in some cases, higher quality care 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Innovative models can support all their needs at affordable prices, enabling assistance companies to extend coverage to all that need it, greater supporting the senior community as a whole as well as all of their families.
The emergence of new technology continues to increase access to services by lowering costs and improve home care quality. There are many examples of new technologies designed to support seniors including smart homes, ambient sensors, remote medical devices, wearables, artificial intelligence, and virtual reality that allow elders to receive the best care possible in the most comfortable manner.
Innovation must also extend beyond technological aspects, allowing offerings to encompass all in-home care needs and integrate seamlessly into a user’s daily life, for maximum comfortability. Too often, service delivery for seniors is fragmented and confusing, lacking the important combination of medical and non-medical services at times of significant distress.
A recent survey revealed that over 2/3 of families were confronted with an emergency related to their senior parents. 74% of them indicated an organizational support as what would have helped them the most.
To ensure that the home can provide a level of care comparable to professional institutions, caretakers and technology must work in tandem to provide a full suite of senior care options. Solutions can range from simple temperature monitoring against hot weather consequences to sophisticated motion sensors and algorithms to detect falls and faints.
For example, some telemedicine providers offer patients a skilled professional, available 24/7, who constantly monitors and guides each specific case.
Caring for an aging population in a post Covid-19 environment is no longer just a challenge for families with its impact is being seen across the globe.
As of March, it was estimated that Covid-19 was responsible for the death of 13.4% of patients 80 and older. Meaning there is a renewed sense of urgency in getting these services and tools ready for the coming future.
We must act, not only alleviate stress from the healthcare system, but to provide in-homecare solutions for the senior population.
Homecare is a proven solution that enables seniors to maximize their independence and improve quality of life, and assistance organizations whose business models are founded on the principle of care are in a position to ensure that seniors will have the attention they need and deserve.