Archives for December 2017

Are You An Elder Hacker?

Are you a hacker? In this case, hacker doesn’t refer to computer programmers. Elder hacking is a phrase coined by Glen Hougan who teaches industrial design. He views an elder hacker as a creative and resourceful repurposer. An elder hacker is able to use common and typically low cost items from office supply or hardware stores to solve everyday problems. A pants hanger holding a cookbook open at eye level or placing a lazy susan in the refrigerator to enable easy reach of everything on the shelf are elder hacker solutions.

Shopping for items that make aging in place simpler are often expensive or employ high-end technology. A fixed income will limit what is purchased. Discomfort with technology may limit an elder adopting a solution. My grandparents lived during the Great Depression. To them, the idea of being resourceful was instilled during childhood and part of their day-to-day lives.

A recent Pew research study found many elders lack digital literacy and comfort with high-end technology. They often see off the shelf solutions as difficult to use, not trustworthy, or they simply don’t address their specific issue. For example, a visit to the Apple App Store finds a number of apps that manage medications. When given to an elder, it may be too difficult to continually enter medications and set up the reminder calendar. A paper option (i.e. calendar on the refrigerator or in the cabinet) is an easier, less expensive, and user-friendly solution.

We all grew up hearing all about generation gaps. The gap between an elder and millennial may feel insurmountable. Elder hacking is an opportunity for the generations to collaborate, be resourceful, and look for solutions to make living longer easier, fun, and a consistent leaning experience.


Advocacy: Lose The Throw Rug!

Cold weather, icy walkways, slippery parking lots – stimuli for elder fears of falling and breaking or fracturing a hip increases substantially during the winter months. A recent medical study finds the potential of falling indoors by tripping over an obstacle – power cord, throw rugs, clutter, is far greater than falling in the driveway.

Fear the throw rug!

Author of the study, Dr. Jason Guerico, says, “Given the results of this study, it appears that efforts to decrease fall risk among the elderly living in cold climates should not be preferentially aimed at preventing outdoor fractures in winter…Preventive efforts should focus on conditions present year-round, and especially on indoor risk.” The research was conducted by the North American Partners in Anesthesiology at the Hospital of Central Connecticut in New Britain, Conn.

Analysis of 544 patients with hip fractures concluded greater than 55 percent of the hip fractures occurred during warm months, with the highest rates in May, September and October (around 10 percent each). More than three-quarters of the hip fractures occurred indoors. 60 percent of outdoor fractures occurred from May through October, not in the depths of winter.

The most common cause of both indoor and outdoor hip fracture is tripping over an obstacle. Indoors, throw rugs were the most common obstacle cited; and, falling out of bed was #2.