The percentage of the global population who are 60 years of age or over increased from 8.5 percent in 1980 to 12.3 per cent in 2015 and is projected to rise further to 21.5 per cent in 2050. Organizations that provide aging and long-term care services (LTSS) understand the unique challenges this group presents due to declining capacity and the increased likelihood of these individuals having one or more chronic disease. Challenges that will require innovative solutions.
In April, the University of North Carolina Greensboro (UNCG) Gerontology and Entrepreneurship Cross-Disciplinary Program partnered with the Well-Spring Retirement Community to hold the first ever Aging Services Innovation Competition. The purpose of the competition was to encourage UNCG students to consider the needs of individuals age 50 and over and develop business ideas for improving their quality of life. The students came together and presented ideas for innovative solutions that could meet the needs of an aging population.
The following student ideas were presented in front of a panel of judges:
- Gerinutrianalysis – Designed specifically for Long-Term Care Facilities, Gerinutrianalysis tracks the dietary intake of residents and then provides nutritional analysis to dieticians and other care providers.
- Language Access Services – Language Access Services connects patients who experience a language barrier with professionals who can provide interpretation through conference calls. This online service can be accessed at home or in public using a computer, mobile device, or table.
- My grocery sidekick – My Grocery Sidekick is a virtual grocery shopping service with customizable dietary assistance that allows customers to shop from the comfort of their own home.
- Re-Play – Through facilitated adventure and play opportunities designed for older adults, Re-Play seeks to eliminate the age barrier to outdoor adventure.
- Sonora – The Sonora stereo allows family members and caregivers to customize playlists that are wirelessly synced to a simplified stereo system designed for ease of use by older adults.
While these are just some examples of potential solutions in the area of senior care, the need for collaboration and innovation can be found across the whole health services spectrum. Some of the most critical examples of this need are in long-term care solutions that address both primary care and the social determinants of health. Traditional care solutions are often designed to cure acute conditions or symptoms instead of focusing on the variety of needs of a whole person, an approach that often leads to poor health outcomes for individuals and increased costs for providers.
Not all of the ideas presented by the students at UNCG may ultimately prove successful, but this competition does a great job of illustrating how collaboration between individuals and organizations may provide the spark necessary to develop the innovative solutions required to address the critical needs of vulnerable populations, such as the elderly.