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INSIGHT: How can we support people in Jersey to age well?

INSIGHT: How can we support people in Jersey to age well?

Wednesday 09 August 2023

INSIGHT: How can we support people in Jersey to age well?

Wednesday 09 August 2023


Jersey is getting older – and pretty quickly at that.

In the last census, it was recorded that the number of people aged over 65 grew by 29% between 2011 and 2021.

This meant that Jersey's dependency ratio – the ratio of working age people to support those of non-working age – rose from 46% to 52%. 

As a result, it's more important than ever that the Island takes the concept of ageing, and ageing well seriously.

Turning ageing on its head

Mark Twain supposedly once wrote that: "Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter."

In the same vein, Rosemary Finley, the CEO of Family Nursing and Home Care, is keen to put a positive spin on ageing: "Our motto, if you like, is starting life well, living life well and ageing well... People generally talk about ageing in a negative way – and that's not just Jersey, that's across the world. 

"But we really want turn that on its head."


Rosmarie.jpg

Pictured: Rosemarie Finley, CEO of charity Family Nursing and Home Care.

Jersey Family Nursing and Home care have been providing support to help islanders live and age well since 1899.

Age brings things "money can't buy"

In June, they held a conference on the topic of "ageing well" aiming to capture how people can match the challenges that come with old age, and even put a positive spin on them. 

"There's lots that being older brings – you've got expertise, you've got lots of experience of different circumstances, you've usually got family around you and you've got influence. All of those things, money can't buy," Rosemarie explained.

"Your input into organisations, whether it's a volunteer or as a paid member of staff can be really, really critical."

Frailty isn't a fait accompli 

Of course, ageing does come with its challenges – many of which are physical. But even these are not insurmountable, Rosemarie pointed out, and can be effectively tackled with simple lifestyle changes. 

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Pictured: "The number one reason for elderly people getting conveyed to hospital is because they've had a fall." 

She said: "There's some frailty and some vulnerability that comes with ageing, but there doesn't have to be.

"There are things we can all do as we age to make sure that we have a good quality life.

"You can reverse frailty and you can increase your strength."

The mental consequences of falling

According to Rosemarie, one of the most avoidable, and the most prevalent physical issues facing older people is falls.

"The number one reason for elderly people getting conveyed to hospital is because they've had a fall... 30% of adults over the age of 65 fall every year.

"That's a huge amount of falls." 

These falls can have serious physical consequences, but also mental consequences, as they can remove a person's confidence in their own mobility, preventing them from getting out and about.

Working to stay away from hospital

As a result, FNHC advocates for effective early intervention, to stop people from ever having to head to hospital in the first place.

Some of the starting points are incredibly simple: "Doing exercise, even if it's in a chair, regular exercise, movement and strength exercises, even if it's lifting a bag of flour up and down and repetitively to keep some strength in their muscles is important."

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Pictured:  "Doing exercise, even if it's in a chair... is important."

"It's also important to be aware of things like how you walk, and what shoes you're wearing. Have you got grab rails in the right place if you do lose your footing? What rugs are on the floor? Are they trip hazards?"

Family Nursing and Home Care offers assessment services to this end, ensuring that everything is where it should be to minimise the impact of falls.

Moving towards a "continuum" of care

FNHC's work around minimising falls is an example of what can be achieved with simple changes, and feeds into Rosemarie's idea that Jersey needs to put more emphasis on a community-focused style of healthcare. 

She said: "Jersey has tended to have services delivered in isolation rather than looking at a continuum of care.

"So, for example, if, an individual has lost their lifelong partner and they're in the older age group, then various charities like Age Concern or Dementia Jersey or Mind can all work with us and we with them to look at putting our services around the needs of that islander... and think, right, how can we best work with them and their family to, to address the needs that are prevalent today?

"But it also means that that the, the islander isn't having to have a plethora of different people coming through their door, the care is very much more around them rather than around the services." 

Battling with the changing face of banking

But physical health is only part of the battle. 

Recently, HSBC announced that a two of its physical Jersey branches would be closing as a result of the rising demand for mobile banking and a reduction in in-person transactions. 

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Pictured: "Jersey has tended to have services delivered in isolation rather than looking at a continuum of care."

The previous year, Lloyds announced that three branches would be closing across the Channel Islands.

For the older generation, this can have a disproportionate effect on their ability to access banking services.

"When the Lloyds branched closed, for instance, we had a lot of members contacting us because they found it very difficult. The older generation still mainly use in-person services, they're not au fait with the new technology," Age Concern Jersey Chair Ben Shenton commented.

He added: "It will be extremely difficult for people who lack access to town, people with difficulty walking... If you're limited in the amount you can walk, you need a branch you can just pull up outside."

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Pictured: HSBC announced that a two of it's physical Jersey branches would be closing their doors as a result of an increasing demand for mobile banking.

Being able to deal with an actual person, rather than a screen, can often be crucial. However, as the world moves online, this is often not an option. "It is a bit sad, but it is the way the world's going," Mr Shenton added.

Fear of technology

Indeed, helping the older generation adjust to this transition can be a challenge in itself.

Chris Millington is the Managing Director at Emporia Telecom, a UK-based company that designs technology specifically catered for the older generation. Emporia has been running for more than 30 years, and in 2003 produced the first ever senior-focused mobile phone. 

Chris explained that the cause of many older individuals' reluctance to use technology is an ultimately understandable one: "There are the obvious things as we age – our hearing changes, our sight changes, dexterity changes, because we develop things like osteoarthritis and all that kind of stuff.

"But the largest change of all is attitude towards technology and a fear of technology. The older generation fear it more because they can often feel inferior to other people because they get confused with technology – and that's not because they're old and decrepit or inexperienced. They could well have used technology through their working life. The problem comes when they reach retirement, which means that you use technology far less."

Information overload

Often, the amount of new information a person has to take in can be overwhelming. For those of us who use technology every day, it might seem easy, but if you have been out the loop, then it can be completely baffling.

"If I have WhatsApp, how do I set up a WhatsApp group? How do I send a voice memo rather than typing a message?... If I'm going to do a video call, what the best app?" Chris explained.

"Then there's all the terminology we all take for granted. Something as simple as 4G... all those terms confuse the heck out of this age group."

 

Chris has been involved in the company since 2008, and in his time he has seen the march of technology cause more an more people to struggle.

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Pictured: "It is a bit sad, but it is the way the world's going." 

He said: "With new technology coming out all the time, that mindset has become more difficult to kind of broach... It's become slightly more challenging to actually get through to people because of how complicated things are getting."

'Hand me up' troubles

He urges caution when gifting an older relative a new phone or tablet, as it can often cause more trouble to both parties.

"We're now seeing an issue in what I term 'hand me up' ... Someone buys themselves a new phone and, rather than sell their old phone, hands up their old smartphone... and then the troubles begin.

"Grandma and granddad are not used to it... They are unaware of the terminology, they get confused by the way that the device works and where you find things and nothings bold enough or big enough.

"Often the phone is a couple of years out of date, so then doesn't run the latest version of something and they don't understand how to update it."

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Pictured: "We're now seeing an issue in what I term hand me up..."

"Then the banking app stops working because it needs a different level of security on the phone and that doesn't work anymore, and you suddenly become a 24/7 hotline," Chris continued. "It's just hard because it all kind of compounds, lots and lots of little things just cause a lot of frustration and then eventually they just go, 'Well, it's not worth it.'"

Starting the "digital journey"

As a result, Chris' company advocates a step-by-step approach – one that aims to take older people on a "digital journey".

In his experience, the key to encouraging an older person to use technology is to "break it into small pieces." He said: "As with anything, you have to memorise small slices and repeat, that's the principal of good learning." 

Encouraging older people to engage with the increasingly complicated technological landscape, to Chris, is hugely important to their wellbeing: "This is about preventing loneliness, and all those things for me.

"This is about empowerment, giving people the opportunity to do things in life for much longer by giving them the support they need."

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