….was exactly what the department of Health and Care from the municipality of Aarhus was doing when they visited the Valley last month. Like in every other western country it is not uncommon for Danes to live well into their 80ties or 90ties, whereby the healthcare system is experiencing rising challenges in regards of providing care for the increasing aging population. With a special focus on eldercare in the US, the use of new technologies, and the ensuring of a dignified old age, the municipality of Aarhus went over here to seek inspiration and challenge how things are done in Aarhus, while at the same time share knowledge and experience with relevant parties and potential partners..
One size doesn’t fit all
In Denmark eldercare for the most part is organized as a public service, and is a part of the Danish welfare system – free of charge for every citizen. This means a structured and effective service that is quite homogeneous. This is not the case in US where a number of assisted living facilities co-exist on fully commercial conditions, each based on different caring philosophies and the assumption that one size doesn’t fit all.
This gives a rather diverse service level for assisted living and nursing homes. During the visit, the visitors from Aarhus visited two very different eldercare communities:
Vintage Golden Gate south of Golden Gate Park is a prime example of how an assisted living community can be an experience similar to living in your own home. With thick wall-to-wall carpets, dining rooms with glistening chandeliers, and a packed activity schedule, life is being celebrated every single day. This setup was very inspirational to the municipality of Aarhus, who themselves are using the Eden philosophy, and animation in their approach to eldercare.
At AgeSong, the second assisted living place the there is a strong focus on treating all citizens as a whole person not focusing on a diagnosis and medications. “Dementia” is not a word in AgeSong’s vocabulary – instead they talk about “forgetfulness” which is something that can occur to all of us in all stages of life.
Tech me up
With the self-made nickname “caring municipality” the Department of Health and Care wish to not only provide care, but to provide the BEST possible care. This does include an increasing use of technology, and especially the visit at Ekso Bionics in Richmond was an amazing experience. Ekso Bionics makes wearable bionic suits that enable paralyzed individuals, or individuals with lower extremity weakness, to stand and walk over ground. This makes the suits very usable in rehabilitation, but they do also have a more psychological rehabilitation function; After being in a severe accident resulting in paralysis accepting, it can be extremely challenging for many to accept the new state of limited. Several of the users of the bionic suit describe how the thought and physical feel of being able to walk again have given them back a zest for life. In doing this, the Ekso suits are actually providing the possibility of a more holistic rehabilitation, significantly improving quality of life.
The delegation in Aarhus had heard about this technology before, but seeing the product in real life with a real patient was a real eye opener. At the moment a proposal is being drafted in the municipality in regards of getting such rehabilitation technology to Aarhus.
Do you need to rethink healthcare?
Innovation Center Denmark arranged the study tour in collaboration with the administration at the department of Health and Care in Aarhus. The purpose of the travel was to see and experience how eldercare is carried out in US, the use of new technologies to give better care and quality of life, and finally how volunteer work is organized. If you wish to learn more about the possibilities of getting inspiration to rethink your healthcare issues, please do not hesitate to contact Henrik Bo Larsen.