My mother died at the age of 94. She lived the last few years of her life in a nursing home. I know she missed her independency, the notion that she could decide what to eat, when to go for a walk (and how long), when to go to bed, which doctor to see…. The institution was rather nice, the staff was friendly and caring. Yet, so many decisions were not hers. She didn't like that.
So when I looked at the various proposals that were submitted to pitch for the Resilience Award, one question on my mind was: Will this entrepreneurial concept make a true difference to that independence aspect? Does the idea have the potential to significantly change the life of individuals, their carers, their social environment and the society at large? Is there potential for a real wow effect?
As much as any incremental progress in the field of elder care is desirable, wouldn't we like to see that the prize winner's idea not only is worth a polite applause, but has a real, large and positive impact on the community? Ideally that would be also come in the form of financial benefits to the currently established funding mechanisms. Improving mental and physical health outcomes on an individual level plus saving money on a societal level - a dream come true!
Am I living in dream world? Actually, I hope not. I feel we need to aim high here. The Foundation should present the award (and spend some money on the way) to an enterprise that aims high…not only in their commercial ambitions but also in their desire (and likely ability) to contribute to the wellbeing of the society. And I believe this is not only about the direct effect, but - perhaps even more importantly - about changing mindsets.
Some of the concepts presented – I think not all of them – seem to fall into that category. That helped me making up my mind, how to attribute scores and rank them.
In which area could there be a wow effect?
1) The smart use of technology: Almost all ventures promise to utilize technology (hardware, software or both) to facilitate elder care. Some solutions seem to open new dimensions, things that haven't been tried before. This is not only about building a "security" system and seamless assistance, but the idea of using devices to actively engage with the elderly person, in order to improve outcomes and quality of life, seems to point in a very interesting direction.
2) Finding solutions that allow old people to stay relatively independent and at their own home (rather than in institutions) is one thing, looking after their real needs and wants is quite another. Realizing the individual differences is a starting point, offering highly customized services to cater for these differences is a significant next step.
I did like what I saw: ambition, creativity, passion and empathy. And some inspiring concepts and solutions. And I felt some "wows" were also there. I think the finalists of the contest will all have these attributes, some more, some less of it. And I hope that we can feel a bit of "wow", when the winner will be announced on the 2nd of November.
Category: Funding longer lives: Long-term care
Location: Hong Kong