Demographic change is a concern many countries must deal with these days. The World Health Organization’s Global Health and Aging report states that “the number of people aged 65 or older is projected to grow from an estimated 524 million in 2010 to nearly 1.5 billion in 2050, with most of the increase in developing countries,” thereby outnumbering the children younger than five years old in 2020.
Our healthcare systems find themselves in a different stance, with a larger and more diversified group of people demanding healthcare. An increase in the elderly population logically means that our healthcare systems need to provide more people with more care. The question here is: what effect does this aging population have on our healthcare systems?
Instead of focusing on these changing demographics, we should rather think about innovative solutions that can tackle the problem. That’s why we’ll discuss the most promising Blue Tulip Awards innovations in the Health theme that target this growing group of elderly people.
Consequences of the aging society
The aging population affects our healthcare system in several ways. The most tangible impact in countries with aging population is an increased shortage of healthcare professionals. The number of elderly people with chronic diseases is growing compared to the workforce population, which means that fewer people are responsible for providing more care.
Another issue is the decreasing affordability of healthcare: with a growing elderly population, demand for healthcare will exceed its supply, causing the healthcare costs to increase. This means that healthcare will become less accessible for a greater number of people.
Another impact is that the diversity of care-givers has fallen behind the growing diversity of patients and the increase in healthcare’s complexity. With chronic diseases like dementia, cancer, diabetes and heart diseases on the rise among elderly, focusing on a single disease rather than comorbidity can result in insufficient focus on other present medical conditions. Increasing health and care needs of elderly people thus puts significant stress on the entire health and aged care system.
How can today’s innovations tackle tomorrow’s problems?
Our aging society is one of the key focusses within the Blue Tulip Awards 2020 Health theme. It should therefore not come as a surprise that several contestants for the awards are trying to solve (parts of) this problem. To make such a big topic understandable and manageable, we’ve divided this trend into several sub-trends.
Preventing is better than curing. With that being said, the most effective care one can deliver is often preventative. Preventative health means identifying and addressing health issues before they worsen. This can include innovations that protect individuals from disease and illness as well as the ones that are indirectly preventative - such as exercising more and making healthier food choices. The effect of preventive health is huge and, therefore, also the goal of several innovations this year.
Monitoring is, next to prevention, also a relatively new trend in the health sector. It enables healthcare professionals to keep a close eye on patients while not being physically close to them. Besides increased efficiency, monitoring can also result in more personalized healthcare, where people can be observed professionally while not having to leave their trusted homes. In addition, handling data with increasingly smart technologies allow more accurate detection of abnormalities among patients.
The social impact of the elderly is often underestimated as it is linked to higher risks for a wide variety of physical and mental conditions – like anxiety, depression, cognitive decline, heart disease and more. We therefore need to develop more solutions for combatting social isolation and loneliness. This solution can come in many different forms in which the engagement of people in substantial content-rich activities (with others) is mostly centralized. These solutions can contribute to an improved mental well-being as well as an increase in the perceived quality of life.
The table below shows the Blue Tulip Awards 2020 participants that commit to making a positive contribution to solving the problems that surface in societies with an aging population.
|Prevention||Watch SEM | Ipsilon Test | Helperapp|
|Monitoring||Watch SEM | Kepler Vision | Ipsilon Test | Helperapp|
|Social||Sense Garden | EldersVR|
Interested in more innovation in our Health theme? Check them out here!