How Analytics Are Aiding in Elder Care

By Jia Chen, PhD

Jia Chen, PhD, Director Health Solutions, IBM Smarter Cities
Jia Chen, PhD, Director Health Solutions, IBM Smarter Cities

In the most popular eldercare home located in the heart of downtown Beijing, there are more than 10,000 applicants waiting for one of its 1,100 beds. The waiting list is currently 100 years long as only a few beds open up each year.

By the end of 2013, there were more than 200 million people over the age of 60 in China, accounting for 20% of the elderly population worldwide, making it the country with the most senior citizens in the world.

China is also the country with the fastest growing aging population. It’s projected that the elderly population will grow by 10 million per year in China and reach over 400 million in the next 20 years. It took the United   States 79 years to double its elderly population from 7% to 14% of the total population. It will take China only 27 years to achieve the same growth.

The demand for eldercare is huge globally. Traditional family structure is changing and 75% of the world’s elderly live independently or with a spouse only. Some 92% of elderly aged 65+ have at least one chronic disease. Yet there is a huge shortage of eldercare services.

Providing appropriate care for the elderly is critical for the future of cities. In some, the aging population is expected to grow to one third of the residents in 20 to 30 years.

We have been working with nursing homes, community elderly daycare centers, home-based community care providers and non-governmental organizations as well as city leaders to provide care management solutions. These solutions enable care providers to integrate and synchronize multiple types of information from social, clinical and behavioral systems to create a holistic view of the citizens.

This information can be analyzed and assessed across social, clinical and behavioral indicators based on industry best practices to help identify ‘at risk’ high-cost/high-needs individuals best suited for care management. Access to this kind of insight also helps caregivers recognize intervention opportunities and develop proactive personalized plans of care.

Working with colleagues from our labs and partners, we are monitoring real-time vital signs from wearable devices to ‘know’ the individuals better, analyzing the collective social-context of an elderly person and helping predict when he or she may have trouble with daily living activities so preventative measures can be prescribed.

Caring for the world’s growing elderly population is an honor and we are bringing together powerful insights and innovative news approaches that help synchronize care among family members and a host of clinicians, social workers and caregivers. The goal is to keep the elderly independent, healthy, active and supported with everything they need to enjoy these special years.

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