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Episode Flyer for #66: Aging in Place
Episode Flyer for #66: Aging in Place

Guest: Richard Streitz        Guest Title: Chief Operations Officer

Date: July 26, 2017            Guest Company:  Ruh Global Communications


Guest: Doug Foresta        Guest Title: Producer of Human Potential at Work with Debra Ruh

 Guest Company:  Stand Out and Be Heard            


[Intro music]


Debra Ruh:                             Hello everyone this is Debra Ruh, and you’re listening to Human Potential at Work, or watching Human Potential at Work on Facebook Live. Today I have a couple of people joining me that you might be familiar with, we have Doug Foresta who is my producer, he is also a podcast host himself, and working with us to make sure we increase our voice, and I also have Richard Steitz who is president and COO of Ruh Global Communications and he has been on the podcast in the future, so you can go to ruhglobal dot com and you can watch Richard’s podcast, which was about a year and a half ago. So welcome to the program Doug and Richard.

Doug Foresta:                       Thank you.

Debra Ruh:                             Today, we’re going to talk about aging in place, in the first place what does aging in place mean? And how does that tie into the disability conversation that we’re often happening, and is aging in place just a conversation that we’re having here in the United States, or is this a global phenomenon? So I’m going start by having Richard talk to us about what the definition of aging in place is, and then we’re going to send it over to you Doug to talk about what aging in place also means to you. So Richard?

Richard Steitz:                      Well you know, technically the definition of aging in place, per the US Center of Disease Control and Prevention defines it as the ability to live in one’s own home and community safely, independently and comfortably, regardless of age, income, and ability level.

Debra Ruh:                             Right.

Richard Streitz:                      So I think that really sort of wraps it up, and defines it pretty clearly. And there’s a lot of things, a lot of levels in that of course, but I think in a broad sense that really sort of nails as a definition to start from.

Debra Ruh:                             Right, and I love the abilities, because people do want to age in place, they don’t want to be stuck in some …

Richard Streitz:                      Right.

Debra Ruh:                             … facility because … yes, so Doug, tell us more about why you’re interested in this topic.

Doug Foresta:                       Sure. Absolutely, well you know as a … my background is in social work, and in therapy and I certainly have worked with many seniors over the years, who … first of all, we’re all, if we’re lucky, going to get older, and the US population is aging rapidly. In fact one of the things I found was really interesting is that are government is teaming up with Japan to see what lessons we can learn from Japan, because as we … in the previous episode Debra, I forget the numbers, but Japan has a staggering …

Debra Ruh:                             Staggering.

Doug Foresta:                       … Staggering number of older people, and so the boomer generation, as they move into retirement, the way that we learned about this in school was they called it, boomer generation, the pig and the python. They move through the different stages. That’s one way to think of them right?

Debra Ruh:                             Very [crosstalk 00:03:22] I guess.

Doug Foresta:                       So as they’ve moved through every developmental stage in life they have absolutely redefined what it means, and I think they’re going to continue to redefine what it means to retire, what it means to age, and we’ll talk about more of this, but also one of the things that’s really interesting to me, and I know to you Richard, and to you Debra as well, is how is technology going to impact the ability of this generation to age in place.

Debra Ruh:                             Yeah, and I know that my father-in-law who recently, he died this year, he was 91 years old and he was a medical doctor, and he worked a lot in his practice over the years in nursing homes, and so he told us, “I am going to age in my house, I am not going to assisted living …”, and he was just adamant about it. And we had some failures as we were walking that path, but the success that we had was, he actually did stay in his home through his entire life, and we felt good that we were able to honor that, but the challenges along the way were, including, he became deaf, they were overwhelming at times.

                                                      And so, I know there are 74 million baby boomers here in the United States now, that are aging and are, as you said Doug, have continued to redefine every single aspect of their life. I also think it’s interesting cause Richard and I were talking about this earlier about Japan, I might be wrong, but for some reason, I think the numbers are 131 million aging in Japan, and after the year 2050, 50% of Japanese will be over the age of 65. So just think about that for a moment, so 50% of your population is over 65, so some of them can work, but think about the burden that it put’s on the rest of society and everything else. And I know that Richard lived in Japan for a few years when he built a Disney property, so you have a very interesting aspect of that.

Richard Streitz:                      Yeah, exactly, when I was there, one of things that stood out as a very stark difference compared to being here in the states, was how they take care of their seniors, they have this cultural difference where over there, they work generationally in a single household, so you’ll have: grand-parents, parents, and children all living in the same household, and because that’s sort of built into their culture, there’s a much larger societal care system, sort of built into helping and assisting, individuals as they age and go through their life’s journey. So there is a lot of that.

                                                      The other thing that I found really interesting in Japan is of course because it’s a very tech driven society, they had a lot of technology that hadn’t broken into the US at the time yet, so there was a lot of this tech assisted aids to really help the families dealing with the aging. So, that was certainly a very interesting contrast that I observed, when I was there.

Doug Foresta:                       You know one of the things that’s really interesting, just to throw this out there, talking about geography, that I read, that I wasn’t aware of, is that although we talk about the aging population in the US, did you know that more than half of all retirees live in only nine states?

Debra Ruh:                             Oh, I did not …

Richard Streitz:                      I had not heard that.

Debra Ruh:                             … I did not know that.

Doug Foresta:                       Let me share with you, what they are, so it’s California, …

Debra Ruh:                             Florida?

Doug Foresta:                       … Florida, yes, very good, you are from Florida.

Debra Ruh:                             I’m a Floridian.

Doug Foresta:                       Yeah, California, Florida, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, and New Jersey. More than half of all seniors live in those nine states. I don’t know what that means.

Debra Ruh:                             I wonder, I know, that would be interesting to dig in, are they … I know Florida, just because I am from Florida, they have laws that are very supportive and helpful to people that are aging. I know Richard, you just relocated from California to Virginia.

Richard Streitz:                      Right, California also has a very strong supportive system for the aging in place individuals, that’s of course in, sort of, in transition right now with what’s going on, with funding and so forth. State by state, by state, so that may stay the same, it may get worse, that’s still to be seen. But certainly up to date, up to this date, there has been a tremendous amount of support built into what the California system does for seniors.

Debra Ruh:                             I would also say that I had heard, and I don’t have the statistics in front of me, but I heard that some Americans are choosing to retire overseas because, especially the Central American, we had a program with David Perez talking about Central America yesterday that’s gonna next week, but they are finding that the labor force is such that you can more effectively age at home, because you can actually afford to have somebody come in and assist you. And so there’s those variables that are happening with this topic as well, but I think, and you already brought this up Doug, the technology piece. That is fascinating, we were preparing for the interview, and Richard found an article on Huffington Post, that talked about the top 10 things that people to consider for aging for place, so I’ll turn it over to you Richard so you can talk about that.

Richard Streitz:                      Yeah, actually so this is an article that was published on Huff Post on May 4th, 2015. It was written by Ann Brenoff, so what’s interesting is that this was a couple years ago, right? So in looking at the general topic, we’ve certainly advanced a lot in some of these areas, but I think the areas that she identified are very compelling and still very pertinent to today. They’re not written in any specific order, but things like talking street signs, self driving cars, telemedicine, point of care monitoring, centralized medical records, automated caregivers, and use of robotics for assisting seniors, digital and audio monitors that are 24/7 to aid and assist emergency care and so forth, reduced mobility home devices to assist them, so like walking bathrooms and the chairs that go staircases and so forth, these sort of major devices and apps, the importance of apps and how they interact. For example, the smartphones, having apps on a single device to be able to navigate and control an entire household from a single tablet or smartphone.

                                                      So I think that list, even though it was from a couple years ago, I think it was pretty visionary in understanding how important those are. And in today’s dialogue that we hear, right now in the news, these elements are coming up. For example, the robotics, I know that Japan has recently just unveiled a robotic assistant for seniors that helps …

Doug Foresta:                       Yes.

Richard Streitz:                      … move individuals and rotates them in bed, and so forth. And so these are the sorts of technologies that we’re seeing develop that are really, really important for the senior community.

Debra Ruh:                             And I’ll say …

Doug Foresta:                       Yeah …

Debra Ruh:                             … go ahead Doug, oh sorry. One thing that, when we were talking about telemedicine, another thing the article mentioned was the driverless cars that we’ve talked about on the program, but I had a little tiny surgery this week, too much texting with the thumbs, when I was in the hospital, I was put in a place in the hospital where the patients that were having surgery, everybody was being put there, I don’t know what you call it, but I know it wasn’t a holding place, but they’re preparing us all for different surgeries.

Doug Foresta:                       Pre-Op.

Debra Ruh:                             Pre-Op, thank you, and there was, I could hear the patients around me because there were just curtains, and I remember thinking, my gosh I hope nobody has anything that’s contagious in here, and of course this is a very smart hospital, of course they didn’t, but I was talking to Richard about it, and Richard was saying that this really applies to the aging in place.

Doug Foresta:                       Right.

Debra Ruh:                             So I want to turn the mic over to you Doug, and then turn it over to Richard, and he can talk a little bit about what we’re seeing with some of this very interesting things, if I’m 91 years old, and I am hurt, or I’m really sick, is it the best thing for me to have somebody to get me in the car, drive me to my Doctor’s office, go through the patients that are sick there, or is there a better opportunity? So let me give the floor to you Doug and then we can pass it to Richard.

Doug Foresta:                       Sure, I’m just going to say that I’ve seen those videos, and if you haven’t, to anyone listening or watching this, if you’ve not seen them there’s video of these Japanese robots, and it is wild, I mean, they’re robots, and they pick the person up, and they move them, and it’s incredible, I mean, I don’t think we’re going to … I think just culturally, we are a very different culture than Japan, I don’t think most of us right now are going to want robots moving grandma and grandpa around. Even if the technology works, and it’s proven, I think we’re not necessarily comfortable with robots lifting grandma out of the tub, but we will one day get there, we’re a bit behind. The other thing I just wanted to say, just as a quick, one of the things that we need to remember and then we’ll go back to the piece about what you’re saying about, should we take people out of their homes, and take them to the doctor.

                                                      I think one of the challenges too, and this goes to the piece about the robots, there is the technology, and then there is the comfort level with the technology. So one of the challenges will be, and I know when I talk to people who are elders, and I say, “Oh your smart phone is going to be able to this and this.”, but many of them don’t have a smartphone or they look at it …

Debra Ruh:                             They don’t know how to use it.

Doug Foresta:                       … they don’t know how to use it, and they …

Debra Ruh:                             My mom cannot swipe her phone on, she’s tried over and over, she cannot swipe her phone on. Her iPhone.

Doug Foresta:                       She probably just gets frustrated and …

Debra Ruh:                             So she just doesn’t use it.

Doug Foresta:                       Right, so we’re going to have to think about, and this is assistive technology, we have to figure out how to make these technologies user friendly for the people that are going to use them that might not be able to see so well, hear so well, etc.

Debra Ruh:                             Right, right.

Richard Streitz:                      You know, very interesting about the robotics, one of the reasons why in Japan they thought it was important to develop such a device to assist, is to help the caregivers, many of the caregivers on a daily basis, move a patient 40 times a day. So as a result it can become, there’s fatigue and stress, and on the job injuries and so forth, that sort of lay on top of the harsh reality of being a caregiver and the caregiving industry. So some of these technologies are developed really for the purpose of making the job easier, as well as providing some level of safety. So you know, it’s toward the end of the day, you’ve moved someone, or a number of individuals, 40, 50 times already. You’re going to be a little more fatigued and maybe that person slips out of your arms, because the individual has just lost strength, from moving all the other individuals. So these sort of things, a robot of course doesn’t feel the fatigue and doesn’t go through all that.

                                                      But I think you are absolutely right, we are a long way off, I think, from, here in the states, from being able to adopt that level of technology, but it’s baby steps. The other thing I think that’s interesting about that, is that it’s really a generational issue. I think the younger generation is going to be far more open to that.

Doug Foresta:                       Correct.

Richard Streitz:                      So the transition of that philosophy, really is based on attrition, unfortunately. As we, the older generation and us, maybe the generation behind us, start having that natural attrition, that might …

Doug Foresta:                       Are you referring to death Richard? I like that, natural attrition. It sounds so much more, yeah, less scary.

Richard Streitz:                      But I think that’s just a harsh reality, I think of how societies work right?

Doug Foresta:                       Sure.

Richard Streitz:                      It’s the changeover of ideas, philosophies, and cultures …

Debra Ruh:                             And acceptance.

Richard Streitz:                      … as time moves on, and acceptance. So I think the younger generation certainly is going to be far more open to that, in years and years to come.

Doug Foresta:                       Oh, I think they’ll expect it. I think they’ll expect it.

Richard Streitz:                      Exactly.

Debra Ruh:                             Right, I agree. And I don’t have the statistic, but I heard a troubling thing that many people die in bathtubs, many elderly people, I heard a really sad story about an elderly woman living with her husband. She was in the bathtub, and she started slipping in the tub, and her husband came in to help and they both drown, because he was trying to pull her out, and they actually drown. And it’s a very common thing, it’s very sad, I think there’s a lot of opportunities technology can bring to us, but let’s shift the conversation just a little bit, and let’s talk about how this ties into not only elderly care, but how is this tying into including all of us, including people with disabilities.

                  You look at someone like my daughter Sarah who’s 30, born with trisomy 21, commonly referred to as Down Syndrome. Sarah can’t drive, and so there are things that Sarah wants to do as a young woman of 30, and she doesn’t want to have her parents drive her everywhere. So I totally understand how that, the driverless cars would be advantageous to her and I understand how it would have been very advantageous to my father-in-law, 91, who went to a doctor’s appointment at one o’clock, unfortunately, it was one o’clock in the morning and no one was there, and he was confused and didn’t think that it was pitch black, and so we were just very, obviously very concerned and we had his driver’s license taken away, which was sad and unempowering, there’s a lot of these things happening, but what we’re a


[outro music]


You’ve been listening to Human Potential at Work with Debra Ruh. To learn more about Debra and how she can help your organization visit If you’ve enjoyed today’s episode and you want to make sure that you don’t miss any future epsiodes, go to itunes and subscribe to Human Potential at Work. Thanks so much for listening and we’ll be back next week with a new episode.