It is not hard to find elderly people around Sydney gathering in parks and recreational areas to relax and spend time with their friends. This seems to be especially common within the Chinese community as social encounters and spending time with friends appears to be a quintessential part of day to day life.
Alzheimer’s is a disease of the brain that results in the die off of parts of the brain. These die offs cause a loss in cognitive function of the patient that can have catastrophic effects on quality of life. In more advanced cases alzheimer’s suffers can deteriorate to the point of mistaking identities and become very confused and disorientated. It is important to take into account the significant mental toll this disease has on a sufferers cares and loved ones. It is possible for the Alzheimer’s patient to be happy and content while having no knowledge of who they really are or who the people around them are. I interviewed a 70 year old sufferer of early onset Alzheimer’s to gain an understanding on the disease that effects so many elderly people. It was immediately evident that the interviewee’s social interaction with his friends and family has been dramatically affected by the disease. When first diagnosed with early onset alzheimer’s what followed was a lack of confidence and fear of judgement which remains a daily struggle. Once a socialite who was well known in a small surfing town where he raised 2 kids he now finds it very difficult to do any of the social things he loved because he worries that his disease is a Burdon or embarrassment. Moreover when I steered the conversation towards potential innovations to breach the gap I was met with a fear that many solutions make the sufferer feel more segregated than confident.
What was particularly interesting was that the interviewee best and most loyal friend since the diagnosis is his dog, who he very rarely is seen without. This is common amongst alzheimer’s sufferers as dogs are very compassionate and loyal while not being able to judge or ridicule their human counterparts. I believe this is where the opportunity for innovation lies in helping assist alzheimer’s patients remain social and happy despite their illness.
Jim Beard, 2016.
Hodin, M. 2015, How China can Deal with its Rapidly Aging Population, The Fiscal Times, N/A, viewed 18 October 2016,<http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/Columns/2015/11/03/How-China-Can-Deal-Its-Rapidly-Aging-Population>.