Tag Archives: france

Wine Around the World 2017: Creating futuristic answers to aging issues in France

This series of blog posts by author Patti Digh will focus on aging in the countries whose wines we will taste at our Wine Around the World event on Thursday, October 12, 2017. Purchase tickets here! Wine Around the World 2017.

Creating futuristic answers to aging issues in France

Traditionally, it is considered natural among the French for senior relatives to be cared for by the family. In accordance with the law, children are required to provide for their aging parents.

This, in particular, explains why old people’s homes and retirement homes are less common in France than in other Western countries. However, this has begun to change.

A recent survey in France confirms that 90 percent of people aged 50 or older would prefer to live in their own homes as long as possible. A quarter of those over 85, though, are already in some form of assisted living, which amounts to around 450,000 people.

One company is creating a technological approach to meeting those increasing needs: A robot called Kompaï, from France-based Robosoft, features a touch-screen display on an easel and a bowling ball–sized head with a “face.” Although the face is currently just for emotional comfort, future versions will light up and show expressions.

The vision for Kompaï is as follows: Family members would call the robot via Skype. The robot would then use ultrasonic sensors to detect the location of the person being called and navigate to that person, who answers the Skype video conference call via Kompaï’s multitouch tablet PC and Webcam. Kompaï could likewise be used as an interface to Facebook or some other social network. Interactive speech recognition would be available to help elderly or otherwise dependent people access the Internet using a simple graphic and tactile interface.

Kompaï could also store a person’s daily schedule and shopping lists, and access online calendars or weather. Robosoft is now being tested in hospitals, geriatric centers, and homes in France, Hungary and Austria to see how the technology is accepted.

Robosoft is looking to partner with companies that make wireless physiological sensors worn by a robot’s owner that could communicate blood pressure, pulse, body temperature and other data via Bluetooth to the robot, which would then relay that information to the person’s doctor.

In this way, the needs of France’s aging population might be met more efficiently.

Wine Around the World 2016: France

This series of blog posts by author Patti Digh will focus on issues of aging in the countries whose wines we will taste at our Wine Around the World event on October 6, 2016. There are a limited number of tickets left. Don’t miss this unforgettable event! Purchase online or stop by our office at 105 King Creek Blvd, Hendersonville, NC.

TRAGEDY IN FRANCE SPURS NATIONAL REFORM FOR THE ELDERLY

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Connected homes, communities, and cities are essential to creating age-friendly environments; and adapting housing is a first step in a “prevention approach” that ensures the health and wellbeing of older people in their homes. In Europe, communities are looking at housing solutions that safeguard the needs of older adults and also provide housing and services in a new way.

In the region of Aquitaine, France, a local initiative finances home modifications for older people on lower incomes. In partnership with a housing organization, pension funds, and insurance companies, the initiative renovates existing housing to the meet the needs of older residents, at an average cost of 7,000 euros (9,100 dollars). In the city of Boé in that region, they are adapting residential parks for ease of mobility and access to urban transport systems.

These kinds of changes are necessary because the population aged 65 and older is rapidly growing in France. In the mid-2000s, about 16% of their population was 65 and older. The share of the French population 65 and older will reach about 25% in 2030 and nearly 30% in 2050. The sheer demographic weight of people aged 85 and older will rise even faster, increasing from about 1 million people in the mid-2000s to about 2.5 million in 2030. Finally, over the same period, the number of centennials will likely quadruple, rising from about 15,000 to 60,000.

One of the main factors in this aging trend is the decline in fertility. Like most other advanced industrial countries, from the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s, France witnessed a steep decline in the total fertility rate, though it has since stabilized. The long-standing French tradition of family-friendly public policy and, more recently, improvements to child care and family benefits that facilitate work–family balance are likely to explain this increase in fertility. Even so, France’s fertility rate still remains lower than the net reproduction rate and contributes to population aging in that country.

An increase in life expectancy is the other major factor in population aging. From 1800 to 1900 in France, the average life expectancy rose from 30 to about 45 years. In 2004, the average life expectancy reached 80 years. One key piece of demographic information that is missing concerns the growing ethnic diversity of the older population. This question is difficult in France, in part because French census questions do not refer to ethnicity or “race,” a situation related to a strong political opposition against “ethnic statistics,” as they are known in France, which derives from the universalistic, “color blind” political culture at the core of the French Republican model. But as many researchers know, aging is not a “color blind” experience, and knowledge about this reality can have direct policy implications.

A 2003 heat wave created a major political shock-wave in France, as it resulted in the death of 15,000 older persons. Limited access to air conditioning, as well as urban pollution, social isolation, and a lack of experience in handling such heat waves, led to dehydration and excessive sun exposure, which largely accounted for the high number of casualties. This traumatic episode helped push aging onto the policy agenda.

As a result, the French government launched an ambitious Aging and Solidarity Plan, granting massive investments for the construction or renovation of nursing homes as well as the development of new long-term care services. Other French policy initiatives included a national campaign against elder abuse and the “Bien Vieillir” (Age Well) National Plan, to promote healthy aging among people aged 55–75. A 5-year Alzheimer Plan was launched to support research, improve care, and both inform and mobilize citizens regarding this issue. Other public health initiatives launched that can directly affect older people, without necessarily targeting them directly. These initiatives include a plan against pain (Plan Douleur), a plan for palliative care, and a plan for suicide prevention.

Aging Around the World: France

by Patti Digh, Council on Aging for Henderson County Board Member

In this series, we are exploring the norms around aging in each of the countries that will be represented at our Wine Around the World event on October 22, 2015. There are tickets left, but they’re going fast. Tickets can be purchased at our office or online here: coa.eventbrite.

Old Age is Relative

Frequently, the average life expectancy in a given region determines what age counts as “old.”

For example, in the United States, where the average life expectancy is over 78 years, people are not considered “old” until they are in their sixties or seventies.

However, in Chad the average life expectancy is less than 49 years. People in their thirties or forties are therefore already middle-aged or “old.”

These variations in people’s perceptions of who is considered elderly indicates that notions of youth and age are culturally constructed. There is thus no such thing as a universal age for being considered old. This concept of “old” is also influenced by cultural norms and stereotypes of “old” in various cultures.

Let’s journey to France to see what “old” means there, and what “rights” the elderly have there.

Elder Rights in France

WAW-France-blogpostA new Elderly Rights Law passed in China wags a finger at adult children, warning them to “never neglect or snub elderly people” and mandating that they visit their elderly parents often, regardless of how far away they live. The law includes enforcement mechanisms, too: Offspring who fail to make such trips to mom and dad face potential punishment ranging from fines to jail time.

Western cultures tend to be youth-centric, emphasizing attributes like individualism and independence. This relates back to the Protestant work ethic, which ties an individual’s value to his or her ability to work — something that diminishes in old age. Anthropologist Jared Diamond, who has studied the treatment of the elderly across cultures, has said the geriatric in countries like the U.K. and U.S. live “lonely lives separated from their children and lifelong friends.” As their health deteriorates, the elderly in these cultures often move to retirement communities, assisted living facilities, and nursing homes.

It’s difficult to imagine such an Elderly Rights Law being a legislative priority in many Western cultures. France did, however, pass a similar decree in 2004 (Article 207 of the Civil Code) requiring its citizens to keep in touch with their geriatric parents. It was only enacted following two disturbing events, though: One was the publication of statistics revealing France had the highest rate of pensioner suicides in Europe, and the other was the aftermath of a heat wave that killed 15,000 people — most of them elderly, and many of whom had been dead for weeks before they were found.

In France, the elderly receive a payment similar to Social Security, which increases according to the recipient’s income and care needs. But these insurance programs only provide financial support, and do little, if anything, to address what the Chinese call the “spiritual needs” of the old. China’s law, therefore, was intended to exert moral pressure on sons and daughters to attend to their parents — seeing retired parents, that legislation makes clear, is your job.

What does the Council on Aging Henderson County do that reflects the values of France around aging? While the Council on Aging primarily focuses on providing tangible support for the elderly — with food programs like Meals on Wheels — contact through social workers and volunteers provides the social, human connection that’s equally important.