Fresh Approaches, Smart Solutions for Serving the Aging Population

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As a preview to the article "Keeping Up With Senior Evolution: Meeting the Changing Needs of an Aging Population," which will appear in the February issue of The O&P EDGE, this edition of EDGE Direct includes insight about what the future may hold for the senior citizen population and the approaches to their O&P care.

Kevin Carroll, MS, CP, FAAOP, vice president of prosthetics for Hanger Clinic, Austin, Texas, stresses the value of education in raising awareness about diabetes and promoting dietary changes at a time when many processed and packaged foods are loaded with sugar, it costs more to buy a bottle of water than a bottle of soda, and school cafeterias serve lunches that famed chef Jamie Oliver called "life-threatening." "It's going to take a village, schools, churches, everyone, to turn this epidemic around," Carroll says.

"We need to look at countries that are doing it right," advises Mary Ann Miknevich, MD, clinical assistant professor and associate residency director, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Swedish perceptions of a nearby restaurant may be expressed in terms of taking a "30-minute walk," instead of a "five-minute drive" like we often see in the United States, she says. She points to bicycle lanes appearing in many cities, and programs still in their infancy but thriving, such as the SilverSneakers programs that stress preventive fitness. Miknevich also cites approaches that use traditional healthcare reimbursement programs in nontraditional ways, such as LIFE (Living Independence for the Elderly) Pittsburgh, which provides home care and home health aide services, healthcare, and adult daycare at no additional cost to qualified older adults who wish to remain independent in their own homes. This program is modeled on the San Francisco-based On Lok programs designed to support healthcare models for the well-being of the elderly, including indigent patients, who would otherwise be living in nursing homes, through education, advocacy, and innovation in services and financing.

Miknevich anticipates that senior care will soon benefit from the development of 3D printers capable of creating devices, including O&P devices, to aid senior citizens at low cost, using innovative materials such as plastics, with built-in electronic capabilities, and rubber that ranges from very rigid to very flexible.

"We're seeing companies that are 3D printing really cool-looking prosthetic covers, and I think it's just a matter of time before we're going to see more of that technology in our industry," she says.

Gerald Stark, MSEM, CPO/L, FAAOP, senior upper limb clinical specialist for Ottobock, Austin, advises O&P practitioners to focus on mentoring Medicare and third-party payers about senior reimbursement and cautions, "A mentor does not get anxious and does not react emotionally. We have to be very patient-specific, very detailed, and we must employ a statistical measure that is specific, measurable, attainable, results-oriented, and time-based. The best way to overcome our anxiety is to get started today and go about the business of adapting and succeeding in this ever-changing environment."

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