The Canberra Times

50 Plus Lifestyle and LivingAdvertising Feature

The freedom to simply live your lifeAdvertising Feature

Dr Caroline Foreman says a MedicAlert ID and record is always accessible to give first responders your full story in an emergency so they can treat you more effectively when seconds count. Photo: Supplied

If you're like me then you're desperate to get out of your house and just go somewhere, especially with borders opening and a new phase of freedom.

Perhaps you want to go on a road trip, camping, or maybe you're planning Christmas with your extended family. But with these rediscovered freedoms come the need to control risk and anxiety for the many Australians with hidden health issues.

Having a health condition, allergy or illness can be daunting when getting out and about and with the past months of restrictions, it would be understandable if you were feeling a little overwhelmed.

The MedicAlert service could be the answer to bringing back your confidence to get out and really enjoy life.

It's been a while since I was on an aeroplane, but I'll never forget our family holiday to Vietnam. As we touched down there was an urgent call for any first responders on board, to assist a very sick passenger. As I approached, I saw a man in his 60s.

He seemed puffed with a clammy greyish appearance. I thought: could it be a heart attack?

He was making a strange repeating movement with his jaw. Perhaps a seizure, I wondered? Airway was clear, but he was breathing with shallow breaths.

His pulse was faster and weaker than usual. He was talking in another language and seemed distressed.

What next? Perhaps diabetes, perhaps epilepsy - has he had seizures before?

Maybe he has atrial fibrillation? I wondered what medications he may be on and if they were in his hand luggage. If he had a pacemaker, was it a defibrillator as well?

Had this man ever had any heart disease in the past? What if he was on a blood thinner and was bleeding internally?

The man's friend didn't know any of his medical history. I had to go with what I had, which wasn't much.

Reassuring the man that help was coming, I put the oxygen on him, and he slowly began to relax.

The paramedics came on board and I explained what I'd seen and done, but without knowing all of his information I couldn't add much.

Diagnosis is not always clear. There can be a lot of guesswork, even with the extensive training we have as medical professionals.

Patients can present with a range of seemingly unrelated symptoms that can fit more than one illness or condition. Without all the information, we are in the dark.

When a patient is in distress or cannot communicate, having information at hand saves precious time and can even save a life.

A MedicAlert medical ID would have answered a lot of my questions and given me a starting point to know what to, or just as importantly, what not to do.

Emergency doctors face this every day. Patient history and current medications give a background and depth of understanding for first responders, saving precious time and leading to faster, more appropriate treatment.

Having those details easily accessible is where MedicAlert makes the difference.

MedicAlert members can choose to have their most vital health information engraved on their medical ID.

If more information is needed, first responders and emergency doctors can access the MedicAlert 24/7 emergency response service or the patient's MedicAlert membership card for detailed supporting information from their member record.

The man was lucky this time that it was a slow unfolding of events and the information to treat him was later discovered in a hospital setting.

Emergency events can happen quickly, and some conditions require immediate action.

A MedicAlert ID and record is always accessible to give first responders your full story so that they can treat you more effectively when seconds count.

You get the freedom to live your life knowing that MedicAlert will speak for you when you can't speak for yourself.

Do smart seniors still need to purchase a smartphone?Advertising Feature

If a senior can answer a smartphone, chances are they can find more use with it like staying connected to family and friends. Photo: Shutterstock

Smartphones have become a crucial part of our daily lives and are an important piece of technology for seniors, especially those isolated or vulnerable.

However, there is no one particular mobile device to suit every elderly person.

As with anyone else, the choice of phone for a senior really comes down to a personal level of digital confidence and the ability to use the device. But what if you just want a mobile that's simple to use, easy to navigate and lets you make a quick call in times of stress?

According to Denis Gallagher of Australian leading consumer advocacy group CHOICE, there are several options available when looking for a mobile for people with low vision, people who are hard of hearing, or people who'd simply prefer a talk and text device.

"Simple mobile phones strip most things back to the bare essentials, and typically do away with touchscreens," Denis said.

"Because of this they tend to have a retro, simple design, clear navigation tools and menus [and] a far lower price point, generally, compared to most smartphones."

However, according to Denis, you might also be surprised at the ability of some of the more popular smartphones to provide useful assistance to seniors.

What should you look for?

  1. Desktop charging cradle - removes the need to insert a cable and physically plug in the phone for charging.
  2. Dedicated speed-dial buttons - usually available on mobiles with a number keypad rather than a touch screen, can be handy when you need to call a few people often.
  3. Emergency SMS - this function can send a predetermined message for help.
  4. Emergency call key - lets you contact a predetermined number or numbers. Simply store the emergency numbers you wish to call.
  5. A phone with a standard headphone jack lets you use headphones and may be preferred by those with limited hearing.
  6. Hearing-aid support - the microphone (M) rating and T-coil (T) rating determine how well your hearing aid will work with your mobile phone. Look for a phone with an M3 or M4 rating. If you prefer telecoil coupling, look for a phone with T3 or T4 rating.
  7. Maximum ringtone and speakerphone volume can indicate how well someone with limited hearing can effectively use the phone either held to the ear or in hands-free speakerphone mode.
  8. Receive MMS - this feature allows you to view photos and/or listen to sound sent to your phone providing important connection with family and friends.

Finally, if cost is a concern Denis said many of these options are also available with low budget smartphones.

Save money in a draught proof homeAdvertising Feature

Udaya Kumar (left) and Ray Buckley (right) bring their combined expertise to Draught Proof Canberra. Photo: Supplied

Between the two of them, Ray Buckley and Udaya Kumar have helped roughly 2,000 Canberra households to be more efficient and save on energy costs.

Having previously worked for charities and the public sector, the pair combine their scientific and trades expertise as Draught Proof Canberra.

As large amounts of Canberra' housing stock showing signs of age, in many cases the dwellings are letting in air, as gaps form between windows and walls and around doors. The effects of this are keenly felt in Canberra, as co-owner of Draught Proofing Canberra and environmental scientist Udaya Kumar explains.

"In Canberra we have extreme weather, from minus seven to 45 degrees Celsius."

What this means is that while in more temperate climates small leaks and gaps may not be an issue, in Canberra air flowing into the house can have a significant impact.

To address this, Draught Proofing Canberra provides a range of services that regulate the indoor temperature of a home. Following an assessment of the structure, Draught Proofing Canberra can recommend or implement fixes such as sealing windows and doors or filling gaps that may appear in the walls.

Ray Buckley, who has a background as a qualified tradesperson, highlights that small fixes can make a big impact on energy costs.

"Our services reduce energy costs in your home by minimising drafts. We exclude drafts on the outside of the home as well as on the inside of the home."

Creating a more thermally efficient home can have a noticeable impact on household bills. Preventing draughts of cold air from entering the home reduces the need to run heaters in winter, while insulation limits how hot a home gets in summer, similarly reducing the need for air-conditioning for an extended period of time.

Draught Proofing Canberra can also advise on creating zones within the home so that energy use is concentrated in the places where the occupants are most and money is not wasted heating rooms that are not in use.

In addition to saving on energy bills, a more comfortable home helps to improve its occupants' health and wellbeing.

Avoiding temperature variation between hot and cold rooms places less stress on the cardiovascular and respiratory systems as residents move between these areas. Similarly, preventing cool, damp air from entering the home reduces the chance of mould.

All together, this makes for a more sustainable home, both financially, for the occupants who spend less on heating, and for the environment, but reducing excess energy usage.

Don't become a crime statisticAdvertising Feature

A home security system can help prevent crime and keep your family and your valuables safe. Photos: Shutterstock

Security and safety are always one of the highest concerns for communities and individuals alike. When people think of security, more often than not images of screen doors and windows on houses and alarm systems come to mind, however security is no longer as simple as you think.

The security industry continues to grow with homes, vehicles, phones, online accounts, and even personal security now being required in all walks of life.

In 2018, Roy Morgan research recorded that 58 per cent of Australians felt crime was a growing problem in their community, while 45 per cent felt less safe than they used to.

In 2020 those numbers had increased to 60 per cent saying crime was a growing problem, and 48 per cent feeling less safe than they used to.

Security industry expert, Steve Garlick, said he wasn't surprised by the figures. "More and more people are worried about where communities are headed in terms of safety," he said.

"Whether it is the home being broken into or people hacking their email or social media accounts, the issue of security is simply part of our everyday lives."

According to ABS statistics 2.5 per cent of Australians have been the victim of a household break in, while 4.6 per cent have experienced malicious property damage, however this actually represents a fall in the levels of crime. The number of motor vehicle thefts and theft from a motor vehicle have also decreased almost 2 per cent over the past decade.

Steve said that the increase in people's concerns about crime could actually be helping solve the issue. "The more that people are worried, the more they try to address their concerns," he said.

"People are increasingly installing home security systems with alarms and cameras, using technology such as facial recognition to access phones and laptops, and even using simple things like dashcam in their cars to help deter would-be criminals."

"In this day and age, technology is providing all sorts of solutions to growing safety concerns but people need to ensure that they are using it correctly for it to have an impact, for example hidden cameras might help catch a thief, but a visible security camera system might help prevent the theft altogether."

While good security measures can help keep your family, your home and your valuables safe, they can also have other benefits.

Insurance companies often offer reduced insurance rates and premiums for people with home security systems or vehicles fitted with alarms and kill switches, while even simple security measures can increase the value of your home or vehicle.

A small investment in security could help protect your family, your home and your possessions from crime.

Helping to inspire digital confidenceAdvertising Feature

This seniors tech program, specially designed for those aged over 65, holds a graduation ceremony once participants are confident enough in using an up-to-date device. Photo: Supplied

We can all agree that technology has fast become an integral part of our lives, for both young and old.

Seniors are being encouraged by well meaning family members and the community as a whole to get online and become savvy users of technology.

The recent global pandemic has highlighted how useful technology is in keeping us informed and connected to our loved ones.

The recent global pandemic has highlighted how useful technology is in keeping us informed and connected to our loved ones.

Having a reasonably up-to-date mobile phone, laptop or tablet can help prevent loneliness and isolation and can also be a great emergency tool.

In most cases, learning from an in-store demo just isn't enough.

Many community service organisations run programs to teach seniors how to use technology confidently in everyday life.

Neha Shukla coordinates a seniors tech program in her local area which she describes as "an innovative technology training program especially designed for those aged over 65".

The program supports first time users who don't own a device as well as those who already have a device but need some support to become confident users.

It covers basic key skills such as using emails, video calls, fundamentals of social media, online shopping and banking, with a heavy focus on online safety.

"The training is adapted for each participant and to cater for all skills levels from beginners to those who have prior experience but need to sharpen their digital skills," Neha said.

"For those who don't have a device, an android tablet is provided to eligible participants.

"Community volunteers provide support and training to help boost the confidence of the elderly in using their digital skills."

Since the program started in 2019, almost 500 seniors have joined and Cheryle Leggett is one of them.

"I appreciated that the course allowed me to learn at my own pace. The trainers were so helpful, so I didn't feel intimidated to ask the most basic questions. I now understand more about technology and how it can be used," she said.

Bobbi Flower, 81, was one of the many program participants who used their technology skills to stay in contact with their family via regular video calls during the COVID-19 lockdowns.

He said while it was difficult to not have his grandson over for visits, they were able to talk every day through video calls.

"We shared our day's activities with each other," he said.