Preparing for that transition to your golden years

The article below appeared in the February 27 issue of Health with Perdana, a regular column in The Star by Perdana University faculty members. This week’s article is contributed by Ir. Prof. Dr. Leong Wai Yie, Director of Perdana University’s Centre for Research Excellence and a Fellow of The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) UK.

In the evolution of telecommunications, 5G is the fifth-generation innovation standard for broadband networks, which started transforming the world in 2019.

5G is a significant evolution of today’s 4G LTE networks.

5G networks can support speeds up to 10 gigabits per second – 100 times faster than 4G.

It can be implemented in low-band, mid-band or high-band millimetre waves of 24 GHz up to 54 GHz.

It is expected to be able to support up to one million connected devices per .38 square miles, compared to around 2,000 connected devices per .38 square miles with 4G.

5G networks are anticipated to have more than 1.7 billion subscribers worldwide by 2025.

This innovation is also expected to have an impact on the healthcare industry.

Telehealth monitoring

We used to only have one choice when we fell ill and needed medical help: travel to the nearest clinic or hospital to see a healthcare professional.

For people in rural areas, the travelling time, location and distance is a concern.

For example, those living in the remote, interior areas of Sarawak can be several hours’ travel time away from the nearest clinic, and if the river waters are low, they might not even be able to travel out of their village.

With the development of telehealth, it is possible to obtain medical care from our homes.

Doctors can provide medical advice via a video call, and even monitor patients remotely via smartphones, fitness and other monitoring devices.

With Covid-19 being of concern, this remote healthcare support would also help to reduce patient exposure to infections by minimising in-person visits to doctors or healthcare facilities.

Patients can stay at home and order their prescriptions online for delivery to their doorstep.

5G technology will support terminal-to-terminal communications, making communications easier and faster.

Remote monitoring, in particular, which can involve complex image processing techniques, methodologies and advanced technologies, require the higher network speeds 5G promises.

Internet of Medical Things

The Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) is the network of Internet-associated clinical devices, equipment infrastructure and software applications used to connect healthcare information technology.

Also known as the Internet of Things (IoT) in medical services, IoMT permits remote and distant devices to safely transfer data over the Internet to permit fast and adaptable assessment of clinical information.

The quality of network coverage and space over which such data is transferred could affect this process.

5G technology could help overcome the quality and issues of IoMT, including the concerns of digitisation and data transformation.

Handling Big Data

With wearable devices, healthcare professionals can monitor and screen patients from a distance, accumulating continuous information for evaluation, which would allow for customised medical services.

The massive amount and variety of data that this can generate requires systematic organisation, administration and governance.

In the long run, such devices will be restricted by the limitations of networks in dealing with such big data.

A poor network could affect a healthcare professional’s ability to obtain the necessary health information on a patient, especially with more processes going online.

5G promises to be the solution to this problem, allowing medical services suppliers to convey therapy consistently to constantly sick patients across the quickest network accessible.

High-quality 5G connectivity systems can also enhance collaboration between medical professionals, allowing them to work together on things like scans to improve diagnosis and patient care.

Sensor innovation

Developments in medical equipment engineering have enabled patients to perform basic health screening from the comfort of their own home.

These advancements in medical services occur through the information acquired, accumulated and aligned via sensors.

This information is then communicated to healthcare experts for assessment and analysis.

In this context, the 5G networks play a very important role to allow for better communication between the sensors.

The combination of various IoMT devices and sensors assists doctors in assessing their patients more thoroughly and customising an appropriate course of management.

Artificial Intelligence

Many medical services are using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to assess and and decide on treatments for patients.

AI can also be used to predict which patients are likely to develop certain conditions or diseases.

This is a lot of information that requires a continuous and high transfer speed network like 5G.

Moreover, healthcare providers frequently need to access such information from their smartphones.

By moving to a 5G network, they can utilise AI instruments to help evaluate and manage their patients from wherever they may be in the clinic or hospital.

Preparing for change

5G definitely has the potential to have a big impact on the healthcare industry.

Healthcare professionals can help patients and collaborate with their colleagues via advanced, precise, productive, helpful and cost-viable methodologies and technologies.

The use of 5G networks can help evolve the medical care industry to the next stage of healthcare – a change that is particularly significant today, given how the Covid-19 pandemic has put a huge burden on medical services frameworks all over the world.

By empowering this innovation through 5G networks, medical care frameworks can work on the nature of care and patient experience, and reduce the medical expenses.

Rather than just responding to patients’ conditions, 5G networks can enable suppliers to give more customised and preventive methods due consideration.

One issue that might hamper this is the long history of fear that 5G radiation poses dangers to human health.

This is not a common occurrence at all, and is mainly of concern only to those who work on large sources of non-ionising radiation devices and instruments.

In the coming years, 5G technology is expected to be scalable and energy efficient, and will pioneer a massive IoT world. The article below appeared in the February 13 issue of Health with Perdana, a regular column in The Star by Perdana University faculty members. This week’s article is contributed by Dr. Sangeeta Kaur, a Senior Lecturer in Epidemiology and Public Health medicine at the Perdana University-Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland.

Every stage in life brings an individual to a new beginning, especially when transitioning between their primary roles in life (e.g. child, adult, spouse, parent and so on).

Factors such as lifestyle, educational achievement, social class and health behaviours mediate between early-life social situations and one’s health.

For example, childhood adversity might restrict educational opportunities, limit socioeconomic wealth and resources, and influence health behaviours, thus resulting in poorer health later on in life.

Hence, early childhood experiences are crucial, especially when interacting with family or societal members, who can be critical players in a child’s future aspirations.

When one becomes a young adult, such aspirations may alter based on the possibilities available to the person.

By the time young adults leave school, many are told that higher education will prepare them to tackle and embrace the challenges and opportunities the world has to offer.

Many young people may struggle, yet aim to do their best, while eagerly preparing themselves to start the next phase of their lives.

The thought of independence and future aspirations can transform young adults in later life.

Then, as they marry and form their own household, their dreams and aspirations may change again to align with their own family’s wellbeing.

Hence, a new journey begins when one settles down and starts a family.

Once young adults transition into mid-life, starting between the ages of 35 to 45 and ending at 60 or 65, they may face different priorities.

With their children leaving the home and becoming independent in their turn, suddenly, these older adults are left with questions or concerns over what comes next.

Meeting the challenges

At times like this, one starts to face issues that revolve around psychological, sociological or biological events, signalling either the beginning or the end of this period of life.

Some factors of concern revolve around job insecurity, exiting from the labour market or what retirement means.

Hence, suddenly, instead of an exciting transition into a new phase of life, most of us are left with the challenges of maintaining an independent lifestyle with declining physical and mental health, and financial instability, hovering over us.

These concerns are daunting and an ageing individual can become overwhelmed with fear of what the future holds.

Countries and governments are aware of such issues and are striving to tackle the unavoidable challenges with this form of demographic transition.

Such national strategic plans are usually aligned with global initiatives like the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to manage such changes.

One such SDG emphasises age-friendly and responsive healthcare systems, which is vital to ensure the ageing population’s quality of life.

However, quality of life doesn’t just revolve around health; it must also address individuals’ overall wellbeing.

Thus, many innovative strategies are in place to provide a range of coordinated services that will address the complex needs of this ageing global population.

Here, the World Health Organization (WHO) is tasked with bringing together governments, civil society, international agencies, professionals, academia, the media and the private sector, to align their respective efforts with the SDGs.

National action points

All of this is gearing up for the Decade of Healthy Ageing, observed from 2021 to 2030.

This means that countries and governments must ensure fundamental human rights and wellbeing by addressing four main action points.

Point one: Create an age-friendly environment in current societies.

This refers to an enabling environment that permits us to grow, live, work, play and age in an environment which will foster such goals.

Secondly, combatting ageism.

This refers to the evidence that indicates societies often stereotype (how we think), prejudice (how we feel) and discriminate (how we act) people based on their age.

Thirdly, focusing on integrated care.

The quality of care should be safe, affordable and adequate, with access to essential medicines, vaccines, dental care and assistive technology all made available to those in need.

At the same time, financial hardship due to medical expenses needs to be managed well.

Finally, the fourth point looks at long-term care.

All these action points are crucial and needed, especially for the retired.

These action points are in place because evidence from the WHO 2021 report indicated that at least 14% of all people aged 60 years and over – more than 142 million people – are currently unable to meet all of their basic daily needs.

Individual responsibility

However, we cannot depend on the government’s efforts in sustaining care for our later life.

This brings the responsibility back onto individuals to ensure that they are equipped for such changes later in life.

So how does one prepare themselves for such changes?

What are the preparatory steps one can take to ensure a positive long-term impact on the nature of ageing?

Evidence indicates that those who engage in healthy behaviours throughout adulthood are likely to reap the benefits in later life.

But is an individual able to maintain healthy behaviours throughout life?

Let’s look at the current situation when one transitions into their fifties.

At the global level, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) – an international organisation that works to build better policies for better lives – projected that 22% of non-obese older adults aged 50-59 are more likely to be employed.

Now, this will be challenging in Malaysia, as half of our population below 40 years of age are already obese, according to the 2019 National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS).

In addition, in November 2020, the World Bank Malaysia report revealed that those aged 50 to 74 find it challenging to gain employment as more than half in this group struggle to secure a proper job, especially women.

An article on the discrimination in race and graduate hiring practices in Malaysia, published in the Journal of Asia Pacific Economy, also revealed that older adults belonging to minority groups have lower chances of securing an interview, compared with other groups.

Hence, the ability to have financial stability as an older adult in Malaysia is undoubtedly precarious.

Therefore, everyone must plan well and prepare themselves for changes in middle age.

Plan well

Such planning must address the above-mentioned four-action points for healthy ageing.

We must plan or advocate and actively ensure an age-friendly environment, change the perception of ageism, support the push for integrated care, and understand what options are in place for long-term care for an individual retiring at 65.

As individuals, communities and nations, we all must ensure that viable options are in place for us as we age.

Much effort is required to prepare Malaysians to re-envision the threshold from midlife to older adulthood.

There is a need to create dialogue around the normalcy of change and its pivotal role.

Older adults must increase their awareness of the intricacies of the ageing process.

In other words, one can reduce the intolerance for uncertainty by normalising it.

Being prepared for emerging elderhood is a step toward awareness and normalisation.

At the crux of identity formation and the role of uncertainty is the construction of a self-defining story.

The transitioning times during middle life can be daunting.

However, it is also a perfect opportunity to understand that the intersection of growth and decline will naturally occur during youth to late adulthood, which is unavoidable.

But the growth path, which means knowledge, experience and emotional regulation, are all essential skills that one must enhance as one ages.

A lot of focus will be on extreme simplicity, low-power consumption and pervasive coverage to reach challenging locations, as well as increased connection density so that networks can handle the massive number of devices deployed for IoT applications.

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