If there must be wrinkels, let it be happy ones Oct 01, 2018
Mevrouw Judith URLINGS
Almost 700 million people are now over the age of 60. To all these elderly, a happy “International Day of Older Persons”. The silver generation is a true treasure for our society, something that we at UHasselt couldn’t agree more with and are well aware off. Therefore, our research also focuses on them and how we can improve their lives.
AN AGEING SOCIETY
“We are always the same age inside.” – Gertrude Stein.
Today we meet Judith Urlings, a Ph.D. student at Hasselt University who investigates the impact of ageing on your driving skills and if these can be improved through training. “Elders are often really safe drivers, with tons of experience. However, due to ailments as a consequence of old age, like for example cataract, Parkinson’s disease or the side effects of medication, their driving capabilities can deteriorate. The question of my Ph.D. is how we can help these elderly and guarantee that they can remain a functioning part of our society”
The ageing of our society is in full progress. In Flanders, Belgium, almost 1 in 5 is older than 65 and by 2030 this will increase to a staggering 1 in 4. Therefore, testing the driving skills of elders through a driving test will become inefficient as well as too expensive.
“With my research I try to come up with alternative and more pragmatic roads to this approach. I define which kind of small tests physicians could use to gain insight into the behavior of the senior on the road. If there are abnormalities and concerns the physician can then refer the senior to a real driving test. In addition to this I also look at the potential of self-screening using questionnaires and how training influences driving skills. Overall the conclusion is that being consciously engaged with your driving behavior does in fact influence your skills in a positive way.”
LEARN FROM EXPERIENCE
The Ph.D. research of Judith was one the first projects that was brought to life within the Happy Aging Living Labs, one of the 6 Living Labs located in Flanders. Happy aging is a unique organization that brings together hundreds of elders, caregivers, researchers, policy makers and entrepreneurs to ensure that our future is one where we become old and happy.
“The ageing of our society brings forth many challenges but also many opportunities. By stimulating co-creation, Happy Aging ensures that new innovations take into account the needs of the silver generation. On top of that the elderly love to meet new people and remain up-to-date and involved with the development of novel technological innovations that they can test themselves at home.”
AN UNEXPECTED SWITCH
The collaboration with the Happy Aging experts, a.k.a. the caregivers and elderly was a crucial part during the Ph.D. of Judith. “They are the true experts of becoming older. Their wisdom and experience are a resource of inestimable worth. Simultaneously with my research we also initiated various focus groups to gain better insights into how driving evaluations and trainings should look like according to the elderly. The end result of my research project: a new center founded by the UHasselt transportation research institute IMOB and Jessa Hospital for advice, guidance and training of driving skills called ‘Samen Veilig Mobiel’ (together safely mobile).”
“However, it turned out I love working together with these experts so much that I recently started an new job as a community manager at the Happy Aging living lab. However, I of course continue to work on my research though, which I hope to finish in the beginning of 2019.”
More information on Happy Aging can be found here.
Judith Urlings is affiliated with the IMOB institute of Hasselt University, where she prepares her Ph.D. under the supervision of prof. Tom Brijs. The driving skill project is a collaborative effort of IMOB, Jessa Hospital and Vias institute. The Ph.D. project is funded by IWT through the program of Living Labs.