Recently recognised in the 2011 Global Over 50s Housing-Healthcare Awards in United Kingdom, Professor Dr Hans Becker was presented with a ‘Lifetime achievement Award’ for his contributions as one of the most significant seniors living / aged care thinkers in the world and is the “Father‟ of the “Apartment for Life‟ concept. Dr Becker uses his philosophy of human happiness to revolutionise the social and commercial perception of developing, managing and operating nursing homes.
Apartments for Life mean that older people will be able to stay in their homes and not face the disruption and cost of moving to a nursing home. His non-profit foundation is an inspiration to all private and non-profit seniors care operators as they manage 1,700 apartments across 33 complexes, delivering an annual turnover of 100 million Euros.
Like climate change, the challenges of the ageing population and the needs of seniors need to be addressed. The time is now for an Al Gore equivalent in the ageing sector. Dr Becker’s philosophy of human happiness for seniors, his management experience and success in changing the approach towards seniors living at Humanitas makes him the ideal candidate to take on this challenge.
For sale – $S$99 Hands off not an option! The reminiscene museum mirror of a humanistic care philosophy
This book is a must-read for anyone contemplating to invest in innovation of contemporary elderly care institutions and nursing homes. It presents compelling arguments as to why a reminiscence museum is such a powerful medium to enrich a senior citizen’s mind, heart and soul.
In its fourteen chapters, lavishly illustrated with vivid colour photographs of countless period objects, you will learn about the important role a reminiscence museum can play as a place where elderly people can feel at home. Hands Off Not An Option! is a title inspired by the basic principle that such museum objects are explicitly displayed to be touched and handled. These tangible experiences stimulate their care-givers.
The author outlines his unique and thought-provoking Humanistic Care philosophy, which presupposes that sharing memories is one of the vital ingredients for a happy and fulfilled old age. The book offers guidelines for care professionals, teachers and even museum managers who wish to design a reminiscence museum themselves.
Top 5 Success Factors in Elder Care Innovation In Asia-Pacific
- The Yes Culture as the driving force (Saying no can be tiring. Having yes as a corporate philosophy means that the staff will try to be creative and innovative when addressing the needs of seniors)
- Human Happiness (Attention on positive feelings and happiness for seniors versus cure and care)
- Make it fun (Create a fun environment for seniors and for your staff – create conversation pieces around the organisation and restaurants that serve as gathering points for seniors)
- Use it or Lose it (Do not take care of people, let them take care of themselves and each other)
- Extended family (Create fun and happy areas for the families to visit, and play areas for children. Give the family interesting things to talk about with art, restaurants and theme rooms)
Disregarding the advice of his old father “don’t leave a good position at the university for a job running misery islands” Hans Becker saw opportunities for drastic change. One of the first actions Becker undertook was breaking down the massive nursing homes and- what he euphemistically named -‘matchboxes on its side’. Instead Apartments for Life were developed. Apartments grouped around a sheltered village square where restaurants, bars, beauty salons, internet corners, supermarkets and libraries found a prominent place. The Humanitas facilities turned from an inward oriented location for old folks into an important place for the total community in the neigbourhood.
Murals, art and artifact exhibitions, paintings, statues, objects from the past (old wheelchairs, zimmer frames and crutches from the past). The interior design, or as the Humanitas expression goes ‘emphatic design’ is a mix of luxurious furniture and the elements that people do remember from the past. The result of nearly 20 years of innovation and creativity found its climax in the development of Reminiscence Museum. Open to the general public to take trips down memory lane. And find peers to share memories (thus connecting and create a social network).
Besides these changes he initiated (and supervised) the building of 20 new facilities according to the latest insights and in accordance with the Humanitas philosophy. Apartments for Life where family and friends of the residents like to come and spend time. As guests or as volunteers. Special attention is given to the recreation for the (grand and great grand) children. Besides the internet corners and the children zoo’s, the menu’s in the restaurants cater for the taste of the youngsters as well as for their grandparents. The local community spends time in the restaurants, bars and participate in the activities.
The basic principles of Humanitas are a few:
1. Self determination: one rules over his or her own life.
2. Use it or lose it: maintain the daily routine (assisted when required) in doing whatever one did previously in ones life.
3. Part of the extended family: nobody is excluded, staff, management, suppliers, family, everybody is part of the Humanitas family.
4. The ‘yes-culture’: any wish, suggestion, demand, complaint, initiative is met by ‘yes’. Saying yes is the first answer. If requests et cetera can not be realised the next thing is the dialogue and finding a satisfactory compromise for all parties.
These key values are the driving force behind the organisation. Self determination and use it or lose it form the basics for the attitude towards the clients. Implicitly and explicitly the importance of this attitude directs the careers, nursing, medical and paramedical staff to a respectful and supporting behaviour whilst treating the client as a responsible and capable human being. The often found attitude of treating the elderly as patients and thus reducing the client to an incapacitated object of care and treatment is non-existing within Humanitas. Which in fact means that new staff members have to ‘unlearn’ most attitudes they are trained in. The benefit for the clients however is incredible. Long forgotten skills and daily life activities revive and ‘keeps the doctor away’.
On the initiative of a group dedicated members of the Rotterdam community the Humanitas Foundation for the Care of the Elderly (now Humanitas Foundation Rotterdam) was established in 1959. Although a full member of the nationwide Humanitas family, the Rotterdam branch operated independently. As was the general thought in those days: the senior citizens preferred to dwell in the outskirts of town. Hence Humanitas did own at the end of the seventies quite a lot of buildings (12) and moreover quite a lot of land. Urbanisation in Rotterdam took a high flight in the eighties and the city expanded, increasing the collateral security of the Foundation.
However, Humanitas as a care organisation did not profit much from this increased wealth. The manner in which the organisation was run did not differ much from the competitors. Emphasis on care and cure, staff attitude was treating the elderly as ‘patients’ rather than clients. Large overhead and no room for innovation or expansion led to a time for a change of management. Hans Becker was headhunted and in 1992 he took charge of an organisation in quite a forlorn state.
The top of the organisation is lean. Two CEO’s are responsible for the organisation policy and the 32 locations are managed by eight General Managers. The span of control is rather extensive but they are assisted by staff members (location managers). Supporting and technical staff is reduced to the minimum.
The supermarkets on the premises, hairdressers, beauty salons, dentists, GP practices, physical therapy, speech therapy) are outsourced if possible, if not, Humanitas exploits them. All restaurants (17) however are considered as the specialty of Humanitas and form the center part of the Humanitas Care Philosophy (together with the 5 Reminiscence Museum).
HANS BECKER: AGED CARE
AGED CARE SECTOR NEEDS TO ‘REFOCUS ON HAPPINESS
ELDERLY: DON’T LET FREEDOM GO
CARE, CAMARADERIE – AND NEW HOMES TO CALL YOUR OWN
‘Happiness’ – and not just providing a ‘cure or care’ – lies at the core of the Humanitas philosopy, says the foundation’s chairman Hans Becker, who travels frequently trying to share with the world his vision of what it means to age well.
‘Older folk need the same things to be happy as everyone else: They want to mingle with friends, dine in cafes, eat apple pie or have a drink in the bar. They love going to the hairdresser, playing bridge, spending time with grandchildren or participating in volunteer work.’