Senex / Save the pensioner

SENEX / Save the pensioner, 2015, (Installation with a board game)

Greece is experiencing an undeclared default. Zero growth, exponential rise of the unemployment rate, increase of taxes as well as the gradual collapse of the national health system: they have all contributed in sucking out of the ever tightening Greek household budgets its breathing room. It is telling that (as a research that MARC conducted in greek households on behalf of General Confederation of Professionals, Craftsmen and Merchants shows) one in two families makes ends meet thanks to the pensions of their elderly parents and/or grandparents. This is further corroborated by Eurostat data; according to these, old people’s homes mark a 95% drop in clients’ numbers. This is due to two reasons: One is that families cannot anymore afford the cost of a retirement home and another is that the elderly use their pensions to help support their adult children’s households.

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At the same time, the ever growing number of young adults who choose either to not leave the parental home at all or to return to it due to their financial inability to sustain their own separate household, tends to become a pattern; mainly in Southern Europe, if not in other european societies too. In Greece, the number of young people who make this choice has risen considerably because of the financial crisis. It does not help that Greeks have traditionally been reluctant or even unwilling to break the umbilical cord.

While this process is evolving in Greece, in the much wider area of the whole European Union, a demographic change is taking place. European population is ageing at such a rate that it is estimated that by 2050 the percentage of the over 65s will have reached 42%; which means that for every active European (between 15 to 64 and thus considered to belong to the working-age population) there will be 2,8 retired Europeans.

According to Moody’s ratings agency, the “unprecedented pace” of population ageing in the next 30 years will result in the deceleration of growth, while Europe will need a remarkable productivity injection if it is to sustain its current life standards. In the same vein, Fitch reports that lacking reforms that take into consideration the extent of population ageing in Europe, we will soon be facing a new, second fiscal crisis. During the recent conference “Roadmap for sustainable healthcare” that took place in Brussels, it was announced that European healthcare systems must urgently adapt to the changing societal needs. With chronic illnesses affecting the lives of 80% of the over 65s, and the cost of treatment estimated at over 900 billion euros annually, it has now become urgent to take measures that respond to this challenging situation. At the conference the participants presented recommendations for 34 pilot programs that will be implemented across 21 countries, with the aim of collecting valuable information and good practices.

Apart from these and parallel to the discussions taking place between participants, there also appeared one draft proposal coming from Switzerland; this was not included in the official minutes of the conference.

The Swiss draft proposal was presented to a select audience of representatives of a secret European commission,which only convenes on matters of great urgency and high importance, in a time and place that were not publicly announced.

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The draft proposal

Eighteen Swiss pharmaceutical companies took the initiative of laying out the innovative SENEX plan:

Due to the fact that we are now at a stage where any decisions we now make will prove decisive for Europe’s future, it is critical that the pharma industry intensifies research in the field of geriatrics. Parallel to that, pharmaceutical companies should secure further funding of research on treatments for illnesses connected with ageing.

By focusing on research in degenerative diseases, like heart disease or Alzheimer’s, the main objective is that we will be able to produce and market medication that will a) allow the elderly Europeans to continue being productive and employable for another twenty years after current retirement age, b) allow future European retirees (those 85 or older) to remain relatively fit and thus less of a financial burden for national healthcare systems.

Were European expertise to take the lead in global ageing research, we would be in a position to not only be of great service to all European countries, but to also create and sustain a new market in which European economies will be most competitive.

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Model units, like the Dementia Villages in the Dutch city of Weesp and the Swiss canton of Bern, as well as specialized clinics for the elderly in Eastern Europe, demand vast investments. At the same time, European clinical trial protocols are strict and thus impose limits to research.

Following extended research, it is recommended that the ideal country for trying out the SENEX pilot project is Greece, which by now qualifies as a developing country on European soil. Greece’s advantage in relation the rest of the developing world, is its very high life expectancy. As a developing country, it also has a number of characteristics that make it highly attractive to prospective investors of SENEX. Among these advantages are extended corruption, a flexible justice system when it comes to human rights’ violations and a collapsing national healthcare system.

On a social level, the model of the Greek household unit is such that 50% of families live together with their retired older mother and / or father, on whose pensions the younger members of the family are financially dependent. The younger are the primary caretakers of the pensioners, since it is deemed of the utmost importance to keep them fit and healthy as long as possible. This takes place in a culture that has traditionally promoted unrestricted overmedication. When combined, these three factors help produce the right conditions for the elderly of Greece to consent to participate in clinical trials of several treatments.

In order to help accelerate production of results, it is deemed necessary to come up with an advertising campaign that will help win the trust of the Greek families and thus make it possible to hold the clinical trials in their individual homes, with the participants’ full consent, instead of using the premises of a health-related institution. This would also help discourage any possible future questioning of the project, that could put at risk the success of SENEX.

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The campaign

For promotional reasons, SENEX will be advertised in Greece as a nonprofit organization with a socially responsible profile, whose services will be offered at no cost and on a voluntary basis. Initially, SENEX will offer families support and medical consultation for their live-in elderly. The objective will be to gradually become known and gain the trust and willing cooperation of Greeks, so as to ease the way for the next steps.
This is the why the planning of the first campaign which will introduce SENEX to Greece is based on a new board game by the name of “Save the Pensioner”. It is a quiz board game which uses the techniques of the retro board game “Electric Questioner”. The game includes cards that couple pictures of a pensioner’s body parts with information about illnesses connected with ageing, all the while giving the players useful care-taking advice, teaching basic anatomy lessons, as well as explaining how to give first aid.

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This game educates people of all ages in an easy, interactive manner, teaching them how to save an elderly relative from unwanted health problems, how to keep the elderly calm and happy, how to guard them from accidents, thieves, the tax authorities etc.

Both the game and the advertising campaign that accompanies it in the form of posters, print material etc, adopt a vintage aesthetic which is not only risk-free, but also viewer- and user-friendly.

The game will be presented simultaneously with experts’ lectures and will be taking place in the course of different social events, during exhibitions, in schools, but most of all during private home visits by SENEX members; especially in cases of families facing urgent need of help with their elderly relatives.

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