Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Britain says "Farewell" to an old Professor of Bioengineering called Heinz Wolff who put his brilliant mind at the service of its old men and women

                                 At One Million page views : http://bit.ly/2l2EcUU

Heinz, who has died at the age of 89, probably got his ability to understand the problems encountered by those less advantaged than himself from the trials he faced when he was a boy. This consisted of the discrimination his family began to face in Berlin after Hitler and the Nazis came to power in Germany in 1933. He had been born in 1928 in the dieing days of the Weimar Republic in a Wolff family, the members of which considered themselves to be 'German'. In fact, young Heinz had been forced to ask his father, Oswald, a volunteer in the Kaiser's Army in the First World War : “What is a Jew?”

As the persecution of Jews in Germany increased, his father used his understanding of business law to help fellow Jews to get around the currency laws and escape. Young Heinz obviously suffered when, at the age of ten, his mother, Margot, died in 1938. His father laid plans for the family to escape from Germany and the the following year, in August, a month before the outbreak of the Second World War in Europe, they fled to the Netherlands and arrived in Britain on the day war was declared. Heinz told Sue Lawley on BBC Radio 4’s 'Desert Island Discs' in 1998, when he was 70, with enormous understatement :  “We really cut it rather fine.” http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00943r1

Much later in life, when he had obtained his celebrity status, he became involved with the rehabilitation of people with disabilities and was a Vice-President of the Royal College of Occupational Therapists. In fact, it was when he was 55, in 1983, that he founded the 'Brunel Institute for Bioengineering' at Brunel University in Middlesex. Under his leadership, the Institute became financially self-supporting and won contracts for work in space research, medical instrumentation and technology for the improvement of the quality of life for older people.

It was his concern for the growing proportion of Europe’s old people which expressed itself through the work of his Institute whose income he supplemented with the fees from his after-dinner speeches. Heinz used his inventive genius well when he worked on an electric prototype car for old people. It had a front-opening door to be parked facing the kerb and with seats that slid forward to ease driver and passenger safely on to the pavement.

In 2000 he led a team of scientists working on a new 'Millennium House' which was developed using a £1·2 million Government grant and was tested as a possible alternative to sheltered housing for elderly people. Heinz explained its bespoke nature : “It will say things such as ‘I wonder if it is not time to get out of bed?’ or ‘Have I taken my medicine yet?’ in their own voices to remind them of what they have to do.”

Heinz began to argue that the real solution to the stresses and humiliations of elderly people demanded not a re-engineering of hardware but of society.

Working with the 'Young Foundation' and 'Age UK,' in 2010 he set up the organisation, in which young people volunteered to help old people and then 'banked' credits against the day they might have need help. It was a beautiful idea but, sadly, a trial on the Isle of Wight, saw the project judged not sustainable. He didn't give up and in 2016, Heinz and his colleague, Brunel’s Dr Gabriella Spinelli, launched , a £1 million government-funded venture which, based on reciprocity and intergenerational care, enabled volunteers to support someone in their community so as to, once again, receive the same later in life. Gabriella commented that : “Give and Take Care was Heinz’s last and ultimate passion."

Despite, by his own admission, not being an expert in health or social care, he worked as hard on it has on any of his previous work. His aim was to bring about a new way of dealing with the social care crisis facing old people in Britain. https://vimeo.com/130859262

Gabriella said :
"Working with Heinz was like being at the centre of an ideas factory; he was fiercely curious and always had new avenues to explore.”

No comments:

Post a Comment