Monday July 24th, 2017 15:05

Older Age Care: It’s time for an intervention – Sara McKee

Evermore design small household living for later life, giving older people the chance to ‘live an independent life to the full, surrounded by people who care’.

Recently named a top innovator in active and healthy ageing by the European Commission, Evermore Founder, Sara McKee explains here why older age care is in need of an intervention.

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The shemozzle over the Conservative’s social care manifesto paints a picture of a Government struggling to grapple with the challenges of older age care.

Nobody at a senior level in politics knows how to tackle it. I’ve lost count of the number of commissions that have been held into funding older age care and yet we seem no closer to a solution.

It’s time for an intervention.

We’ve grasped the bull by the horns in Greater Manchester and are powering ahead with introducing new ways of living in later life, and aligning social care with our health system so we can provide truly integrated services.

I’ve been beating the drum for positive housing choices for older people for five years. One of the biggest challenges this country has is that there is not enough appealing or appropriate housing.

You may wonder why I’m focused on housing in the context of funding. Well, research has proven that the right housing has a massive impact on a person’s health and wellbeing. If we can get the housing right, we can help older people keep happy and well so they are less likely to need health and social care services.

What’s more, the right housing can tackle the social isolation crisis. Loneliness is a massive public health issue and the biggest predictor of an early death according to geriatricians in Manchester. But if you create a community that provides real companionship as well as supporting older people to retain vital connections, we begin to address some of the reasons for isolation in the first place.

So what kind of housing is needed?

We believe in a greater choice for older people and that’s why we’re excited to be building the first Evermore community in the centre of Wigan. The Evermore small household model provides student living for older people with a safety net. Single older people will live together in households of around 10 with life revolving around a central kitchen and hearth – much like the family home. They’ll have their own apartments and be supported by a team of Mulinellos. They’ll be encouraged to take an active part in the running of the household, from sharing meals together around a large kitchen table to contributing to daily social activities.

As part of the Wigan development, we’ll have two specialist households for people living with dementia. They won’t be defined by their illness and resulting disability, nor will illness be the sole basis of care and interaction. Our Mulinellos will respond to the individual and provide support based on the customer’s abilities, building on their strengths and finding ways to compensate for the losses brought about by their illness. The focus is on integration not isolation – they won’t be incarcerated in secure units.

The strength of the Evermore household model is that it can be adapted to multiple settings. For example, we’re redesigning an intermediate care unit for a Manchester NHS Trust to operate as an Evermore household. This is so people can recuperate in a homelike environment and staff can spend more quality time with individuals. Both clinicians and patients receive a much more positive experience.

What we’re proposing isn’t rocket science but siloed thinking and a low risk threshold has meant the public sector hasn’t been prepared to make these changes in the past. However, the devolution agenda in Greater Manchester has given people the freedom and the budget to introduce new models and ways of working.

We’re excited about the changes taking place and our role in it, and believe Greater Manchester is setting the scene for true health and social care transformation with Evermore households right at the heart of the Local Care Organisation. Now that’s an intervention.

Sara McKee, Evermore Founder and Director of Market Innovation

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To learn more about Sara and Evermore’s work, you can find Sara on LinkedIn and learn more about Evermore here.

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Thursday July 6th, 2017 15:11

In the News July 2017 – Skills to Pay the Bills

InthenewsJuly2017

As the first month of sharing more news from the world of Agile Ageing, this month’s digest is a bumper edition. It features feminism, award nominations, nonagenarian innovators and much more. Inspirational people using their hard-won experience to stay agile, defy convention and gain global attention. We start with a woman who, quite frankly, could inspire people quarter her age to up their game.

Ageless Design

We met Barbara Knickerbocker Beskind in this recent article from Next Avenue, introducing probably the world’s only 93-year-old product designer, author, occupational therapist and all-round instigator.

Calling on her years of experience, including time working with the U.S. Army, Beskind now works with global design company IDEO on new products for older adults, particularly for those with physical limitations. Work which led her to being named a Design Fellow aged 92.

On her achievements, Beskind says; “Businesses have a responsibility to reach out to older workers and advisers. But older people need to do the same by reaching out and pursuing roles that keep you engaged and relevant”.

We couldn’t agree more. How can any business not be represented by a workforce as diverse as the people they sell to? One man who certainly thinks the opportunities are huge got plenty of clicks this month too…

An Age of Revolution

Sociologist and author Peter Gross was asked recently by Swiss Life to share his thoughts on our ageing society.

Amongst his many suggestions was making language better reflect ageing as an opportunity rather than a burden, abolishing the age of retirement and the need for businesses to recognise older workers as part of a recipe for success rather than a burden. In his words; “Older employees know what older customers want, and how to talk to them”.

But of most interest were his ideas on what an ageing society could do for our quality of life. He says; “[It] gives us the chance to restructure our society. The demographic trend to fewer children and a long life is slowing our modern society down, and relaxing it. And it pays a peace dividend. Cultures with plenty of young people tend to be unstable and violent. Old folks don’t beat each other’s brains in”.

It’s quite an image he leaves us with, but another popular article from this month (the most popular in fact) was equally unflinching in its assessment.

About Time

Writer, commentator and lecturer Jane Caro wrote recently about some of the key issues affecting Australian women over 50, including ageing, work, money and relationships.

She wrote about the ‘unexpected ‘bonuses’ of life after 50′ that women can experience; particularly the chance to put their own needs first after a lifetime of caring for others. “That’s why women over 50 flock to writers’ festivals, art classes, yoga, pilates and aqua-aerobics. It’s why we swell the audiences at cinemas (hint to film-makers: we’d go to even more if you made them about us), theatres, musicals, book clubs, travel, cruises and resorts.”

That’s for the lucky ones however. For others; “It is when women turn 50 (as it is for men) that their ability to remain employed becomes shaky. If they are in low-paid, relatively low-skilled occupations, losing their job can be a disaster”.

Caro argues that feminism is therefore an ‘incomplete project’. It must work to represent those who thought they had no need for feminism when they were young, those who’ve been ‘left out in the cold by a sexist society’.

Every generation will have new challenges in our ageing society, and we hope frank discussions inspired by writers like Caro and Gross enable action that benefits everyone. Research of ways innovation can help are another way, which leads us on to this recent article from MedCityNews.

Sensing a Change

The article focuses on the potential for passive sensors to “reduce costly hospitalizations and custodial care” by monitoring the activity of older people living at home. By monitoring their usual daily activity, the sensors can alert carers to any changes – such as reduced movement or use of appliances. And although conducted with only a small patient sample, the results were positive.

We mention this as a second article we shared this month also received a lot of interest – and it highlighted the need for more investment in technology to help reduce costs in the NHS. It revealed that research by the International Longevity Centre shows the NHS; “has to harness the power of ‘transformative innovation’, with potential higher spending in the deployment phase to be recovered in the long-term”.

It cited an example from the Manchester Royal Infirmary, “that offers both training and equipment for patients with dialysis at home, reportedly providing savings of 40%, adding up to £1m since its launch”.

This is great to see and we look forward to seeing more innovation adapting healthcare to individual needs. We don’t think there can many people in health right now thinking technology in the home won’t play a greater part in our health care.

Some Food for Thought

Rounding off July’s digest is a whistle-stop tour of this month’s other popular stories. We start with this wonderful piece of news about Evermore (designers of small household living for later life, and AAA member), recently named as one of the top innovators in active and healthy ageing by the European Commission. A huge congratulations to Sara McKee and the team!

For those thinking of early retirement, take a moment to read this thought-provoking article from Kristin Wong in Lifehacker on the potential impact of early retirement on our cognitive functions. Then consider the physical implications with this interesting listicle of the top 10 health trends of baby boomers – number seven may be of interest to hipster coffee makers. And finally, this documentary ‘Coming of Age in America’ focuses on the “permanent shift toward an aging society”, and is available to watch for free until August 1, streamed through Next Avenue. Enjoy.

That’s it for this month. Until the next, do make sure to check out CSL’s regular tweets and indeed the AAA’s.

Image used with permission: Copyright

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Friday June 9th, 2017 15:56

In the news June 2017: His Master’s Voice

In the news June 2017

With so much going on in the world of the Agile Ageing Alliance, CSL will be taking a little time to help support ambitions to develop it further. As such, we’ll be sharing more AAA news here on CSL, in addition to stories about those finding new and creative ways to help people with life limiting and long-term conditions.

What’s the Weather Like Outside?

We’ll start this month’s news with this light-hearted sketch from the Saturday Night Live show. SNL has been hitting a lot of headlines of late with their commentary on the US presidency, but this recent video got our attention as reimagined how the voice-controlled Amazon Echo device might be tweaked to better serve older users.

Admittedly it is a little patronising, but once you’ve seen it take a moment to think about the devices that are being developed to help people live independently for longer. For example, ElliQ is as this article explains; “…an “active aging companion, [and] it looks like a combination of an Android tablet, a digital assistant like Alexa or Siri, and software designed to help the elderly connect with friends and family”. But what makes ElliQ unique, the article continues, “is the robot component: an attached bobble head-esque animatronic that provides a physical, moving manifestation of the digital assistant”.

What we found particularly interesting was that home devices like this are being developed to learn about the people using them. And through this learning they could help address things like physical health (by encouraging users to do suitable exercise), or cognitive issues such as dementia – as seen with their capacity to remember the names of users’ loved ones or play a favourite song by requesting just that.

Music’s power to positively impact our lives, almost immediately, leads us to our next article which focuses on the potential for personal music playlists to reduce medication use for those with dementia.

Play it Again Sam

In this recent article we learnt that; “Nursing home residents with dementia who listen to a personalized music playlist may need less psychotropic medication and have improved behaviour, a recent study suggests”.

The findings come after researchers implemented an individualized program called Music and Memory “in 98 nursing homes with a total of about 13,000 residents with Alzheimer’s disease or non-Alzheimer’s dementia”, which resulted in “greater improvements in residents’ behavior” as well as “reduced dementia-related behavioral problems”.

Now we do write quite regularly about the positive impact of music on the lives of those with dementia, and indeed all of us for that matter, but we continue to welcome research like this as it strengthens the argument for decision makers to legislate for its use in addition to prescribed medicine.

Speaking of research-backed initiatives creatively changing lives, we saw a couple of really inspiring stories this month around Mental Health Awareness Week.

Just Tattoo of Us

This article introduced us to ‘The Art of a Peaceful Mind’, a colouring book “comprising illustrations from young artists to visually represent the ways they relax and use self-care.” According to PAPYRUS, the national charity for the prevention of young suicide, “the book aims to raise awareness of the help available to young people feeling overwhelmed and suicidal”.

We think it’s great because anything that helps stimulate the creative potential within someone who benefits physically or mentally has to be good. And this can come in many surprising ways. Like getting a tattoo perhaps…

OK they might be temporary, but as we learnt from this recent article, artist Francesca Timbers has designed a series of temporary tattoos to help people struggling with their mental health and to stop them self-harming, after her own ill health left her feeling suicidal.

It may only seem like a small gesture, but as a 2011 study found temporary tattoos have been found to help as a “method of discussing and altering self-harm behaviours and countering negative body image”. Studies which Timbers says she has used to influence her work and designs.

We wish Francesca well, and indeed all those coming up with new and creative ways to help people manage or overcome life limiting or long-term conditions. And as CSL continues its work, while supporting the Agile Ageing Alliance with its ambitions, we look forward to sharing the many stories we find on our travels.

That’s it for this month. Do make sure to check out CSL’s regular tweets and indeed the AAA’s – because with so much going on right now we’re really excited about what comes next.

Image use with permission: Copyright

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Friday May 19th, 2017 14:30

In the news May 2017: It’s Never Too Late To Be Great

InthenewsMay2017

Mental health issues have been getting some much-needed attention this month. So, we wanted to take the opportunity to look at some recent stories where people had gone on a physical journey which in turn positively affected their mental well-being.

With a great deal of emphasis on technology’s promise to transform health, we thought it important to remember that getting out of the home when we can, can also make a big difference to our health and happiness.

Speaking of happiness, we were incredibly proud to welcome innovators, instigators and business leaders from across the spectrum of Agile Ageing to our recent Neighbourhoods of the Future event in London. We’ll update you soon on what we learnt, but you can see the best tweets from across the two days at the #open4i event handle.

It’s Great When You Skate

Sometimes a story catches both your attention and imagination. People or events that offer a glimpse into the human spirit. One that did this month was that of Italo Romano.

Born in Curitiba, Brazil, Romano admits the chance of a life of crime was quite high before he lost both his legs in an accident aged just 11. Today however, he is a professional skateboarder.

Romano said although he’d been given a second chance at life by surviving the accident, he was very much restricted in his wheelchair. This changed after watching another skater with no lower limb function gain national attention, which led to him take up the sport.

After picking up a skateboard, he found a new lease of life that has taken him to pro-level on the skate circuit. A position he says inspires younger skaters in his neighbourhood. He says; “It feels like skateboarding was meant for me, since the very first day I sat on a skateboard”.

Being active when we can, clearly has the power to positively affect so many aspects of our life. Be it mental or physical. That’s why our next story promotes a physical activity that can be traced as far back as the 6th century BCE.

Call Them the Downward Dogs

Yoga, once again, is being lauded for its ability to improve quality of life, this time for patients with ulcerative colitis. According to this recent article: “Researchers studied 77 ulcerative colitis patients who reported a reduced quality of life due to the disease even though their symptoms were clinically in remission”.

The article continued; “Previous research has linked higher perceived stress levels to more severe ulcerative colitis symptoms, and other studies have also tied yoga to reduced stress in both healthy and sick people.” Although, as the report clarifies, yoga didn’t act as a cure the study’s authors did conclude that; “With yoga, people reported a better quality of life after 12 weeks of classes, and again three months later”.

When people mention yoga, it’s easy to think of soothing music and impossibly honed lyra-clad devotees. But if we look at some of the YouTube yogis going strong well into their 90s, then it can’t be long before yoga becomes an essential part of everyone’s life. Perhaps even becoming a part of the school curriculum. Oh, too late. Namaste.

The Sound of Music

If your requirement for music goes beyond a simple desire to soothe, and toward something that could offer care and support for those in the early and later stages of dementia, then this recent article may be of interest.

It reported on a new guide from Hammond Care Media Music remembers me: Connection and wellbeing in dementia, which has been touted as a “first of its kind, how-to-guide about the transformative role music can play in supporting the wellbeing and quality of life of people with dementia”.

According to the article, the book “traces the impact of individually-tailored music from the early stages of dementia through to providing dignity, reminiscence, enlivening and even restoring speech in advanced stages of dementia”.

The book draws on a research project that involved over 700 residents of care homes looking to demonstrate music’s power to offer daily care and support. Do take a look, but it reminded us of a film we mentioned not too long ago Alive Inside: A Story of Music and Memory, which if you haven’t seen already we definitely recommend. Before you do however, take a moment to stare in awe at this amazing woman now gaining notoriety on social media (62K+ views and counting) – one of China’s now infamous ‘dancing grannies’ and an advert for an active life if we ever saw one.

That’s it for this month. Until the next, make sure to follow CSL on twitter if you’ve not already and check out the new Agile Ageing website, where you can download for free our brand-new report on what to expect in our Neighbourhoods of the Future.

Image used with permission.

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Friday April 7th, 2017 11:44

In the News March 2017: Friends For Life

InthenewsMarch2017

Following the launch of www.agileageing.org a brand new website where you will find the latest developments on the Silver Economy, our partner organisation the Agile Ageing Alliance (AAA), has published a visionary report on the future of Cognitive Homes in an ageing society (downloadable now for free). Next up AAA will be furthering its European agenda towards a Reference Framework for Age-friendly Housing at the European Commission in Brussels April 26th, to be followed by the Neighbourhoods of the Future 2017 launch: The Shape of Things to Come. Taking place on May 10/11 at NatWest HQ London, partners are the UK Government Cabinet Office; Departments of: Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy; Health; Communities and Local Government; Science; Innovate UK. This is the opportunity to hear from leading experts; speak with influential thought leaders and decision makers; and network with peers. Have your say, register here.

Until then, take a look through our digest of the best stories we shared via CSL twitter this month.

You Do Something To Me

The growing body of research on the effect music has on the brain and our emotions, makes us confident we’ll see an increasing number of everyday applications helping those with life-limiting or long term conditions.

This month we saw another article on a project combining popular music and academia – this time from an app-based innovation using crowd-sourced data to better understand when we use music and for what, in an attempt to “fight opioid dependency with the natural high triggered by music”.

On the hope for his project, entrepreneur and former musician Marko Ahtisaari says; “In twenty years’ time, we will consider it absurd and primitive that we did not use music and sound as an essential part of our health regime, both for everyday wellness but also to compliment pharmaceutical treatment.”

This project reminded us of another article we shared last year about a collaboration between Reading University’s Brain Embodiment Laboratory and rapper Tinie Tempah – who agreeing on the power of music to affect people’s emotions, wanted to find a way to understand what really happens to our brains when we hear music.

They wanted to harness the emotional power of music for therapeutic uses; “to create a system which eventually will be able to help people with depression and different forms of emotional disorders associated with neurological disorders.”

We really do hope to see more practical applications that use the power of music to positively impact the lives of those with life-limiting conditions. It takes time however, as we can see with Virtual Reality which, beginning over 20 years ago, is only just emerging as a part of everyday life.

Educating The Young

One programme leading the way is ‘The Virtual Reality Program’ at the Children’s Heart Center, which “is going beyond gaming with three VR projects that are already improving patients’ education, health, and hospital experience and helping physicians treat cardiac patients more effectively”.

Through the use of VR headsets and handheld controllers, children at the centre can take a trip around the human body and see just what is happening to them and how their treatment will work. The benefit being, according to David M. Axelrod, MD, that; “Virtual reality eliminates a lot of that complexity by letting people go inside the heart and see what’s happening themselves — it’s worth way more than a thousand words.”

We can’t underrate the power of words to educate children about health conditions though, as we saw recently with Sesame Street’s introduction of their first character with autism.

As we found out in this recent article, “Julia, a little girl with bright orange hair, green eyes and a toy rabbit, will appear for the first time on the much-loved children’s TV show Sesame Street this month”. And according to Jeanette Betancourt, Sesame Workshop’s senior vice president of US Social Impact, they are; “modelling the way both children and adults can look at autism from a strength-based perspective: finding things that all children share”.

We love seeing progressive approaches from institutions like Sesame Street as it proves that a small change in perspective can make a big change to someone’s life. A small change like getting a new best friend.

A Boy’s Best Friend

This story caught our attention as it showed that sometimes all we really want is someone who knows what we’re going through. After the loss of funding for local autism support groups, Adam’s parents had to look for alternative help. And when they saw an autism support dog on Crufts, they were inspired to contact the Sheffield-based charity Support Dogs which led to Grant joining the family.

Adam’s family say Grant has been a hugely positive addition to his life and the family’s, even allowing him to sleep on his own room and spend more time out and about. “Before Grant joined the family,” said mother Diane, “Adam’s anxiety made being in crowded places difficult.”

And according to his sister Beatrice, who notices how positively people react when Adam and Grant are out in public together. “I’ve never seen anyone who has called him weird,” she said. “As Lewis Caroll said: He’s not weird, his reality is just different to ours.”

Every time we see a small change making a big impact on someone’s life it gives us hope those changes will keep coming. And as they do, we’ll be sure to share them with you via the CSL twitter feed and the Agile Ageing Alliance LinkedIn group.

Until next month, stay creative!

Image used with permission: Copyright – Voyata

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Monday February 13th, 2017 12:24

The Art of the Possible – Ruth Catlow

Founded by artists Ruth Catlow and Marc Garrett, Furtherfield is a community arts initiative creating online and physical spaces for different kinds of people to get involved with contemporary arts and digital technologies. Here, Ruth Catlow explains to CSL how we can tap into new technologies to establish creative links between older people and the wider community to improve wellbeing.
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Furtherfield – ‘inspiring the co-creation of cultures and society, through art and technology’.

Furtherfield specialises in cultivating new forms of collaboration in arts and technology – for people of all ages and backgrounds. Our programme focuses on finding ways for people to reflect and respond to the life we live today and we do this through new art forms that arise from digital culture. Central to this programme is an international network of artists that specialise in emerging technologies – they use these infrastructures as their materials, to create artistic interventions that open up alternative possibilities for people from all walks of life.

As new digital processes change the way we live it is essential for society and culture to evolve critical, aesthetic and ethical responses in parallel. Furtherfield’s response is to find ways to intertwine cultural innovation with these rapid technological developments – to demonstrate that an artist-led and critical approach to technology can enhance place-based cultural contexts and improve wellbeing to activate new economies.

PLATFORMING FINSBURY PARK

Furtherfield is based in the middle of London’s Finsbury Park which provides a unique urban public setting for people of all ages to interact, explore and create. Artworks that start their life in Finsbury Park often go on to exist in many new settings which range from shopping malls to homeless centres or high streets. Through exhibitions, artist-led workshops or ‘labs’ we use new formats to find ways for people to create themselves and to feel more empowered in an increasingly digitised world. Our two venues located in the middle of Finsbury Park provide opportunities for diverse people to explore expanded possibilities for arts and technology – via exhibitions at Furtherfield Gallery and events and workshops at the Furtherfield Commons lab space.

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Virtual Rehearsal Studio – Furtherfield works in partnership with arts organisation Drake Music.

Recent projects include establishing a new platform to support real-time remote rehearsal and recording for disabled musicians. Above shows an R&D jam session at Furtherfield Commons for disabled musicians and their support workers.

HEALTH AND WELLBEING

A focus on research-led partnerships with artists, technologists, scientists, and medical professionals informs new artworks and interventions to address health and wellbeing in a variety of contexts.

Furtherfield image 2

A still from Katriona Beales’ video installation, ‘White Matter’.

‘Are We All Addicts Now?’ is an artist-led enquiry into how the conditions of the digital are not just shaped by us but also shaping us. McLuhan’s maxim is that every new technology creates a new human environment. Emergent pathologies such as internet addiction and digital dementia are symptomatic of this new human environment. ‘Are we all addicts now?’ is led by artist Katriona Beales, in partnership with curator Fiona MacDonald, and in collaboration with Dr Henrietta Bowden-Jones, Vanessa Bartlett and Dr Mark Wright. The project builds on Katriona Beales’ video installation, ‘White Matter’ (2015), which responded to internet addiction, and was commissioned by FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology).

‘Are we all addicts now?’ is intended as a provocation, seeking to initiate interdisciplinary conversations about the cultural and biomedical implications of our digital environments. During the research and development phase a series of workshops hosted by PEER will gather artists, biomedical scientists, academics, tech entrepreneurs and interested members of the public. These workshops will act as a testing site for the interrogation of the relationships humans have with conditions of the digital, and the cultural and biomedical implications. The workshops will provide a discursive context for the production of new work by Katriona Beales, which will be exhibited Sept-Nov 2017 at Furtherfield and accompanied by a publication and symposium.

DIGITAL ZOO

This touring programme took high quality digital art to people and places with the least engagement including shopping centres in Sunderland, Leeds and Lewisham. The exhibition explored the notion that digital lives are being performed in public for each other, as if in a public zoo. The artworks demonstrated how our lives are shaped and our relationship to the natural world is changing through digital technologies. Physical installations and collaborative artworks involved drawing, tweeting and mobile phone treasure hunts.

Furtherfield image 3

‘Crow_sourcing’ by Andy Deck at Lewisham Shopping Centre.

This artwork invited people to contribute to a bestiary of animal idioms by scanning the animal barcodes to view the ones that had been contributed online and adding their own via the installation shown here.

ZERO DOLLAR LAPTOP

Focusing on empowering homeless people with new tech and creative skills, this project opened up new possibilities in technology and creativity for homeless people. Participants were offered a recycled laptop that was given to them on completion of a course were they learnt valuable new skills, gained confidence and access to networks and online culture through creative workshops utilising Free and Open Source Software. Initiated in partnership with Access Space and St Mungo’s Broadway homelessness charity.

Furtherfield image 4

Photograph of Zero Dollar Latop participant – clients of St Mungo’s charity for homeless people.

NETPARK WELLBEING PROJECT: THE GARDEN OF REMEMBER AT METAL

In Chalkwell Park, Southend on Sea – described as the world’s first digital art park, arts organisation – Metal have been working with people living with dementia, to give people living with low level mental health problems access to digital making facilities – creating a lasting legacy. Using the public park as a context, participants are given access to smartphones and digital technology to make recordings, take photos and films to make stories using digital processes increasing confidence and skills. A participant said of the experience that it was ‘like someone had switched something on and given him a purpose’.

Ruth Catlow is Co-founder and Co-director of Furtherfield. Find out more at furtherfield.org or on Twitter at @furtherfield.

All images provided by the author and used with permission.

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Thursday January 26th, 2017 07:49

In the News January 2017: Home Smart Home

InthenewsJan2017_2

January is a time for reflection, and looking ahead. CSL’s sister organisation, the Agile Ageing Alliance (AAA) is currently doing just that with an upcoming report on how technology will revolutionise domesticity to help us live longer, more connected lives in our home.
The report was inspired by the many organisations and individuals AAA met in 2016 as we took soundings from world capitals to city halls and rural communities; employing design thinking, storytelling and creative visioning to explore new paradigms for ‘Agile Ageing’ in our Neighbourhoods of the Future. And it follows a year that saw a wealth of innovations helping those with long term or life limiting conditions to live a more independent, inclusive life.
The Nominet Trust’s latest list of ‘the world’s most inspiring projects using digital technology for social change’, is one example that gave us plenty of food for thought.

A Change is Going to Come

As the ‘UK’s leading social tech funder’, NT has once again highlighted a number of innovations addressing a variety of health and social needs. And according to the Guardian; “More than a quarter of the entries to this year’s Nominet Trust 100 use technology to promote inclusion”.

They highlighted innovations like Open Voice Factory, an open source software providing communication aids to help those with speech difficulties. Hand Talk is “an app that instantly translates text or audio into sign language”, and Disrupt Disability uses an online library of free designs so users can create bespoke wheelchairs, many of which can be made using 3D printing.

Walk With Path, “has developed two shoe products that reduce the risk of falls in vulnerable people”, while Dot Watch “is described as the first braille smartwatch, providing social media, news and messages”.

And there was the latest in a long line of innovations proving that music really is one of the best forms of social inclusion, no matter your circumstances. This time it comes courtesy of the South West Open Youth Orchestra’s founders OpenUp Music (the UK’s only disabled-led regional youth orchestra), who “have developed a range of digital instruments that can be played with any part of the body, including the eyes”.

You can see the full list of nominees here, but it really does give us hope to see such a wide range of innovative products making their way to a larger audience. And talking of wider audiences, one small UK company has gone global using 3D printing and open source design to produce prosthetic limbs for children around the world. All from their garden shed.

Out On a Limb

According to this BBC article, Team Unlimbited is made up of tech enthusiasts Stephen Davies and Drew Murray and works from a garden shed to “provide free 3D prosthetic hands and arms for children who are born without”.

Davies had direct experience of the problems faced by those requiring prosthetics, himself having been born without a hand. And after seeing the standard NHS issue prosthetic hand (not for the feint hearted), he went online and found Murray who is part of a network who make free 3-D prosthetics for children. After creating a new device for Murray, the two began Team Unlimbited to make lightweight, affordable prosthetics for children around the world.

Of their work they say: “We are not a charity, we’re just two men in a shed. It’s rewarding to use our professional skills in a different way”.

It really is amazing to think that a relatively new mass-market technology like 3D printing is already changing people’s lives around the world in ways we could never have imagined. And as the cost of technology decreases and encourages creativity, we’re sure that we’ll see more people augmenting themselves with these enhancing technologies.

Worth the Weight?

Technologies such as the one featured in this recent piece in The Memo, which revealed a new hearing device in development by South Korean company Olive Union who aim to decrease the cost and weight of hearing aids while increasing their style.

According to company CEO, Owen Song; “Because of the financial barriers and negative social perception of wearing hearing aids, many who are hard of hearing simply give up on hearing perfectly”.

Their solution was to design an aid which connects to your smartphone to deliver a range of functions, such as hearing tests, and can be easily recharged each day. And with its improved aesthetics they hope to increase the number of people comfortable with wearing a hearing device.

Every day we look for more stories like these. Innovations, social programmes, inspiring individuals looking to promote a new way of looking at an issue that many assumed would never improve. So if you want to hear about them all, then be sure to follow us on Twitter, and join the discussion with the Agile Ageing Alliance LinkedIn group.

Until next month, stay creative.

Image used with permission: Copyright: ilterriorm / 123RF Stock Photo

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Wednesday December 14th, 2016 10:31

In the News December 2016: Bridges to Stardom

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It’s been a great year for discovering incredible people using their creativity, entrepreneurship and bravery to help change the lives of those with long-term or life limiting conditions. And our work in 2016 as the Agile Ageing Alliance has just culminated in our part in the European Summit on Digital Innovation for Active and Healthy Ageing, which we look forward to updating you on, in the New Year.
Until then, take a look at some of the best stories we saw this month on the many creative ways people are changing lives for the better.
Not your usual cyberspace superstars

They may not be household names, but there are a growing number of individuals building fan-bases (and incomes) you might normally associate with sports or film stars. ‘YouTube stars’ are an emerging elite offering their followers advice, inspiration or entertainment across a number of topics, such as fashion or gaming. But at the same time – and of greater interest to CSL – there are also a growing number using the platform to talk about and connect with people over issues that don’t normally get major, or at least not consistent, media coverage.

Stars such as Claire Wineland, who talks about living with cystic fibrosis, or Zack Anner, who talks about living with cerebral palsy, are using humour and first-hand experience to talk about their lives in an open and frank way that normal life, according to this article, doesn’t always allow.

As the article says; “The video platform has become an essential medium for people with various disabilities to share their experiences, talking fearlessly about their everyday lives.” It then goes on to introduce 11 talented creators, people with disabilities; “who are using YouTube to share their own stories and advocate for their communities in noteworthy ways.”

Do take a moment to meet them and watch their videos, but what this proves is that YouTube isn’t just a place for make-up tips and watching others play computer games, but also a powerful platform for those with a story to tell, to connect with others around the world in a way that traditional media would never have allowed. These people are becoming powerful media players limited only by their imaginations.

They’re not the only media stars breaking down boundaries though…

Japan’s biggest blog-star

Blogging isn’t new – it was one of the early internet mediums to tell stories to the world from your living room – but recently we saw a story that reminded us of its power.

When Japanese newsreader Mao Kobayashi chose to blog about her battle with cancer it created a brand new dialogue in a country that traditionally avoided talking openly about the disease. According to this article; “In Japan, people rarely talk about cancer. You usually only hear about someone’s battle with the disease when they either beat it or die from it, but… Kobayashi decided to break the mould with a blog – now the most popular in the country – about her illness and how it has changed her perspective on life.”

In the UK we often hear about the different ways in which people (both unknown and high profile) face the disease, the most recent of which being writer AA Gill’s farewell article in the Times where he announced his ‘full-English’ of cancer. But it’s easy to assume this is the same everywhere. And so hearing stories like Kobayashi’s, challenging taboos in the face of her own personal challenges, inspires us to keep finding and sharing them in the hope it encourages others to do the same.

And the technology we see helping us to build those bridges is in turn getting more attention from those who might fund their growth to allow others to benefit from it too.

Mobile music therapy

Once such bridge-building exercise can be seen with the increasing number of tech companies moving into the field of music as a therapy, as the wealth of science-backed data around its use grows.

This article reveals that music as a form of therapy is by no means new, going back to with Aristotle’s suggestion that the ‘flute could purify the soul’. It continues; “as the field moves forward, a number of tech companies are starting to make their way into the space where music and medicine meet: to combine science and technology to empower people to self-medicate with music on an unprecedented scale.”

The article quotes Brian Harris, a therapist who co-founded MedRhythms, a Boston start-up that specializes in neurologic music therapy, who said that; “There’s no other stimulus on earth that provides such a global activation of our brains as music.”

It goes into some depth about the subject, so do take a moment to read the whole article, but as we see more examples of tech bridging the gap between health and creativity, increasing the potential for each to positively impact our health, we can’t help but feel optimistic about the future for those urgently needing it.

Grand designs

So let’s finish the year with emerging star Katherine Kawecki, a 22-year-old Australian design graduate who recently created a wearable patch for asthma sufferers that; “acts as a sensitive piezo acoustics monitor to detect breathlessness via wheezing or respiration-related inflammation.”

Named runner up in the James Dyson Award, Kawecki said of her invention; “As an asthmatic myself, I wanted to create a better asthma management experience where the user can easily engage and better understand their condition.”

We don’t normally focus on innovations in tech, being covered already in many of the other notable tech publications, but what we loved seeing was a young person combining insight, experience, entrepreneurship and design to create something that could change the lives of thousands of people around the world. A story which gives us hope for all the exciting ideas and creations coming in 2017 to help those with life-limiting and long-term health challenges.

So on that note and until next year, have a great Christmas and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter!

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Friday November 4th, 2016 12:52

In the News November 2016: Music has a hold on us

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Creative Skills for Life are always looking for exciting, creative ways in which life-limiting or long term health conditions are being tackled, challenged or reimagined. And now we are applying this same ambition to the challenge (and opportunities) presented by our ageing society as the Agile Ageing Alliance.
In our search we regularly find unlikely collaborators. This month is no different, as we kick off with one project that brought together the worlds of neuroscience and hip-hop.

Breakdancing and the brain

In this great article from The Creators Project, we learned about a recent collaboration between doctors exploring the mysteries of the human brain, and practitioners of a cultural movement that started over 40 years ago in the warehouses of urban America.

Realised in an; “inclusive dance performance focused on the visually impaired”, it took place in a city rarely associated with hip-hop, Sheffield. The collaboration was part of a 10-day event called Festival of the Mind, which brings together artists and academics for collaborative projects that seek to publically illustrate science and its findings.

Dr. Aneurin Kennerley, a physicist at the University of Sheffield, explains in the article: “We’d been studying the unlikely link between hip-hop and visual impairment. What we found was that breaking seemed to be the most physical dance form available to improve visual impairment.”

Have a read to learn more about the theory behind the programme and its findings, but what a perfect example of collaboration bringing about something bold, informative and visual – in a way that others too might gain a little insight into a life-limiting condition.

Vinyl mats and turntables to be prescribed on the NHS?

Are you sitting comfortably?

Music isn’t just for dancing though, as we saw in this recent article on the positive effect it can have on children when facing the pain of injections.

According to the article: “Children who received music therapy during a routine immunization visit were less stressed and better able to cope with the procedure than those who didn’t receive music therapy, and their parents were less stressed, too.”

Although the study’s author acknowledges the music won’t remove entirely the child’s experience of pain, their findings did suggest that it can certainly go far enough to improve the experience. Add this to the fact music can help us from the womb to kick-starting grey matter when experiencing dementia, then we feel pretty strongly that music therapy will become an even larger part of living healthier and happier lives.

Who cares?

Two people who definitely care about the role of creativity in health are The Who’s Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend. In this recent article, we saw that through their WHO Cares charity, the rockers helped create a place for teenagers with cancer to; “feel like teenagers and immerse in an atmosphere far unlike a hospital’s program”.

According to the article, The Lounge at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center; “is a space designed especially for this unique age group… and was made possible by a $1 million donation from Teen Cancer America – the non-profit organization, co-founded by Daltrey and Townshend… to develop specialized facilities for teens and young adults with cancer.”

The full article is worth a read as it explores the work of one its resident artists, and seeks to understand what inspires great art. But in summary, institutions like this prove that investment doesn’t always have to be in more equipment and drugs. It can also be in facilities that allow people to understand the emotional impact of serious illness, and provide a place where they can simply be themselves and not just a condition.

Game time

And how else might we reimagine healthcare? What about turning it into a game?

The gamification theory was summed up in this recent article from Denise Silber, in which she wrote: “Physicians and other healthcare providers are beginning to ask how they can use gamification tools to help their patients engage in a healthy lifestyle, take their medications as directed, and even to feel less pain thanks to the distraction that a great game can create.”

Examples were the game Monster Manor for children with type 1 diabetes, which involves winning virtual coins whenever they measure their blood glucose. Another was a game for people with dementia a ‘cybercycling’ exergame (exercise game) which was found to offer better cognitive function than traditional exercise alone.

Concept like this suggest the closer we align the things we enjoy – whether that’s playing games or listening to music – with treatments for life-limiting or long term conditions, the better we might address their potential stigma and emotional impact.

That’s all for now, but until next month’s CSL news review make sure to join us on Twitter where we share all the great and inspiring stories we see on our travels. And if you would like to join the conversation in the exciting and dynamic world of the Agile Ageing Alliance, then why not join our LinkedIn group today?

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Friday September 16th, 2016 12:07

In the News September 2016: The race for healthier cities

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Recently, we have seen more and more articles on the impact city planning has on our lives. This follows the 2010 WHO campaign highlighting urban planning as a crucial link to building a healthy 21st century, and more recent calls to make cities suited to our ageing populations.

This is just the tip of the iceberg of course, but drives like these resonate with the work we also do as the Agile Ageing Alliance – in particular a European Commission-backed initiative for more age-friendly homes taking place across Europe right now.

Before you learn about that however, let’s take a quick look at this month’s best stories about creative ways to help those with long-term and life-limiting conditions. Starting with… city planning.

Are cities good for our mental health?

This recent Guardian article focused on the effect poor city planning can have on our mental health. It leads with a statistic that by 2050, two-thirds of the world’s population is expected to live in cities, leading its author to conclude that: “the relationship between urban environments and mental health – and what to do about it – is rapidly coming to the fore.”

The article also cites Layla McCay, founder and director of the Centre for Urban Development and Mental Health, who says that: “Public health is an important component of the built environment, but all too often this focuses only on physical health. Mental health plays a huge role in the overall burden of disease around the entire world. The statistics do tell us that people who live in cities have a 40% increased risk of depression, a 20% increased risk of anxiety and double the risk of schizophrenia.”

We think this focus on city planning and our health is going to get even further traction after a recent study claimed that pollution is encouraging Alzheimer’s. Although the NHS Choices assessment of the study suggests it’s too early to say if the results can be proven conclusively, it’s clear more attention is being placed on where we live and the impact it has on our health in the long term.

Tackling dementia – Manchester heads to the pub

One city definitely taking the initiative on issues affecting its citizens, is Manchester. There, a new partnership made possible by the devolution of health and social care to the city, plans by 2020 to make the city the; “best place in the world for its 30,000 residents with Alzheimer’s and similar conditions.”

Called Dementia United, this article from the Guardian about the scheme focuses on one of its early-wins, a ‘pop-up pub’ designed for people with dementia where; “people with the diagnosis can feel welcome and those who look after them can receive support.”

But as Maxine Power, director of Dementia United, says: “Dementia United goes way beyond pubs. It is about rejecting a model of care that health professionals agree is neither fit for purpose nor financially viable, and the opportunity to create a new one.”

Initiatives like this show that by giving local people the power to solve local problems, we stand a better chance of allowing individuals to find solutions to life-limiting conditions that can shared nationally, and maybe even globally. Trust the Brits to ensure it involves a pub.

You make me feel like dancing

Speaking of innovative individuals, this recent story from the BBC caught our eye about some of the new tech helping those with physical impairments do activities many take for granted, such as dancing or running.

One piece was the ‘SubPac’, which according to the article; “is widely used in the music world to help music producers feel the music without damaging their ears”. Now it’s also helping people like choreographer Chris Fonseca, who having become deaf when he was younger, now uses the SubPac to help other deaf dancers; “feel the music so they can learn his choreography with ease.”

Another new piece was an app created by visually impaired ultra-marathon runner Simon Wheatcroft and IBM, using sensors and satellite navigation to help him run solo across the Namibian desert.

It’s really inspiring to meet these individuals. People who refuse to be restricted by their health challenges, instead creating revolutionary solutions which can go on to help others around the world. Hopefully by sharing their stories, we can continue their work.

Out and about – whatever your mode of transport

Talking of raising awareness, quadriplegic ‘cyclist and birder’ Ian Mackay wants more people like him to be able to enjoy the great outdoors. To do so, he travelled 300 miles across his home state of Portland, Oregon to highlight the need for more accessible trails and bike paths.

According to this article in Mashable he said; “Me and my other paralyzed brothers that live in the greater Washington area — many of us don’t have the luxury of having access to beautiful trails or easy to access paths. Much of the time, we are stuck on the sides of roads and highways — and we don’t want to be at risk on the shoulder riding next to big rigs.”

You can learn more about his journey at his website, Ian’s Ride, but it’s amazing to hear about people like Ian who don’t accept the status quo and making sure to point out that it’s not just people living in cities who need better planning to help us live healthy and integrated lives.

That’s all for now, but until next month’s CSL news review make sure to join us on Twitter where we share all the great and inspiring stories we see on our travels. And if you would like to join the conversation in the exciting and dynamic world of the Agile Ageing Alliance, then why not join our LinkedIn group today?

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