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.

Furtherfield image 1

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

inthenewsdec2016

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

inthenewsnov2016

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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Monday August 8th, 2016 15:03

In the News August 2016: Health’s in fashion

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Innovations, particularly in mobile technology, seem to now have the capacity to change human behaviour overnight, making it a very exciting time to be alive. But how else can say, a computer game or according to one of this month’s articles – fashion, benefit those with long term or life-limiting conditions? CSL’s August news review finds out.

Where will it Go?

The rise of Pokemon Go can’t have escaped many people’s attention, even if it were just noticing more people staring at their phones, walking around in circles. But in addition to the stories of its popularity, stories are quickly appearing about the benefits it can offer those with life-limiting conditions.

According to this recent article, 60 year-old Lisa Freedman has to walk at least 20 minutes a day to help recover from the radiation used to treat her breast cancer. This treatment had left her feeling fatigued and removed any joy of exercise as it was now only about her condition.

Upon being introduced to Pokemon Go however, she rediscovered the joy from the moment she started the game. “So you open it up,” Freedman said, “and there’s a Pokemon right beside you, staring at you. That just kind of got me addicted immediately. For the last couple of days I’ve been happily walking around the neighbourhood, finding Pokemon. This way I’m not thinking about the cancer and, you know, it’s fun.”

Freedman believes the game should be advertised as a fitness app so that people like her can benefit from the game’s unique combination of entertainment and health benefits. We couldn’t agree more as not only is the game touching the lives of people like Freedman, but is helping create a new concept known as ‘activated spaces’ – recently ignored public spaces where strangers are connecting face-to-face. Analogue interactions if you will. Read more about them in this recent Huffington Post article – just one of the many about this global phenomenon.

Dressed for success

On a totally different note, we saw this great article in The New York Times about a growing sector getting more attention from designers to “rethink the basic premise of fashion”, by creating clothing for disabled people or those with life-limiting conditions. We strongly recommend taking a few minutes to read the full article as it goes into some depth about the topic, but to quickly summarise it looks at some the key players in what is being called the ‘healthware’ sector, inspired by young designers, industry innovators and even those with life-limiting conditions themselves.

The article opens with the story of Maura Horton, whose husband had received a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease four years before, and symptoms were starting to worsen. He was finding it harder to dress himself, and after recounting a recent incident where he had to ask a colleague to help him dress, Horton said she went looking for clothes suitable for people with his challenges. She found very little, but said after her search; “…and then I looked at my iPad cover and saw it had these really small magnets, and thought, ‘Well, what about that?’”

Fast forward to a company, a patent and 22 shirt styles now on the market, and this is just one example of how a little creative thinking can radically change lives for the better. As Chaitenya Razdan, one of the other innovators in the industry says; “What you wear has a profound impact on your psyche. It can make you feel like yourself again at a time when it’s easy to feel like things are out of your control.”

And if that weren’t enough to get the attention of the large scale manufacturers, then another of Razdan’s thoughts might; “We think it is a $40 billion industry.” As the article concludes, “It all seems so obvious that it’s hard not to wonder: What took fashion so long?”

Music to our ears

Finally, we saw a really interesting segment from BBC’s iWonder recently called ‘How can playing an instrument improve my life?’, looking at the power of music to literally change who we are. From a variety of angles, it looked at music’s power to improve concentration, blood flow, cognition, motor skills, memory, fine hearing skills even the ability to detect changes in human emotions.

According to Dr Vicky Williamson, who was discussing music’s effect on the brain on BBC Radio 3’s ‘Why Music?’; “Music can change the structure of the brain. It is ready to grow and learn at any age.” And no matter what your age, said one of the segment’s articles; “What makes learning music different from most other skills is that it can train several sensory, cognitive and motor systems all at once.”

The BBC regularly produces insightful articles about the history of music, and those making it, but we love seeing pieces like this on mainstream media going even further by looking at what it can also do to change who are for the better. Take a moment to read and listen, and maybe even think about the song that turns your day around!

If you enjoy learning about stories like these and what they are doing for those with life-limiting or long-term conditions, then do make sure to stay up to date with us via Twitter. If we see it, we’ll share it. Until next month.

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Monday July 4th, 2016 20:32

In the News June 2016: The new baby boomers

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June has been a month filled with inspiring stories of creative ways to help people overcome life-limiting conditions. From research apps to university courses, these stories have reinvigorated our drive to keep shining a light on them so they can inspire others to realise their potential too.

Mood music

First up is an article on Pitchfork Media about scientists who have partnered with such high-profile musicians as Peter Gabriel to make music playlists tuned to our bodies.

According to the article, The Sync Project is looking at the effect of music on human health, by charting how songs played in music apps like Spotify match up with biometric data provided by health apps and wearable technology – the goal being, according its creators, to develop music that can be used as ‘precision medicine’.

Reading through their blog page you see a number of fascinating in-depth pieces on the inspiration for the project including one on the early stage cognitive effects of music on the brain – which gives a slightly new spin on the phrase ‘baby boomers’.

And as more of us have mobile devices by our side all day (and night), allow wearables to track our health data and use streaming services to consume media, then it will be interesting to see how they could become as responsive to our emotional needs as say a loved one.

All the world’s a stage

Focusing on a slightly more traditional medium, was this story in the Guardian on the rising popularity of performance poetry in helping people overcome mental health issues, as seen by Bath Spa University’s ‘first ever performance poetry module in the UK’.

BSU lecturer, Lucy English, says of spoken word’s rising popularity: “We’ve seen a pattern emerge in terms of the reasons why students choose to study with us – and it’s not simply to further their poetry careers. In many cases it’s to relieve stress, boost confidence or deal with a variety of mental health problems.”

The article goes on to promote other organisations using performance poetry as way to build children’s confidence, self-expression and even leadership skills. And in an age where many people see the only way they can express themselves is online, then any way that encourages young or vulnerable people to connect with those around them by seeing the impact of what they say first hand, is a fantastic way to set up a more healthy relationship with the world around them.

Teach the world to sing

Another great article we saw on culture website The Creators Project, taught us about an inspiring US school which is helping develop the physical, cognitive and social development of blind children through an education in music and the performing arts.

The founder of The Academy of Music for the Blind (AMB), David Pinto, had previously created audio recording software for blind musicians which led him to work with legendary artists like Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder. Inspired by what he learned he went on to start the academy as, he stated: “Music develops cognitive skills, including math, language and memory, by making abstract concepts concrete through rhythm, harmony and melody.”

Read the full article as it looks into the theory and practice behind the school, what it means for the students and how music can be a great tool for equality. And even better, it proves just how far ideas can go as the students now perform at national events, collaborate with other artists and most importantly get an education when previously it had been thought impossible.

It’s so easel

Finally, here was a story that not so much inspired, but instead offered a degree of hope. According to a new study by Drexel’s College of Nursing and Health Professions, making art relieves stress regardless of its quality, leading to the article’s rather tongue in cheek headline ‘Science says making art relieves stress, even if you suck at it’.

The team at Drexel’s wanted to find out if making art helps professional artists more than laypeople, because as artist and Assistant Professor at Drexel, Girija Kaimal, said: “That’s the core idea in art therapy: Everyone is creative and can be expressive in the visual arts when working in a supportive setting.”

This must in part explain the recent surge in popularity of adult colouring books, making art without judgement clearly taps into part of the brain other methods might not reach. So if you have been inspired to make some art of your own, then we’d love to share it on the CSL twitter feed, but until then we shall keep searching for ever more inspiring stories.

Image by Aaron Amat, used with permission.

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Thursday June 2nd, 2016 21:12

In the News May 2016 – All together now

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CSL were proud to have organised the recent European Commission-backed ‘Neighbourhoods of the Future’ event in London. There, one of the (many insightful) delegate questions focused on the role of creativity in helping the health issues associated with our ageing populations.
This certainly struck a chord with CSL. Housing, technology, business, finance and care were all represented, but the role of creativity in helping Agile Ageing™, was still to be clarified.
That’s where CSL comes in. We work hard to track down and share stories of those improving lives with creativity – to raise their profile and help more people – and we think these stories from last month capture the essence of that goal. Read, and if you agree, share.

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A man walks into a bar

First up is a story about a new documentary, which caused quite a stir at the recent ‘South by South West’ film festival in Austin, Texas.

It’s about comedy troupe ‘Asperger’s Are Us’, made up of four friends with Asperger’s who are challenging the status quo through something that would fill most people with abject terror, namely getting up on stage to make people laugh.

Having been together for around a decade, documentary maker Alex Lehmann was inspired to make a film about the group after reading an article on them which “changed everything that I had assumed about Asperger’s.”

The resulting film has helped place them on the brink of comedic success, preparing now for their first national tour this summer, showing that no matter what the convention might be, and what people might expect, there’s always more room for those with something to say. Much like choir leader Rosie Dow…

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Seriously fun

In this great article in the Huffington Post, Dow asks the question, ‘why shouldn’t we have fun while dealing with serious health conditions like cancer‘? In fact, it’s the inspiration for her organisation Tenovus Cancer Care‘s ‘Sing With Us’ choir, which is thriving in the face of the perceived frivolousness of ‘enjoying yourself’ while dealing with serious illness.

She writes; “Many describe choir as a buzz like no other, which I think is down to them sharing fun they’re having with a big group of people who know and care about what they’ve been through.”

What’s more, she says that the effects of ‘having fun’ are not just anecdotal, but proven by research. A study carried out by Tenovus, Cardiff University and the Royal College of Music found that “…after three months in the choir, patients’ vitality, overall mental health and anxiety had improved and in non-patients choir participation improved anxiety.”

Take a read of both articles. They, and Dow’s enthusiasm for helping the thousands of people they say have walked through their doors, are changing people’s expectations of what they can achieve through coming together with others. Much like these ‘inclusive toy’s’ being promoted by a non-profit organisation in Brazil…

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Brick by brick

Featured in a recent article that we shared from Ad Week, the toys are the result of a collaboration between a marketing agency and the non-profit Dorina Nowill Foundation for the Blind, to help create ‘braille bricks’ which are based on Lego pieces that ‘help blind children to read through play‘.

Even better, these toys have been released under a creative commons license to encourage other companies to get involved. The article says that “they are a form of play that can also include sighted children, thereby better integrating those with visual impairments, and expanding their support networks.”

Not normally a channel to simply promote the work of advertising agencies, this seems to be a great advert for different disciplines – in this case marketing, non-profits and manufacturing – to come together to make a big difference, helping those who might otherwise be excluded or miss out on creative practices, while having a lot of fun along the way. Collaboration surely is the only way for many of our big social challenges?

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So if like us, you agree that stories like these need to be shared, then please do as we’ll continue to find them and promote the people and organisations making them happen. Also, if you don’t already, then do follow us on twitter and let us know if you hear of any people challenging the status quo in health, to help those with life limiting or long term conditions live a full and integrated life.

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