Friday 6 May 2016, 15:40 | By

In the news April 2016: The art of staying agile

CSL In The News

In partnership with Innovate UK and the European Commission, CSL’s Ian Spero was in Brussels recently to kick-start a new campaign to re-imagine housing as more age-inclusive, and better suited to our ageing populations. The campaign continues in London on May 11-12th – learn more and register your interest here.
Before you do though, here are some of the most inspiring stories we saw this month on the use of creativity in helping those with life limiting or long term conditions.


You lift me up?

We start with this great report from NHS Choices, which looked at a recent study on the possible positive effects of choir singing on those affected by cancer.

Interestingly, the article looks not just at the study, but also the accuracy of how its findings were reported on by the press. And promisingly, it reported that “Findings showed a decrease in stress levels and improvement in mood after the singing session compared to before. Levels of immune and inflammatory proteins that boost the body’s ability to fight serious illness were also found to increase.”

It wasn’t all positive though, as its author clarified that; “While the study was generally reported accurately by the UK media, many of the headlines overstated the findings. For example, The Daily Telegraph’s headline “Singing in choir could help beat cancer” is currently unsupported by the available evidence.”

So a mixed review, but as the article, and one quote from a study participant pointed out, the benefits of singing as a group are many. They can provide enjoyment, improvements in mood, and inspiration via the support of being part of a group, and the uplifting message within the songs.

And with more of us living longer – the number of people over 80 is predicted to rise from 2.6 to 4.8 million by 2030 in the UK alone – then we would be wise to promote as many ways as possible to support one another. Perhaps those in their 80s should look to their elders for inspiration?


Sleep longer, live longer

The Queen’s recent 90th birthday inspired the Guardian to look at the lives of older people from a number of interesting angles.

Financial security was of course cited as beneficial to longer living, but the article also looked at a number of other factors such as geography, genetics, lifestyle, societal perceptions of ageing, usefulness and social inclusion.

The good news is that sleeping in longer and ‘afternoon naps’ will possibly help you live a longer life, reducing the risk of coronary heart disease by 37%. But, as in the case of those living on the Greek island of Ikaria, the article states that this longevity is possible if you also “eat simple, mostly plant-based food… walk the [many] hills, drink herbal teas rich in antioxidants, enjoy sex and red wine and are engaged in the community and see a convivial meaning to life.”

It’s a fascinating and inspiring article which takes an honest look at the broad range of active decisions we must make as adults if we are to live longer, healthier lives. And even better it focuses not on expensive new treatments or technologies, but instead the power of the human body and mind to support a longer life through achieving balance in your life.

So what else did we see this month? Well one new scheme making headlines recently in mental health, thinks that another inexpensive, non-invasive therapy might, in some part, help an issue which currently costs England £105bn annually.


Read all about it

The Reading Agency, as covered in this recent article also from the Guardian, are behind a new promotion using literature to help the near 300,000 young people with anxiety disorders in Britain.

Their Reading Well for Young People campaign aims to help treat disorders from ‘depression to eating disorders, and from anxiety to self-harm’, by allowing GPs, counsellors and school nurses to recommend a number of books to young people aged 13-18, which will be available at surgeries and libraries.

It builds on other literacy campaigns such as the bibliotherapy which started in 2008, and uses a list of books chosen by mental health experts of fiction and self-help titles.

Gaby Clement, one of six young people who helped put the list together, said; “I think fiction, if anything, works better for young people – a lot of young adult books deal with things young people go through, and through relation to the characters, it can be a way of getting advice without being told [what to do].”

As an organisation, CSL support any campaign using the power of creativity like music or literature to help those with life limiting conditions. The fact that 300,000 young people are reportedly experiencing anxiety disorders is incredibly worrying, and so tapping into the power and insight within books, coupled with the knowledge and experience of their healthcare professionals is one we definitely want to see more of.

Probably one reason why this story about a young boy in the US reaching over 12 million people with his cover of an Eminem song, caught our eye.


Social singing

Sparsh Shah, who has brittle bone disease, is making fans all over the world, including Eminem himself, with his ‘Indian-infused’ version of the song “Not Afraid”.

Using social media to spread his passion for music and lust for life, he has connected with and inspired others around the world, side-stepping the physical limitations many might assume insurmountable.

It’s a great song and well worth a watch, which in a year where we are losing many great musicians and artists, offers hope that their art will live on through fans like Sparsh.

For more inspiring stories like these, make sure to follow Creative Skills for Life on twitter, and until next month keep singing, reading and occasionally napping.