Wednesday 14 December 2016, 10:31 | By

In the News December 2016: Bridges to Stardom

CSL In The News


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!