Tuesday April 10th, 2018 07:24

In the News April 2018 – Revolutionary Thinking


How do you start a revolution? In our case, you call together the best thinkers to tackle what a recent WHO survey revealed as the most pressing issue for older adults and community leaders worldwide: Housing.

Taking place May 9-10th at NatWest’s London HQ, Neighbourhoods of the Future 2 will unite like-minded decision makers and thought leaders to transcend common barriers to progress.

The think tank is by invitation only, and we’re encouraging ‘unusual suspects’ to apply. Learn more about the event and how to apply in Ian Spero’s latest blog.

You can also learn about WHO’s response to the housing issue, here. According to Alana Officer, who leads their Global Network for Age-friendly Cities and Communities, they are calling for housing practices proven to foster healthy and active ageing. They hope to take the best of what they receive from cities and communities and share them with other cities and communities.

First however, enjoy this month’s collection of the best stories from the world of ageing, including a new world record, the future of advertising and perhaps our favourite ‘ageing’ country – Japan.

Hear Hear

We kick off with this great new ad campaign for Amplifon hearing aids. That might not sound exciting, but its maker LOLA MullenLowe is challenging outdated perceptions of ageing by asking whether the ad’s protagonist (a suave, active older man) is ‘Old or Not Old?’

The ad pulls no punches. Our hero has a hip replacement, lags behind his grandchildren and as we later discover, wears a hearing aid. But it’s his attitude that drives the ad. He’s fully engaged with life, chooses not to drive for environmental reasons, and still has ‘flow’.

According to this article on LLB Online, the ad’s message is “not only aimed at Amplifon clients and [a] new generation of older people, but society itself, since it presents old age as a stage in life to continue being active and doing the things we love”.

Executive Creative Directors of LOLA MullenLowe Barcelona, Nacho Oñate and Nestor Garcia said the campaign “aims to give our fathers and mothers the place they deserve within society, but also so that all of us who have not yet reached that point in our lives, begin to imagine our future from a different perspective”.

We anticipate more great, provocative ads like this. Ones taking societal norms head on with wit and candour. Because, as the article says; “people live an average of 34 years more than previous generations”. That’s a lot of customers!

Young At Heart

Another industry sure to redefine its prospect is fitness targeted specifically at older adults. With growing evidence on its importance, such as this two-year US study on the impact of exercise on ageing hearts, more companies will no doubt look to promote the benefits of using exercises tailored to our ageing bodies.

According to study lead Dr Ben Levine, they divided its 45+ year old participants into two groups – one doing non-aerobic exercise three days a week, and the other doing high-intensity (interval) exercise for four or more days. The results, according to Levine, were ‘dramatic’. “We took these 50-year-old hearts and turned the clock back to 30- or 35-year-old hearts”, he said.

Interval training, explains the NPR article covering the study, is “4 minutes of intense workout and 3 minutes of recovery [and] was found to be particularly effective as it forces the heart to function more efficiently”.

“The sweet spot in life to get off the couch and start exercising [if you haven’t already]” continues Levine, “is in late middle age when the heart still has plasticity. You may not be able to reverse the aging of the vessels if you wait”.

A big part of our work is changing perceptions of what is possible in later life. Studies like this prove that we still have so much to learn. But if the thought of interval training to shave years off your heart health sounds a little arduous, then why not take inspiration from this amateur swimmer who just shaved 35 seconds off a world record, aged 99?

History in the Making

After taking up swimming again in his 80’s (having stopped at the outbreak of WWII), Australian George Corones has just smashed the 50m freestyle world record in the 100-104 age category.

Speaking to the BBC, a modest George said; “It was an exemplary swim for me, well balanced… and I was ready to hit the [wall] at the end very hard with my hand”.

It’s clear having a particular mindset will help you achieve such a feat, but his was not the conditioned body of a lifelong athlete. This is a man who realised being active was the best way to continue enjoying life, and now he’s a world record holder!

In his own words; “At this age it takes a while to get going… you get exhausted much more easily, but if you do it sensibly, the rewards are astronomical”. A longer, healthier life certainly sounds rewarding enough.

And Finally…

Aside from age-defying physical feats, there have been many other great stories that caught our eye this month. Here’s a quick run-down of the most popular.

First up is this interesting piece by Ken Bluestone, a director of CommonAge and head of policy for Age International. Writing in the Guardian, he warns there is a significant demographic change coming across the Commonwealth that is being ignored. It is that “the absolute size of the older population will increase by at least 100% in the next 25 years”, and the “fastest growing segment of the population is the oldest old – those aged 80 and over”.

Each country’s experience will of course vary, but as we know, Japan can offer the perfect case study for what they might expect.

This month’s update on the world’s ageing pioneers comes courtesy of a new two-part BBC radio show Japan: New Ways to Grow Old. It offers a charming insider’s perspective from the country’s older community on how housing, fitness, shopping and work are all changing in response to an ageing population.

The BBC is also exploring the issue a little closer to home, with the second series of Holding Back the Years. The 10 part TV series wants to help us make the most of our lives, at whatever stage that may be, by looking at housing, money, health and much more. They don’t stay on the iPlayer forever though, so don’t wait too long!

And we end with this popular article from writer Karen Dobres, asking in the Guardian ‘I’m 50. Am I too old to be a model again?’ Have a read to see if she was able to “harness her ‘grey power’ to once again make it in an industry driven by youth”.

That’s it for this month, until our next update be sure to follow AAA on twitter, and CSL for news on creative ways to help those with long-term or life limiting conditions.

Image used with permission, copyright Chris Barbalis.

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Thursday July 6th, 2017 15:11

In the News July 2017 – Skills to Pay the Bills


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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Monday July 4th, 2016 20:32

In the News June 2016: The new baby boomers


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 October 15th, 2015 20:05

In the News Oct 2015 – Are Friends Electric?

Last month, we told you about CSL’s Ian Spero joining leading Gerentechnologist, Alexander Peine, to speak across Europe on the huge economic potential of the Silver Economy.
One of those events, last month’s Assisted Active Living Forum in Ghent, was described as an “innovation hothouse, doing important work to improve quality of life for our ageing population.”
We think this perfectly describes the importance of these events, which Ian will address in his next blog. To whet your appetites we thought we’d kick off this month’s News Review with one of the projects promoted by the Forum, as it touches upon an issue many revolutionary technologies are facing in this ‘age of innovation’.



Designed to improve the wellbeing and autonomy of older adults, robuWALKER is a ‘mobility assistive and companion robot, providing personalised domestic services’. What this means for the individual is having a robot that helps you stand, sit or walk, will monitor your vital signs, contact emergency services if needed and even connect you with the outside world via the internet.

Not quite A.I. yet, but certainly moving closer to answering two questions. Firstly if more of us will live longer, most likely in our homes, what will that ‘look’ like? And secondly, how do we ‘feel’ about having another entity in our home?

As today’s generation grows up with technology touching most, if not all aspects of their lives, then perhaps this won’t be as big an issue for them, but for the rest of us the issue of automation, in particular driverless trains or cars, is becoming an ethical issue as much as a technological one. How do we know they will make the ‘right decision’ when faced by an ethical dilemma? Will it respect the rights of the individual, or ensure the greatest good for the greatest number of people?

If we aren’t ready to let doctors help those wanting to decide their own fate, then how will we feel about robots potentially having to make decisions that could affect our lives?

We could possibly look at what we’re happy to do pre-birth for an idea. Crispr-Cas9, or more specifically the power to edit genes is the hot ethical topic right now, but it was the same for IVF, which has become commonplace through practice.

So if cars and trains are helping us accept that automation is our future, and we know what decisions they’ll make when faced with a dilemma, then perhaps by the time robots are commonplace in our homes we’ll be happy to (literally and figuratively) put our lives in their hands.



Speaking of ethical dilemmas, a recent article in eHospice.com discussed a report by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman which suggested that, “due to a rapidly ageing population, prisons are increasingly having to take on the roles of care home and hospice.”

Institutions that were built for young, fit men, with stairs, long corridors and narrow cell doors are now having to deal with a population living into their 80’s and 90’s, with complex co-morbidities, limited mobility and cognitive impairments. Yet another headache for the government, balancing justice with dignity.

Although most of us won’t be confined in buildings made over 100 years ago, we will increasingly be ageing in our homes, and despite the UK’s No. 1 global ranking for palliative care, recent findings from the Royal College of Nursing reveal that ‘nine in 10 nurses can’t deliver the “right level” of palliative care’.

Hopefully the work of the World Hospice and Palliative Care Day which focused on those ‘living in unique conditions that often struggle with access to palliative care’ will keep this issue high on the health agenda. Because if we can’t improve how we care for people outside of our institutions, as more of us age with long-term conditions, then robots may be needed much sooner than we realise. Ethically programmed or not.



So where can we look for solutions that don’t require ethical debates, drastic institutional restructuring or wider doors? What about some international examples?

A recent study has revealed that ‘the art of Tai chi can help older patients with disabling conditions’. The ancient Chinese system has been found to improve the physical function and muscle strength of people in their mid-50s to their mid-70s with breathing problems, osteoarthritis and heart disease or breast cancer, leading the report’s Canadian authors to say that health professionals should prescribe Tai-Chi for those with these conditions.

Over in Finland, so reports The Guardian, integrated care is the solution, having put themselves at the “cutting edge of attempts across Europe to combat the inefficiencies and duplication of providing care through separate professional ‘silos’”.

“It is something the UK has started to grapple with,” continues the Guardian, “particularly in elderly care, where integrated care “pioneers” in 25 localities are attempting to develop innovative, coordinated methods… But in Finland, integrated services have already gone far beyond elderly care.”

And then what of the arts? What role are they playing in changing the lives of those with conditions such as dementia? In Singapore, where one in 10 people aged 60 and above has dementia, they are attempting to combat this with the arts, and promoting it through a month long event, The Silver Arts 2015 Festival.

Designed to ‘engage and inspire seniors through the arts’, something playwright and author Anne Basting, director of the Centre on Age and Community at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, says the arts offer the elderly the opportunity to express themselves irrespective of their illnesses. Which ‘for those with dementia, might be the key to drawing them back into social interaction.’

So The Silver Economy will help finance the much needed revolution in how we manage our changing health, greater integration will better use the services we have already, and getting used to driverless cars might make arriving home to our robots something we look forward to, rather than something a Hollywood tough-guy needs to save us from.


We’ll be back, next month, with more stories looking at the intersection of creativity, technology and health. Until then, make sure to follow us on twitter as we share stories from across the world as they happen.


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