Sunday December 3rd, 2017 12:49

In the News December 2017 – Join the Agile Ageing ‘A Team’

InthenewsDec2017

This month’s review covers a wide spectrum of interesting age-related titbits, from the government’s Industrial Strategy, to AI and Elon Musk’s mom. Read on…

Grand Challenges

‘Ageing Society’ has been selected as one of four new Industrial Strategy Grand Challenges which will receive a share of £725 million to harness the power of innovation to help meet the needs of an ageing society.

According to the government policy paper; “Ageing populations will create new demands for technologies, products and services, including new care technologies, new housing models and innovative savings products for retirement. We have an obligation to help our older citizens lead independent, fulfilled lives, continuing to contribute to society. If we succeed, we will create an economy which works for everyone, regardless of age”.

There is also a significant pot of European funding to tap into. On December 5th, the Agile Ageing Alliance and Knowledge Transfer Network are organising a creative workshop where we aim to select a group of multi-disciplinary stakeholders who will work together to explore concepts that address a new Horizon 2020 Challenge: “Adaptive smart working and living environments supporting active and healthy ageing”.

Our objective is to help construct the UK component of an ‘A Team’, capable of winning a healthy 3 to 4 million Euro grant.

We are also planning a follow up in Brussels during January where we will bring together European stakeholders to complete the team. Contact info@agileageing.org if you are interested in participating.

Ecology of Ageing

Written by its Chair, Paul Burstow, our first article introduces Transform Ageing – a programme aimed at ‘breaking down some of the barriers that obstruct innovation and solutions’.

The programme is a collaboration between the Design Council, UnLtd, the South West Academic Health Science Network and the Centre for Ageing Better – using a £3.65m grant from the Big Lottery Fund.

Led by older adults through Design Council facilitated sessions, it unites “older people, community groups, commissioners and social entrepreneurs to tackle some of the biggest challenges facing us as we age”.

According to Paul; “The way we respond to the human needs of an ageing society needs a new approach. We need to look beyond the medical to understand the ecology of ageing, of the psychosocial, economic and environmental”.

To this end, Pauls continues; “UnLtd has issued the first of four call outs offering awards between £5,000 and £15,000. The aim is to start developing a pipeline of social entrepreneurs who can respond to the design briefs and the wealth of learning from the workshops and community research”.

This is fantastic to see and an approach we wholly endorse. As AAA’s Ian Spero said in his latest blog about setting a roadmap toward creating the cognitive home; “The ageing population is a major socio-economic shift associated with both opportunities and challenges. Opportunities for social innovation to move away from outmoded conceptions of age that will lead to a richer set of possibilities later in life, and challenges most notably relating to an increased demand for health and social care”.

An Intelligent Approach

The fact that all the big tech players are now looking at the opportunities and challenges in our ageing society proves this is an issue few can ignore for much longer. In this article for example, we learnt how IBM are now using artificial intelligence to improve their ability to spot trends and changes in our behaviour to support ageing populations.

To do so, they have teamed up with University of California San Diego as part of their Cognitive Horizons Network, a research collective focused on the emerging fields of Internet of Things, AI and machine learning.

The backbone of the research, says the article, is looking at daily behavioural patterns using discreet sensors in some elder care facilities – allowing them to spot consistent patterns in behaviour and then how they may change as they age, and then if you need support or intervention.

According to Susann Keohane, founder of IBM’s Aging-in-Place Research Lab; “Aging isn’t a disease – we’re all doing it. But it does have impact on health. So, could we surround ourselves with emerging technology in the home, while assuring the privacy and security that comes with health care and design something that will help someone understand how well they’re aging in place?”

The thought of having sensors around your home isn’t for everyone. But knowing you can be alerted if a loved one needs your help – even if it isn’t immediate, or that you yourself are starting to display cognitive changes that may affect your decision-making process, is powerful indeed. We’ll be keeping a close eye on their progress.

A Fresh Perspective

On a slightly different note, this piece from author Lynn M. Spreen caught our eye as it argues that companies should be more ambitious with the products or services they offer older adults. And a lot less patronising with their marketing.

Leading with the call to arms that the ‘over 60 consumer wants more than pill reminder systems’, she refers to Joseph Coughlin, Director of the MIT AgeLab who; “In spite of the fact that older people are living longer and better, [he says] his business students are stuck”. Coughlin continues; “I can’t tell you how many pill reminder systems I have seen (pitched to investors)”.

This current approach is clearly wrong for two reasons at least. Firstly, every person’s needs are different no matter their age, and secondly some are now working into their 70s or beyond and can therefore afford – and are likely to be interested in – a much broader range of products.

Lynn contrasts the statistics on the size of the group she is talking about (increasing by the year), the rate of tech adoption in that group (also increasing), and the idiotic headlines in magazines promoting products aimed at older people.

She says; “Corporate America just can’t seem to leave behind the image of people our age as doddering old fools. Besides pill reminder systems, they think we’re stupid about tech”. She continues; “I’d write more, but I need to get outside and do my morning walk while dictating the next chapter of my novel using Google Docs on my smartphone”.

And Finally

Kicking off a summary of other interesting articles spotted this month is this hugely popular article in Elle UK by presenter, writer and campaigner June Sarpong MBE – who now aged 40 is excited by the wisdom and experience that age brings – a perspective she believes should carry through into every decade that follows. As June says; “…age is not a reason to place limits, but rather a reason to avoid limitations in the first place and, more importantly, to value yourself, whatever your age”.

Then we have this article about Stanford University celebrating 10 years of driving the discussion on longevity, which according to their press release has helped make that discussion ‘both more inclusive and more optimistic’.

And finally, we have this article from The Cut about CoverGirl’s first 69-year-old spokesmodel and ambassador – Maye Musk. With a mother who refused to quit working until she was 96, and a son (Elon) who is changing the world as we know it, Maye believes ageing has only made her wiser. In her own words; “Everyday life is a little better”.

And so, on that note we say don’t forget to follow us on twitter, where every day we share the best stories about ageing.

Until next month, stay agile!

Image used with permission. Copyright

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Thursday March 3rd, 2016 16:12

In the News Feb 2016: Superheroes come in all sizes

InthenewsFeb2016

The recent Huffington Post article from CSL’s Ian Spero revealed how the weight of research around living well as we age, could be used to inform a formula for Agile Ageing.
And as over-65s in England are ‘living longer than ever before’, then sharing these findings is more important than ever. But what of those at the start of their lives? What’s happening for younger people living with life-limiting conditions? Well in our daily search for stories connecting creativity, health and tech-innovation, this particular story about ‘superhero kids’ definitely stood out…

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Kids love 3-D

After Kate Ganim’s sister was born without a hand, she saw how limiting prosthetics could be. That was, until in 2014, according to this HuffPost article, “Ganim heard about Robohand, a company that makes 3-D-printed machined limbs, and decided to connect the dots”.

The result was KidMob, a design firm that now runs courses helping kids to rethink their disability, and themselves, while learning design skills along the way. The results are as unique as the kids themselves, varying from tech-focused pieces to ones featuring water pistols.

The course, the article continues, “teaches kids to tackle community-based issues with skills like 3-D modelling and printing, technical drawing and using power tools – [where] children missing limbs get to swap their bulky prosthetics for superhero cyborg arms they create themselves”.

Now we’re sure this idea of redesigning your body might appeal to quite a few people, but what about issues that people can’t see? How might new technologies help us rethink a life-limiting condition like depression? Well it seems that’s where virtual reality is coming to the fore…

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‘Virtual therapy’

According to this recent BBC article, “a new therapy which involves a patient embodying themselves in a virtual reality avatar of a crying child could help with depression”.

The project, a collaboration between universities in London and Barcelona, allows patients to “wear a headset that projects a life-sized image, firstly of an adult and then of a child, [and] by comforting the child and then hearing their own words back, patients are indirectly giving themselves compassion”; the results of which project lead Professor Chris Brewin said had been “very powerful”.

The impact of VR is still being understood, but if computer games like Minecraft are any indication of their potential power, then it will be fascinating to see how it helps us understand ourselves, while tapping into our creativity.

Speaking of creativity, the recent dotMed Conference in Dublin showcased some inspiring examples of people within healthcare using creativity to challenge the status quo.

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Venn diagrams show the way

Writing in eHospice, Dr Ros Taylor MBE of Hospice UK, gave a fantastic overview of the conference which “celebrates the interface between medicine, technology and the humanities”.

In it, we’re introduced to Professor John Greally, who has been led by data visualisation into a ‘very rich world of four-way collaborations with researchers, data visualisation experts, programmers and artists to transform big data from ambiguous evidence into something that can be decoded and understood.’

Other speakers discussed the power of social media to help us learn and build communities, how medicine can be seen as a ‘performance’ with medical school being where it is rehearsed, the educational and literary potential of comics, and the power of photography to show the physical toll on doctors after 24-hr shifts. We’ll be keeping our eyes of for the talks, which were filmed and should be up on their site soon.

Using a data ‘visualisation’ of our own, it seems a Venn diagram overlap of health, innovation and creativity might be very potent indeed. And the fact that the event was organised by doctors (rheumatologist Dr Ronan Kavanagh and medical journalist Dr Muiris Houston) prove it’s not just organisations like CSL who want to see more live discussion around its potential.

Probably one reason why this recent, and very eloquent article from Alain de Botton on the purpose of music caught our eye…

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What is the point of music?

Well according to de Botton, writing recently in the Guardian, we should ask Peter Gabriel. De Botton writes that music should (and to quote Gabriel), “provide us with “an emotional toolbox” to which we can turn at different moments of our lives, locating songs to recover, guide and sublimate our feelings”.

He continues; “the great musicians – and Gabriel is among the very best – stock our emotional toolboxes with what we most need to endure life’s journey. Though they don’t always say it themselves, they are in the very best sense the therapists of our souls.”

And if you want to know how musicians like Gabriel do it, then take a moment to read this great article in the New York Times on how MIT tracked down the “neural pathways that react almost exclusively to the sound of music”.

The very area this Zika-fighting doctor in Jamaica was no doubt targeting when he “used his creative talents to deliver a public health message with a difference”. Enjoy!

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So that’s it for February’s news review. Until next month’s, keep up with all the best stories landing in the centre of our Venn diagram, on the CSL twitter feed.

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