Wednesday March 7th, 2018 06:41

In the News March 2018 – The Age of Super Humans


Two thought-provoking articles from AAA’s Ian Spero (Dare to Care Different and Silver Economy Predicted to Generate 6.4 Trillion Euros & Employ 88m by 2025) highlighted some of the trends informing our ageing society through innovation and technology. If you want to see how the future of social care and the silver economy are taking shape, be sure to investigate.

Before you go, here are some of our favourite agile ageing stories from around the world. Once again, we turn to Japan – which still leads the way when it comes to innovation and ageing.

Land of the Rising Sun

Produced with funding from the Pulitzer Center, this article by Shiho Fukada reveals how Japan is employing cutting edge technology to improve quality of life for its rapidly ageing population.

Mr Fukada introduces us to innovators like Kenta Toshima, a therapist in Tokyo who has “spent most of his savings to travel the world, so that he can bring far-off lands back to his elderly patients”. Seeing the impact his VR films have on their desire to be more mobile is quite something.

We also learn about the growing use of robots in senior care facilities to encourage activity, connect residents and carers, and even improve mental wellbeing through companionship.

Although it doesn’t fill us with joy to see robots replacing people (carers are in short supply), and care facilities being the preferred means for living, it does offer hope that technology can bring people together, inspire action and even encourage some to complete physical therapy to get moving again.

It’s Good to Talk

Staying connected is more than being occupied, it can keep us alive. This essential piece of journalism from John Harris in the Guardian acts as a timely reminder to anyone who thinks it doesn’t apply to them.

According to Harris; “We seem to have a collective aversion to focusing on the realities of an ageing society. But there is an even bigger issue. Far too many of us refuse to consider the prospect of our own advancing years – or, worse still, give any attention to people already dealing with theirs”.

To address this, he argues, “we must change the way we view retirement as sudden and without ambition, and cease viewing home as somewhere to be alone, but instead a place to stay connected with others”.

The solution, he believes, could be the Scandinavian-style cohousing, seen in several projects already running in the UK such as Cannock Mill near Colchester. According to one resident: “A lot of illness in old age is related to social isolation. That won’t happen to us, because we’ll have a permanent community.”

Extra Time

For those uneasy at the thought of robot friends or community living, then what about continuing to work to stay healthy and connected?

This interesting article in Forbes’ Next Avenue looked at several studies about the health benefits of delaying retirement for as long as possible. Although the results were mixed, one found a significant increase in mortality in the US around age 62 (the age of retirement), while a landmark 2016 study revealed that healthy retirees aged 65 had a 11% lower mortality rate than those who retired earlier.

Dr Donald O Mack from Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Centre clarifies that “people who are still working aged after age 65 are generally in less physically demanding jobs”, but nevertheless, he continues “are healthier emotionally than their counterparts who retired”.

With a high level of education strongly related to longevity, then could later-life learning for a new more sedentary, yet stimulating role be a solution? Elder universities – yet another possible market to expand in the future then.

The Supers’ Secret

Returning to our theme of ‘superagers’, this piece also from the Guardian revealed how research around the brains of superagers showed more of a certain type of brain cell known as Von Economo neurons, than average elderly individuals.

Apparently; “These neurons are also found in a small group of higher mammals and are thought to increase communication. The team hopes that the findings might help scientists to unpick what causes Alzheimer’s and other dementias, and why some people might be resilient”.

Prof Emily Rogalski, from Northwestern University explains; “We are getting quite good at extending our lifespan but our health span isn’t keeping up and what the superagers have is more of a balance between those two, they are living long and living well”.

Challenging the Cult of Youth

We also discovered that it’s not just us who are ageing, but so too our social networks. This report revealed that as Facebook has aged (it’s just turned 14), so has it user base. This is of interest as Facebook’s business model is built around advertising, and with the products made for older people steadily increasing, then the elder social statesman may be around for much longer than some critics are suggesting.

Indeed, the cult of youth may be under threat. That’s one impression to take away from our final piece, this lovely article in the New York Times about a recent exhibition on the potential for ‘ageing pride to challenge the cult of youth’.

As the gallery itself says; “Anti-aging is heard more often in our society than the wisdom of age… Bowing to the cult of youth, images of age are often dictated by the cosmetics industry. Countering this are the many historical and contemporary works by artists pursuing a completely different idea of age.”

So let’s stick together, retire only when we’re ready and keep checking in on Japan to see what they do next. Until next, #BeAgile and be sure to follow Agile Ageing on twitter, and if you don’t already Creative Skills for Life too!

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Wednesday November 8th, 2017 09:23

In the News November 2017 – Billions of reasons to #BeAgile

In the news_Nov 2017

Following the publication of the Agile Ageing Alliance’s white paper ‘Neighbourhoods of the Future: Better Homes for Older Adults – Improving Health, Care, Design and Technology’, we have been talking with public, private and third sector stakeholders about how best to translate our vision into physical and sustainable reality. To this end, last month AAA joined forces with Nesta’s Challenge Prize Centre to co-create a workshop hosted by NatWest at their London HQ.

Neighbourhoods of the Future: Framing the Challenge

AAA invited 40 expert stakeholders including start-ups, policymakers, big corporates and academics who were asked to work together, in a spirit of open innovation, to break down the challenges in developing and delivering the benefits of a ‘cognitive home’ in our smarter connected neighbourhoods of the future.

You can find out more about the Challenge here, and even more about our work in Ian Spero’s latest and provocative blog – ‘“The Elderly” = Doom, Gloom and Alarm. It’s Time to Press Reset’.

Before you do however, take a few moments to catch up with this month’s most popular stories from our work as the Agile Ageing Alliance. And if you don’t already, then make sure to follow Creative Skills for Life on twitter, where we continue sharing the best stories from around the world of creative ways to help those living with long-term or life limiting conditions.

Revolution in the Air

We kick off with this month’s most clicked article – an interview with social anthropologist and author Dave Prendergast by care specialists Elder, exploring the potential for technology to revolutionise later life.

Based at Intel, Dave was approached by Berghan Books to put together what the Huffington Post have called ‘one of the two most fascinating books on ageing in the 21st Century’.

In the article, Dave discusses what his research for ‘Aging and the Digital Life Course’ revealed about the needs of older people, and how emerging tech will change how we age.

Dave’s thinking is completely aligned to the AAA’s mission. Here is a taster:

“I believe that we have to design technologies that unfold, and that grows with the user. If you’re using a piece of technology for the first time, then we should make sure it’s simple and preferably use metaphors, familiar to the age cohort, within the design…Let’s make technology interesting and let’s make it fun for everyone, including those in later life.

“If it is possible to keep people out of hospitals and living independently for as long as possible, then that can only be a good thing…Digital Health technologies focused on things such as chronic disease management, falls prediction and detection, and care coordination can help with that, but we should be aware that homes can also become prisons. There are over a million older people who eat Christmas dinner by themselves in the UK each year – and we need to be thinking about how we design ‘ageing in the community’ not just within the bricks and mortar of the home. In the bigger picture, we have to make sure we are building companionship care into the equation with technology and not just replacing people with robots.”

It’s a shame the book’s priced at a point where many curious readers might not be able to afford it (£75)*, but there’s no doubting the issues it covers are important. We look forward to hearing more from Dave as we believe work like this will help change perceptions about our ability to revolutionise ageing.

*Correction – Since publishing, Dave has kindly pointed out that a paperback version of ‘Aging and the Digital Life Course’ is also available direct from Berghahn Books at £24. So if you were looking for your next big read then he’s just made it even easier for you!

In the Driving Seat

Tech’s power to support our ageing societies is a discussion taking place globally. This article in the South China Morning Post revealed how biomedical engineering is now seen as a potential driver of the Hong Kong economy – growing in popularity as a means of assisting well-being. In this case to accelerate recovery for stroke survivors.

According to the article; “Professor Raymond Tong Kai-yu, who heads Chinese University’s newly set-up biomedical engineering department, designed an award-winning robotic hand, which is dubbed the ‘Hand of Hope’”.

His ‘hand’ helps stroke survivors regain motor function after they leave hospital. It acts by assisting the user to open and close the hand, and according to Professor Kai-yu the brain learns to perform these actions again without the hand after just 20 sessions.

It’s a lovely story, but more importantly it’s encouraging to see more organisations realising that emerging tech can change how we live for the better and promote this as a driver for economic growth. As Ian said, ageing doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom.

Still Working

Another positive story we came across this month, was this announcement by Aviva UK. We’re surprised it didn’t get more traction in the press as it surely marks the beginning of a new trend, but it follows their Chief Exec Andy Briggs’ recent appointment as the government’s tsar for older workers.

Having forecast a £25bn boost to the economy by hiring older people, Briggs has put his company at the forefront of the push for better age representation in the UK workforce by promising to increase the number of people aged over 50 by 4000 – equating to 20% of their workforce.

Following his call for a minimum of 12% of people aged over 50 in UK workforces, three other large UK businesses (Co-op, Boots and Barclays) agreed to introduce what is being a called a ‘silver quota’.

According to the article; “Mr Briggs reiterated that he wanted to set an example by exceeding the 12% figure, adding that he also wants his workforce ‘to be reflective of both the communities we work in and of the customers we serve’ as life expectancy in Britain rises”.

We have no doubts we’ll see more such announcements. Not simply because this better represents our society, but also due to the benefits of creating a more even balance of experience across large businesses. What is interesting, is if this same approach can be applied to SMEs. It’s one thing to have a young team responding quickly to constantly evolving tech, but who’s steering the ship as they do?

And Finally

Companies retaining older workers is becoming an increasingly popular topic. We saw another great story this month in the New York Times, which found a company going that extra mile by helping older workers transfer to warmer climates during the winter to ensure they retain them in the workforce.

Also worth checking out are the outcomes from The Atlantic’s annual ‘The New Old Age’ event. It brings together “top experts on ageing for a frank discussion of age discrimination and to explore relevant issues ranging from ageing in place to longevity and work”. Plenty of food for thought.

And finally, Agile Ageing’s Ian Spero has been named number 4 in a list of the world’s top ageing influencers you should know about, by Aging in Place – the USA’s leading source of information, advice and inspiration for ageing in place. AIP founder Patrick Roden PHD says Ian is; “A deep thinker with an analytic perspective…he is one to follow as a thought leader on ageing and the environment”.

According to Patrick, Ian’s latest blog “…is thought provoking and a call to action”. Be sure to read it then, if you haven’t already!

So that’s it for this month. Be sure to follow AAA on twitter if you don’t already, and keep an eye out for more about the Open Innovation Challenge.

Until then, #BeAgile!

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Monday October 2nd, 2017 14:16

In the News October 2017 – The tide is turning


In a month where Australian centenarian and fundraiser Irene O’Shea became the world’s oldest skydiver (aged 101 and 39 days), we take a look in our work as the Agile Ageing Alliance at more inspiring stories about the changing face of ageing.

And if you don’t already, then be sure to follow Creative Skills for Life on twitter, where we continue sharing the best stories from around the world of creative ways to help those living with long-term or life limiting conditions.

Smart thinking

We kick off with this article about Lindera, a German start-up using c to offer older adults more personalised care in their homes.

Building on her experience working with Microsoft, CEO and co-founder Diana Heinrichs wants to use data science to create a greater understanding of how long older adults can live independently at home.

Diana asks, “Imagine if you could know the individual likelihood of why, when and where a person might fall? How many people and how much money could you save?”

Lindera’s solution was to build an app-based mobility test powered by cognitive computing.

She explains, “We designed an integrative model combining proven psychological tests with a mathematical analysis of the gait to calculate the individual likelihood of a fall and to then provide tailored recommendations. Our goal is to provide elders something easy to use themselves at home”.

According to Diana, the app is already showing results with insurance companies licensing the tool to better align their service to individual need while lowering costs, and patients receiving clearer fall prevention plans they can share with family and caregivers.

With many predictions around AI focusing on what we may lose, it’s interesting to see a real-world example of how it can positively impact our lives on an individual basis. And as more of us choose to age in place, the more we know about how we’re doing the better.

Never too young to start

Staying at home for as long as you can isn’t just about your physical capabilities. It’s also about the home in which you live.

This article in the Irish Examiner focused on former electronic engineer and now chief officer at Ireland’s Centre for Excellence in Universal Design, Gerald Craddock.

Unusually, Craddock began his preparations for ageing in place in his 30s, ‘future-proofing’ his home during renovations as he knew he and his wife wouldn’t want to leave their community. An environmental factor that has been found to promote wellbeing.

For him, this meant ensuring accessibility with a ramp and leaving enough space in specific areas for modifications later down the line, such as a downstairs shower or lift.

According to Craddock; “It’s part of our human nature that we don’t think of ourselves getting old or think of ourselves as old, but design can have a significant impact on our environment, so it’s thinking in advance that is the key”.

With their population segment aged over-65 increasing in number faster than any other EU country, and an infrastructure set to be around for another 90 years (according to Craddock), adapting existing homes in Ireland will be key.

AAA is certain that the market for adapting homes to age in place will become huge. And it will be interesting to see if fitting luxury items like entertainment systems while that happens might become the norm. Maybe delivering games to positively impact both body and mind.

Very far away?

Talking of the future of gaming, this absorbing article in Wired explored the challenges faced when making brain training games. It focused on the work of cognitive neuroscientist Adam Gazzaley, creator of Neuroscape – a new research institute at the University of California, San Francisco.

Since their work began, Gazzaley has been addressing the challenge of proving the efficacy of brain games – what psychologists call ‘far transfer’. With much debate in the arena between scientists and companies pertaining to their actual impact, Gazzley is positive the evidence will come.

He says; “I think we will unlock the potential to optimize our cognitive abilities and our emotional regulation in a way that we have never seen before. I do believe that. Is that overselling it? Who knows. I’d rather be proven wrong in 15 years”.

What is certain, the amount of research addressing the challenges faced in ageing societies will continue growing. And if this finds ways to extend our health without the need for medication or surgery, this must be good.

In fact the same can be said for stories about ageing – a point echoed by Paula Span in her latest ‘New Old Age’ blog in the New York Times.

Fresh content

Often focusing on the challenges faced in caregiving, Paula’s blog regularly looks for fresh, personalised perspectives in what can be complex and sensitive issues.

In her own words; “The ranks of caregivers, both familial and professional, keep growing. Researchers and physicians learn more about ageing bodies and minds, what helps and what doesn’t; public policy changes, but not fast enough. There’s always more to talk about.”

What we may see less of however – as reaching the ripe age of 100 become the norm – are wonderful articles like this from Emine Saner in the Guardian – ‘How to live to 100 and be happy (by those who have done it!)’.

As the article states; “According to the Office for National Statistics, the number of people aged 100 or more has quadrupled over the last two decades, and there are now a record number of centenarians in the UK: 14,570 at the last count”.

Which leads us to our final article – a recent interview between Appello UK’s Tim Barclay and Agile Ageing’s Ian Spero asking ‘Are housing providers ready for a revolution in long term care?’

In it, Ian outlines the big challenges and opportunities faced. But also, how small changes like imagining we are talking about ourselves when we talk about ageing can play a part in helping design the future we want to see.

As Ian says; “Let’s face it – we are all ageing and it makes more sense to think about what we as individuals will want and expect in terms of our lifestyle, care and housing provision in later life”.

That’s it for this month. If you enjoyed the stories you saw here then be sure to follow us on twitter, where we share daily the best stories pertaining to agile ageing from around the world.

Until next month, #BeAgile!

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Tuesday September 5th, 2017 16:56

In the News September 2017 – A Place to Play


How we age is in revolution. Decreasingly an issue to fear or ignore, and more a fact of life we can embrace and even thrive in. Ian Spero’s recent article on the changing attitude of marketers toward older consumers celebrated this fact by placing a spotlight on those leading the way. Visionary companies realising the conceit of ‘anti-ageing’ is on its way out.

Substantiated by the insightful stories we found this month in our work as the Agile Ageing Alliance, this opportunity for change is being addressed across many sectors. This great article by Viktor Weber for the World Economic Forum for example, explores the impact emerging technologies are set to have on the very way we live.

Mortar life

In it, Weber reveals how our increasing longevity will impact healthcare and housing, and how technologies like 3D printing will allow us to build homes that are stronger and more environmentally sound. He also suggests repurposing office blocks when automation radically changes work as we know it, and that some people may begin to actively choose living their life offline.

It’s thought provoking stuff. In Weber’s own words; “It is vital to foster more holistic thinking, connecting the dots between technological, environmental, ethical, legal, political and societal changes – not just within the built environment, but any aspect of life. This is the only way we as a society can build a common vision for your future”.

AAA couldn’t agree more. Bringing people together to address the challenges we face, while realising the opportunities is what we do. Time however, isn’t on our side – the impact of an ageing population is already being felt across the job market, highlighted recently in this article from The Actuary magazine.

Working it out

The article led with the statistic that “the number of workers aged over 50 in the UK economy grew by 230,000 between the first quarter of 2016 and the first three months of this year”. And the same period saw the number of 35-49 year-olds decreasing by 48,000, while 143,000 UK-born employees stopped working – either through retirement or emigration.

Our ageing society (and limits on migration) they argue, is “likely to cause a workforce crisis for businesses that are not prepared for the transition”, meaning that “companies employing older workers need to create working environments that can capitalise on that, but also equip them with new skills to ensure profitability”.

According to Julia Howes, a workforce planning specialist from Mercer (who carried out the research); “It’s difficult to see how the industry will weather this storm unless it retains its UK workforce, maintains access to non-UK labour forces, automates, and ceases provision of some services”.

Whatever the solution at scale, there are high-profile individuals arguing that ending the enforced retirement of experienced individuals, particularly women, must be part of the solution. Not just to keep the workforce diverse and primed, but to help those living into their 90s or beyond remain fully engaged with life.

Mum knows best

Sally Koslow illustrated this argument in her recent call to arms in the New York Times. Inspired by her aunt’s lucidity and lust for life at 100, this personal piece argued that in a world that cherishes youth, the options for women to stay sharp by continuing to work are limited.

When the choice for early retirement was made for her, Koslow’s answer was to join the gig economy. Granted this isn’t a choice everyone has, but it shows that just because industry makes a decision for you, it doesn’t mean you’re done.

Koslow says female managers should do their bit by considering hiring women their mother’s age. As she wrote; “Today’s 30- and 40-somethings can’t ‘lean in’ forever. If they don’t address embedded ageism, they’ll blink, pass 50, and possibly see their success evaporate faster than a boss can say, ‘Sorry, we’re going in another direction.’ A younger direction”.

Once again however, we can’t wait too long as this younger direction is getting younger by the day. Our last two stories prove just that.


Since she was 11, the prodigiously talented Laura Deming has been interested in ageing. And now aged 23 the venture capitalist has just closed her second fund – focused on aging – with $22 million. According to Deming, “aging has become a place to play”.

And showing youth isn’t always wasted on the young, this article from Generation Change introduced us to their project bringing young children and older people in care homes together to rediscover the joy of personal contact. As they say; “Bringing the generations together is not only a positive thing to do – it could become increasingly necessary over the coming decade.

As more people join the revolution and find new opportunities in our ageing society, we’ll be sure to share their story on the Agile Ageing Twitter feed. Be sure too, to follow the CSL Twitter feed, where we share the stories we continue discovering on creative solutions helping those with long term and life limiting conditions live a fuller life.

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Monday August 8th, 2016 15:03

In the News August 2016: Health’s in fashion

40132196 - fashion studio photo of stylish lady in gloves and sunglasses

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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Thursday March 3rd, 2016 16:12

In the News Feb 2016: Superheroes come in all sizes


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…


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…


‘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.


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…


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!


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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