Tuesday September 5th, 2017 16:56

In the News September 2017 – A Place to Play

InthenewsSep2017

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.

Playtime

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.

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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Tuesday February 23rd, 2016 16:47

Agile Ageing – Tap into the Fountain of Youth and Transform Your Life

insightsFeb2016

We live in an agile world. The smartest companies – especially in the fast moving tech sector – are using agile methodologies to achieve productivity gains by becoming highly responsive to customer demands.

This trend can also be found in the Quantified Self movement. Ironically, the appeal of self-knowledge through self-tracking was originally lost on me. Yet here I am in 2016 enjoying a small thrill whenever my Apple watch says I’ve achieved my daily movement goal.

Which got me thinking. Social scientists are highlighting how people of all ages are actively “domesticating” digital technologies to make them more meaningful in our lives. In parallel, a growing body of research is quantifying the benefits of a healthy, active and creative lifestyle. Is it possible to interpret this emerging evidence base to validate a formula for agile ageing?

How old is old?

Let’s start with the supposition that age is a state of mind. According to World Health Organization Director Dr Margaret Chan: “There is no ‘typical’ older person. The resulting diversity in the capacities and health needs of older people is not random, but rooted in events throughout the life course that can often be modified.”

Furthermore, “It only requires a relatively modest adjustment to our lifestyles to dramatically improve and extend our quality of life.”

A recent study by Cambridge University, claims healthier lifestyles and better education improve mental health, reducing the risk of developing dementia by 22%.

This view is reinforced by the Alzheimer Society’s CEO Jeremy Hughes: “Regular exercise, low alcohol consumption and not smoking, considerably reduces the risk of developing vascular dementia.”

If you are concerned the only safe bet is a dull life, think again. The University of Reading reports that those that drank the equivalent of a glass and a half of wine a day, had a substantially lower risk of dementia and particularly of Alzheimer’s than teetotallers.

And stay social if you want to live longer. Researchers from the University of Queensland, found that risk of death rose by 12% if a person belonging to two social groups before retirement left both groups within six years.

Everyday creativity

At CSL we love The Cambridge Handbook of Creativity. In it Ruth Richards asks: “Would we humans value everyday creativity more if we knew it could improve our physical and psychological health, boost our immune function, and give us greater life satisfaction and meaning? Creative activity of many types is relevant to successful ageing, greater acceptance of one’s situation and finding purpose.”

As evidence, The Handbook references a study involving 12,000 people in Sweden comparing those who attended creative events, and/or visited museums and galleries, with those who were less culturally active. The conclusion: those more active, involved, and artistically aware, lived longer.

And there are economic benefits. A recent Times headline claims that; “Prescribing yoga and arts classes on the NHS is money well spent.” GP’s in Rotherham are directing patients to activities such as yoga, fitness classes or the arts. According to analysis by Sheffield Hallam University, were the programme to continue for five years the NHS would save twice as much as it spent by reducing A&E visits, hospital stays and GP appointments.

Lively living

If you are still alive and fit at 93 you might as well do something with your time. Reporting on Jun Takenashi, the world’s oldest commercial pilot who still takes his Cesna on joyrides round Mt Fuji, The Times says: “Japan now boasts more than 61,000 centurions, four times as many as Britain, and a whole new class of super-geriatrics who insist on lively living well into their nineties, skiing, climbing, sprinting or saving younger lives as lifeguards, Greywatch anyone?”

So, healthy and active lifestyles are not only extending, but improving quality of life. And, the icing on the cake: Japan’s per capita healthcare bill for super-geriatrics, is less than a third of the level in the USA.

Even the French agree. Reporting this month in LE POINT, editor Sophie Bartczak, says that our memory meets the capacity of the entire web, 1 million billion bytes and that our brain possesses the ‘fountain of youth’ able to produce new neurons throughout our lives, provided they are used!

Sophie concludes: “By changing our habits, we can keep at bay the risk of stroke or depression and delay the onset of dementia by 5 to 10 years. Moving more reduces risk by at least 35%. Adopting a Mediterranean diet? At least 40%. Practicing a complex, creative mental activity, reduces risk by at least 46%. But most of all, we support the evolution of our brain through our social interactions and by giving meaning to our lives.”

So, there you go, I believe we have international consensus: Take one healthy, social lifestyle, add a dose of exercise, a pinch of creativity and a drop of wine, mix to taste and what do you get?

Well, according to Public Health England; people who reach 65, stop smoking, get more active and eat better, can look forward to living for another 19 to 21 years…

If that’s not a formula for agile ageing, I don’t know what is.

Image by Oleksii Kudla, with permission for use.

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Wednesday January 20th, 2016 11:36

Music is the strongest social tool that mankind has invented

invitesJan2016

In a recent CSL News article, we looked at a pioneering program in Sweden, now being trialled in the UK, that streams music for free into homes for older adults.
Designed to create a more stimulating, healing environment, the program is based on the fascinating research carried out by Tores Theorell, professor emeritus at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm.
CSL are very pleased to say that Professor Theorell has kindly agreed to share key findings from his research, revealing the amazing power of music to positively affect our body and mind as we age.
Over to Professor Theorell…

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That music has strong power is well-known to many people. However, the power turns out to be stronger than I believed before I started scientific studies of the psychological and physiological effects of music.

Effects on hormones, immune system, cardiovascular functions and gastrointestinal activity can be surprisingly strong although effects vary markedly between individuals. Music has an unpredictable power that is able to amplify and also induce all kinds of emotional states. It can accelerate and decelerate. But there are no simplistic answers to questions about the relationship between music and health. Music can provide joy and improve health for elderly people but the musical experiences should be appropriate for the person and the situation. We need research in order to find out also when music is causing damage!

I grew up in a musical family devoted to classical music and I have also been involved in playing and singing classical music all of my life. But I am convinced that all high quality music regardless of genre can be used for health promotion in the elderly. The research I have been doing in this field is of course influenced by the fact that I am a physician.

Listening to music is a social activity – even when passive listening takes place in solitude. One ‘communicates’ with those who produced the music. Very often it is about being identified with a group or a cultural environment. The American jazz musician William Benzon expressed it in the following way: “Music is the strongest social tool that mankind has invented for coupling brains to one another”. The pituitary hormone oxytocin seems to be a vehicle for this. Basic research has indicated that oxytocin is a ‘togetherness hormone’.

Our research group has shown that the oxytocin concentration in blood increases during a singing lesson and the German music researcher Günter Kreutzhas shown that the oxytocin release increases in choir singers when they have a choir rehearsal but not when they talk to one another (without singing) in groups. Other research has shown that this knowledge about oxytocin can be used in major surgery: A Swedish nurse researcher, Ulrica Nilsson, has performed a randomised trial showing that patients who wake up from open heart surgery show increasing oxytocin concentration in blood when they listen to music individually selected for their benefit (selection performed before surgery!). In the comparison group waking up after open heart surgery in silence the oxytocin levels decreased! Since oxytocin reduces pain and anxiety this is of course of great potential importance!

Other areas of particular importance for elderly people is that rhythmic music which fits the individual well can facilitate walking for people with Parkinsonism. Singing can also facilitate the care of patients with dementia in situations that are otherwise difficult to handle for the staff because the patient is disoriented and unable to understand when it is time for cleaning and eating for instance. Instead of cooperating the patient is aggressive. When the staff sing songs that are well-known for the patient he/she might sing with the staff.

Often the patient knows the words and the music better than the staff and when he/she sings the disoriented mood disappears and then he/she cooperates. In both these examples the underlying reason why music can do things that talking cannot do is that degenerative brain diseases (both Parkinsonism and dementia are examples of such diseases although they hit different areas of the brain) cause damage to the linkage between brain areas. There are several ‘islands’ of intact memories but due to the disease the islands cannot be reached in the usual (talking) way. But the impulses from the music experiences reach the brain via other routes than talking.

One convincing study has been published in the USA on the health effects of choir singing for elderly people. This was a randomised study. Elders who wanted to start singing in a choir were randomised into two groups, one starting to sing once a week for two years, the other one having to wait. It was shown that health developed in a better way in the singing than in the other group.

Reasons for this might be:

Going to the choir once a week with all the social activity around it increases willingness to live; one has stronger motivation to care for one’s own health.

Singing training means physical activity. Large muscles are being trained just as in some kinds of physical activity.

Training of abdominal breathing (which is important in singing) improves the collaboration between circulation and breathing and it also stimulates deep slow breathing which is a stimulus to the vagus nerve mediating anti-stress processes. This is likely to be used outside the singing situation.

Aesthetic experiences may stimulate new thoughts and increased understanding of life.

The weekly singing exercises have effects on hormonal effects that may stimulate regeneration in the body. In a study of subjects with irritable bowel syndrome we randomly allocated those willing to start choir singing either to singing group or to talk group. In both groups they met once a week for a year. During the first half-year we observed increased concentration of such a hormone in the singing group but not in the other group. In addition we saw during the whole study year a more favourable development of the blood concentration of fibrinogen in the choir group than in the other group. Fibrinogen is related to the immune and coagulation systems and is known to be sensitive to stress. The fact that the choir group’s fibrinogen developed more favourably than the other group’s speaks in favour of an anti-stress effect of regular choir singing.

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So there you have it. The power of music is clearly much greater than most people would believe – it can help us physically, mentally and societally; whatever our stage in life or health. And thanks to the work of people like Professor Theorell and the pioneering programs putting it into practice, more lives can fuller and healthier in a way that is both non-invasive and personal to us.

If you haven’t already, be sure to follow CSL on twitter as we continue to find and share stories such as Professor Theorell’s.

Find his full study: Psychological Health Effects of Musical Experiences. Springer Brief Books 2014 here.

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Friday December 18th, 2015 11:10

In the News Dec 2015: Whistle While You Work

InthenewsDec2015

If you’ve been following our work with Innovate UK and the Long Term Care National Challenge, you may have seen the recent announcement of its winners, two projects tackling long term care from completely different angles.

One is a set of intelligent modular robotic systems called CHIRON, which ‘enables people to stay independent for longer, enabling them to remain mentally engaged, and generally extend their years of healthy and fulfilling life.’ The other, ‘Give and Take Care’, is the brainchild of Professor Heinz Wolff which helps people ‘save’ for their retirement and later years by caring for those already there; from an 87 year old still generating innovative ideas.

Which leads us to ask, what are your plans for living a long and fulfilled life? One in which robotics like the CHIRON project, and automation will be playing an increasing role?

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Horizontal ideas

Well, why not start by reading this provocative article from The Guardian, outlining just some of the ways in which advancements in tech will transform the way we live out our later years. It details a future where more jobs, white and blue collar, will be automated, bosses will know more about our everyday health through wearables, and more of us will be working remotely, competing for work globally.

“There’s going to be a huge change, comparable to the industrial revolution,” says Jerry Kaplan, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who teaches a class in artificial intelligence at Stanford. Robots and intelligent computer systems, he says, “are going to have a far more dramatic impact on the workplace than the internet has”.

There are upsides though, as healthcare is already seeing the benefits of greater processing power with IBM’s Watson computer now being used to diagnose cancer patients in the US. Apparently Watson can “sift through symptoms, medical histories and the latest research to deliver diagnoses and suggest potential treatments,” which hopefully means doctors will be able to spend more time with their patients.

So yes they may lead many of us into career changes, but they’ll know how we’re doing, health-wise, before we do. Let’s hope we’re listening though, and not too busy working out how to get ahead in the new ‘lattice’ style organisations the article says will replace the traditional ladder style; where “ideas flow along horizontal, vertical and diagonal paths.” We might not be able to out-process them, but we can sure get around the office faster.

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Chin up!

Don’t let it get you down though, because if there’s another thing we’ve learned recently, courtesy of Gaby Hinsliff, is that as you get older, life gets better!

Back with more of a sigh than a bang, Adele’s new, yet downbeat album ‘25’ led Hinsliff to offer advice to the young songstress about not letting things get to her so much. Ageing, she says, “brings with it a contentment to replace the frustrations or fears that can often preoccupy younger people. Experience teaches us, perhaps, to care less about negative feedback and filter out things that would once have made us unhappy.” Even better news for those of us still to get there, she continues; “Humanity returns to peak happiness somewhere in early retirement.”

Only time will tell if Adele heeds her advice, but if subsequent more upbeat releases results in lower sales then at least she knows it won’t bother her too much.

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The science of positive thought

It’s not only columnists telling us to think positively. According to a recent study from Yale, people who think negatively about growing old are more likely to suffer brain changes that lead to Alzheimer’s disease.

Becca Levy, associate professor of public health and of psychology, said: “We believe it is the stress generated by the negative beliefs about ageing that individuals sometimes internalize from society that can result in pathological brain changes.”

The study suggests that eradicating all negative beliefs about growing old, including views such as ‘older people are decrepit’, could help reduce the rate of Alzheimer’s disease.

“Although the findings are concerning, it is encouraging to realise that these negative beliefs about ageing can be mitigated and positive beliefs about ageing can be reinforced, so that the adverse impact is not inevitable.”

We’ll toast to that, so how to get into this more positive frame of mind? Well what about a wee tipple? Doctor’s orders…

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A glass a day?

According to research conducted by the Danish Alzheimer’s Intervention Study. It ‘has proved a link between moderate alcohol consumption and a reduced risk of death in people with early stage Alzheimer’s disease.’

Don’t head straight to Oddbins though, as they also clarified that; “While this small study shows a link between moderate drinking and reduced risk of death in people with Alzheimer’s, we simply don’t yet know why that might be the case. Drinking is often a social activity, and factors such as social interaction have previously been shown to benefit people with dementia, so this could well have a part to play in these results.”

So get your CV up to date, ditch the Adele albums and stay in touch with your friends and family. Hopefully in a few years’ time our wearables will be telling us to have more fun, because it’s good for our health.

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Until then, stay up to date with everything health, tech and creatively minded via the CSL twitter feed.

And from all at CSL, have a fantastic Christmas and a healthy and prosperous New Year!

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Friday November 13th, 2015 18:33

In the News 2015 – Time to Face the Music

inthenewsNov2015
Now that the average UK life expectancy has risen to 81 years, several of the stories we shared this month have led to a rather provocative question – how many of us are actually looking forward to living so long?
If we take account of the 1 million older adults in the UK who report being lonely, together with the country’s care home crisis, then the need to find new ways of equipping future generations with the knowhow and means to deal with these longer lives is a huge challenge, and indeed a socioeconomic opportunity.
So where do we start?

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Aim for the moon?

Channel 4 recently promoted The Campaign to End Loneliness’ (TCTEL) survey of over a million older people in the UK, by interviewing two older people on what life can be like as you age. It’s a hard watch, but at that time of year when family and the passing of time are at the front of our minds, then seeing John Lewis’ new ‘Man on the Moon’ ad campaign, with loneliness at its heart, is apposite to say the least.

TCTEL’s research shows that weak social connections are as bad for our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and are even worse than being obese; increasing the risk of depression, and the chances of developing dementia by 64%.

And so as the year’s biggest ad campaign turns 12 million+ plus (in online views alone) toward an issue that will eventually affect us all, how can we start making changes now?

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Turn up the music

The Independent has reported on a Swedish study that shows music and communal singing sessions benefit the lives of older people, which has led to a successful trial of ‘piping’ free music into homes for older people.

Soon to be extended to the UK, the scheme ‘provides elderly people with tablets, loudspeakers, streaming software and unlimited internet data’, as according to its lead Professor Tores Theorell, “The human brain is like a muscle: it needs constant activity and training. If we don’t use our brain, perhaps by just lying in bed, it starts to deteriorate. To listen to music is a concentrated way of focusing on what is happening, and is therefore a form of brain exercise.”

On this same theme of using creativity to stimulate the brain, The Guardian reports on the London-based Age Exchange, which is using ‘reminiscence arts sessions to help older people with dementia reconnect with the world, by exploring memories using creative activity’.

The research, funded by a £600,500 grant from Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity, ‘aims to create and measure best practice in creative care for dementia’, which considering there will be one million people with dementia in the UK by 2015 (Alzheimer’s Society), cannot come soon enough.

Non-invasive therapies using talent and creativity to improve lives? Now we’re talking. Speaking of which…

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A game a day

According to a recent large-scale study, online brain training ‘helps older adults with everyday tasks, giving memories and reasoning skills a workout to keep minds sharp and help with everyday skills such as shopping and cooking.’

The study found that ‘those who played “brain training” games for reasoning and problem-solving kept their broader cognitive skills better than those who did not’. And ‘people over 60 who played these games reported better scores for carrying out essential everyday tasks’.

Older people aren’t just using tech to stay sharp though, as The Telegraph also reports that a third of the over 65s are now using it to monitor their health too. Following a 2014 study which revealed that ‘65 per cent of people actively avoid going to their GP, new research has revealed that more than half of all Brits use gadgets or technology to manage their health and wellbeing’.

Promising stuff, but with just 6.3 per cent of interviewees saying they had shared data with their doctor online, then it seems there is still some convincing to be done if tech is really going to close the gaps between patients, doctors and treatment. Step in the patient hackers…

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Hack it, share it.

Although most of us won’t be creating or adapting medical devices as part of our treatment, a recent Digital Health Space blog has looked at some of the ‘technologically savvy patients’ who have. According to the article, citizen hackers like Tim Omer have ‘tweaked glucose monitors so they speak to their phone, hearing aids so they play music, used 3D printers to make their own prosthetics and improved breast pumps for new mothers’.

According to the blog’s author: “We must find a way to harness the talent that is out there and the desire of patients to become involved in their own care while protecting them from unregulated experimentation. It may be that, in this way, we can sow the seeds of the next healthcare revolution.”

Jeremy Hunt is certainly behind patient power, having referenced US cardiologist, and expert in digital health, Prof Eric Topol and his book ‘The Patient Will See You Now’. Hunt indicated an “inescapable, irreversible shift to patient power that is about to change the face of modern medicine beyond recognition”.

Revolution? Patient power? This is how we better prepare for longer living, by getting more involved with our physical and mental wellbeing, taking it as seriously as our doctors do.

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And what about the kids?

Researchers from the University of Auckland in New Zealand have been looking for novel ways to get reluctant kids exercising more by looking at apps like ‘Zombies, Run!’ to see if they can inspire greater health.

For anyone unfamiliar with these apps, they work by talking the user through a set running programme that uses intervals to build fitness over a period of time. The ‘Zombies, Run!’ app is particularly fun as it places the user in an imaginary zombie-filled environment, where your proximity to, and then need to escape from the zombies determines when and how quickly you run.

Although their efficacy was not proven, it was found that 66 per cent of the participants had never used their smartphone for exercise. If app designers can make health as fun for younger people as social apps, gaming, or indeed education (Minecraft, again!) then as the report states, it could ‘establish healthy lifestyles at a stage in life that could make an incredible impact in adulthood’.

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We’re living longer, and so the earlier we prepare for it the better. Use the billions of smart phones in our hands to learn about and manage our health, record and (safely) share our health data and less of us might need to see a doctor, and more of us would stay sharp for longer, annoying the neighbours with Fatboy Slim records well into our 90’s.

Until next month, keep up with the stories we share every day on the CSL Twitter feed.

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Friday October 30th, 2015 08:20

Meet the Super-Women Who Aim To Empower Us All

insightsOct2015

Earlier this month I gave a speech highlighting the need for a revolution in long term care at the Economic Ministry in Warsaw. The building brought to mind images of a pre-unification East European politburo; extensive use of marble and gleaming wood and an oversized stage adorned with flags.

But, appearances can be deceptive. What could have been intimidating I actually found inspirational. The ministry was filled with open minded stakeholders; representing governmental and local authorities, leading businesses, investors, academics, scientists and voluntary organisations. And they were all there because one passionate young social entrepreneur had managed to convince them that change was essential, and furthermore they weren’t obliged to wait for formal government approval to make it happen!

Over the past 18 months Marzena Rudnicka, (pictured) who runs a construction company in her day job, has recruited a team of extremely confident specialists – mostly young ladies – and set up the Polish Institute of Silver Economy. A Foundation committed to establishing a new order, where older adults are offered the respect and support warranted by any open-minded society.

Marzena gets things done. Her Foundation has already staged two successful Silver Economy Congresses, in the Polish Parliament and she has just launched Poland, and possibly Europe’s, first Age Friendly Accreditation system. Her ambition is to kick start a potentially huge new market for products and services, designed to meet the needs and desires of an ageing population.

To get the ball rolling Marzena is helping to mobilise social entrepreneurs. She predicts we will soon see many more early stage businesses collaborating in clusters, thereby creating the critical mass necessary to cultivate growth and eventually make independent assisted living a commercially viable reality.

Active Assisted Living

Marzena’s optimism was echoed at the Active Assisted Living (AAL) Forum which I moderated across three days in Ghent the previous week. I am embarrassed to admit that although I’ve been to Belgium many times, this was my first experience outside of Brussels. Ghent is an absolute jewel of a city which I recommend you experience. I will certainly be returning when I have more time for leisure and discovery.

But back to business: The AAL Forum is the annual platform for the European AAL community to meet and discuss topics, relevant to growing a new market. The overarching theme for 2015 was “Aspirations in Active Ageing – Engaging People, Services and Technology”. Its goal was to encourage and promote an improved connection between the individual and innovation and to speed up the ‘translation’ process between idea/research and commercial exploitation.

There was in fact a significant groundswell of opinion among the 600 or so stakeholders in attendance, that AAL should take a far more entrepreneurial approach with shorter lead times, less bureaucracy, a focus on the idea more than the process and a greater degree of business mentoring.

One manifestation of this thinking process was the AAL Awards & Microsoft Ventures hackathon, which is likely to be further developed as a means of generating fresh ideas and speeding up the process of getting those concepts funded for development.

As with the aforementioned Polish Silver Economy Congress, the driving force behind AAL is another inspirational lady who gets things done. Director Karina Marcus, sees the AAL Programme as an engine for growth. To this end she is committed to engaging the wider public in a dialogue as a vital step towards bringing inventions and solutions of the AAL Programme into the mainstream.

Karina is keen to involve more entrepreneurs and start-ups in the European Silver Economy. She points out that SMEs generally operate in more agile structures with less rigid working practices, which often leads to innovative and disruptive new concepts.

“The ability of smaller businesses to engage directly and take on board requirements and comments from end-users is another definitive advantage, especially when they employ short feedback loops to inform and accelerate product development.”
Karina Marcus

You know with super-women like Marzena Rudnicka, Karina Marcus and Jackie Marshall-Cyrus (the mastermind behind Innovate UK’s Long Term Care Revolution) rallying their forces, I’m pretty sure we are about to see an explosion of exciting new products and services that will transform the idea of later life for our older selves.

If you’d like to learn more about the AAL Forum, read this executive summary courtesy of our friends at Insight Publishers.

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Image provided by Ian Spero with permission for use.

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