Category Archives: community

Visbuzz selected as a London Venture to help transform delivery of public services in London

Visbuzz are excited to announce that we have been selected by EY, in partnership with London Councils to be part of their London Ventures programme.

The London Ventures programme is an initiative designed to transform the delivery of public services in London. Developed and managed by EY in partnership with London Councils, the programme brings together private sector companies, investors and local authorities to drive innovation and cost efficiencies.

Through new concepts, or ‘Ventures’, London Ventures instils a collaborative approach in public services delivery. It helps local authorities work together, using their combined weight to drive better commercial deals with suppliers. It also encourages cross-sector partnerships that provide positive outcomes for local authorities, suppliers and investors alike.

Visbuzz was interested in the London Ventures Programme as a way of raising awareness of the issues surrounding loneliness and our simple solution as a way of tackling them. Being part of the Programme is very exciting for Visbuzz, and helps us to move further forward in our vision of a world in which loneliness does not exist. Through the work of the London Ventures programme, we can build effective partnerships and connect even more isolated people to those who matter most to them.

London Ventures is overseen by the Capital Ambition Board which brings together all 32 London boroughs and the City of London. London Councils represents London’s 32 borough councils and the City of London. It is a cross-party organisation that works on behalf of all of its member authorities regardless of political persuasion. EY combines leading public and private sector practice with an understanding of diverse needs, focusing on building organisations’ capability to deliver improved services.

London Councils Logo

The Campaign to End Loneliness

Are you passionate about reducing loneliness in later life?

Do you enjoy informing and educating others, meeting new people and making new contacts?

If so, why not become an Ambassador for the Campaign to End Loneliness?

They are looking for people from across the UK to help us raise awareness about loneliness and what can be done about it. All you need is to be passionate about the issue and happy to speak in public.

The Campaign to End Loneliness is a network of national, regional and local organisations and people working together through community action, good practice, research and policy to create the right conditions to reduce loneliness in later life. They were launched in 2011, are led by five partner organisations and work alongside 2,000 supporters, all tackling loneliness in older age.

Find out more about becoming an ambassador here.

What The Campaign to End Loneliness want to change

The Campaign to End Loneliness aims to reduce loneliness in older age by creating the right policy and funding conditions for groups and individuals working to address the issue. They work with a wide range of organisations to seek the following change:

1. Higher quality, and more effective, services and activities

2. Better use of existing support, especially by the most lonely

3. More commissioning and/or development of services and activities targeting loneliness

What they do

Evidence-based campaigning to commissioners: Much of their time is spent campaigning: communicating with, convincing and persuading those who make choices about health and care spending to tackle and prevent loneliness. They provide a strong voice to commissioners of services and activities at a local and national level. They invite their supporter network of 2000+ organisations and people to campaign with them.

Facilitate learning on the front line: The Campaign to End Loneliness offers organisations who want to tackle loneliness a chance to learn from each other. They provide the latest research, opportunities to meet through events, and regular information to share the motivation and momentum behind this issue.

Building the research base:They gather together and offer to policy makers and practitioners the latest evidence on loneliness and isolation. They draw on research through our Research Hub which engages academics and specialists from across the world. With these academic partners, they work to make new research as relevant and practical as possible for organisations that are working directly to support older people, or making commissioning decisions.

 

Contact the Elderly: A Lifeline of Friendship

Contact the Elderly organise monthly Sunday afternoon tea parties for people aged 75 and over, who live alone with little or no support from friends, family or statutory services. The afternoons are full of fun and laughter and make a real difference to the lives of their older guests.

Supported by a network of volunteers, the charity organises monthly Sunday afternoon tea parties for small groups of older people, aged 75 and over, who live alone. Offering a regular and vital friendship link every month.

Each older person is collected from their home by a volunteer driver and taken to a volunteer host’s home for the afternoon. The group is warmly welcomed by a different host each month, but the drivers remain the same which means that over the months and years, acquaintances turn into friends and loneliness is replaced by companionship.

The tea parties are a real lifeline of friendship for our older guests who have little or no contact with family or friends. They bring people of all ages together, develop fulfilling friendships and support networks, and give everyone involved something to look forward to each month.

The group activity encourages:

  • Inter-generational links
  • Friendships to develop between older group members and volunteers

 

The groups:

  • Operate at weekends, when most community services for older people are not available. Moreover, Sunday has been highlighted to us by older guests as being a particularly lonely day of the week.
  • Are kept purposely small, and they meet in the welcoming environment of someone’s home.

Increasingly, research highlights the link between loneliness and ill-health in later life, including depression, certain heart conditions and even Alzheimer’s disease.

The Story Behind Contact the Elderly

In the early 1960’s, Trevor Lyttleton MBE, met an older lady who lived near him in Marylebone. She had no electricity in her house and was entirely alone. He discovered from the Welfare Department that she was one of many hundreds in the borough in a similar position.

Together with a few friends he decided to do something about it. They visited twelve older people whose names they had been given by the Marylebone Welfare Department and invited them to come to Hampton Court on the first Sunday in March 1965.

From this small start, Trevor decided to set up further groups and in September 1965 they were granted charitable status to enable them to raise funds to advertise for volunteers.

Trevor says: “I received a Christmas card from one of the old ladies simply saying ‘at last I have something to live for!’ and I think this more than anything else made me realise how much more we could do and so we decided to set up other groups.”

This small act of kindness grew into what is today a national charity with groups in every region of England, as well as Wales and Scotland. Trevor is still involved as the charity’s Chairman, and the group he started in 1965 is still going strong.

If you would like to learn more about Contact the Elderly, including how to become a volunteer or a guest, click here.

Teaandcake

Age Friendly Cities

I recently visited a town which it seemed had been specifically built for cars, with pathways and crossings miles away from shop entrances, zig-zagging around dual carriage ways and roundabouts, requiring a much longer walk than a sensible a to b route. This article from The Guardian filled me hope that things are changing, and places may be becoming more accessible.

Here is my abridged version:

“Stand at the traffic lights on a major street in any city. Now, when the green man invites you, try to cross the road. Unless you have the acceleration of an Olympic sprinter, the chances are that the beeps will stop, the green man will flash and cars will rev impatiently before you’ve reached the sanctuary of the other side. Especially if you have a disability, are pushing a buggy or laden with shopping. Or are old. The Department of Health says the average walking speed demanded by pedestrian crossings is 1.2 metres a second, while the average speed of the older pedestrian is just 0.7 to 0.9 metres per second.

About half of people over 65 face problems getting outdoors; for them the city is an inhospitable place, with its cluttered streets, uneven pavements, poor lighting and signage. Details – like the bus driver who moves off before you have time to sit down, or doesn’t park close enough to the kerb – have a huge impact on their sense of confidence and safety. But if they stay in – in “self-imposed house arrest”, as Chris Phillipson, professor of sociology and social gerontology at the University of Manchester, calls it – their physical and mental health is liable to deteriorate, and they’re prone to isolation and depression.

In 2006, the World Health Organisation set up its Age-Friendly Cities project, which shows how the physical and social environment can help people “age actively”. Now 258 cities and communities have signed up to what has become a global network, with Manchester in 2010 the first British city to join.

In the newly reopened Whitworth gallery all the guides are trained to be “dementia-friendly”. Manchester’s Band on the Wall club is reclaimed every couple of months for clubbers over 50. Then there are age-friendly allotments, with raised beds to make them accessible to people in wheelchairs, age-friendly gardens (no steps), and in Newcastle the “vitality bench” (arm-rests that help you get up, and warm-to-touch materials).

Other countries are innovating, too. Lyon’s “cyclopousse” is a delightful pedicab transport service tailored for older people. The Adeg and Kaiser supermarket chains in Germany have wider aisles, non-skid floors, lower shelves, brighter lighting, larger price labels and magnifying labels hanging from chains.”

Changes put in place to make cities more accessible and friendly for older people, mean they will be more accessible and friendly for all of us. Let’s hope more cities and communities get involved! 
Guardian

Age Action Alliance Blog: The Age of No Retirement

Following on from the incredible success of ‘The Age of No Retirement?’ event at the OXO Tower Bargehouse in London on 1-2 October last year, ‘The Age of No Retirement?’ is visiting Manchester on 27-29 April.

‘The Age of No Retirement?’ is a live interactive forum that brings together the young and the old; the employers and the employed; the policy makers and academics; the designers and innovators; and the artists and thought leaders – into a collaborative space to discover and unlock the opportunities inherent within a society where people are living longer than ever before.

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Over two days at the Bargehouse last year more than 500 people from 200 organisations explored 27 topics across 8 themes – from product/ service design to work & employment to intergenerational integration – with the objective of breaking down the age barriers and creating a society that we all aspire to live in.

Representatives from Barclays, Google, GSK, Aviva, BT, Microsoft, Capita, Getty Images and Mercer rolled up their sleeves with members of the public, small business owners, entrepreneurs, designers and charities to discover some amazing opportunities. Opportunities for intergenerational collaboration; for community redesign; for lifelong learning; and for fuller working lives.

 In Manchester, we are going to push the boundaries even further. We are not just going to come up with amazing ideas – we are going to convert ideas into action. On Days 1 and 2 we are going to co-create 24 implementable project prototypes which together will represent the most impactful recipe for age-positive social change the UK has ever seen.

 On Day3 we are going to share the scores of stories from people and organisations across the UK who are driving age-positive change within their communities. Leading the way will be the shining example being set by Barclays, and how over-50 customers and employees are changing the way Barclays thinks and behaves in the most inspiring of ways.

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 This is not about ‘old’. It is about getting older, growing up, gaining experience. It is about all of us. It is about YOU!

 We cannot turn our backs on and continue to ignore the amazing talent and experience that is built up over decades and is possessed by the more than a third of the entire UK population who are over 50.

Join ‘The Age of No Retirement?’ movement for age-positive change. Together we will redesign our communities, workplaces and lives along age-neutral lines, and with a hope and optimism rarely seen in this sector.

Register your place for the Co-Design Labs and the Barclays story now via Eventbrite. Participation is free.

Eventbrite booking: https://ageofnoretirementmanchester.eventbrite.co.uk

Overview of ‘The Age of No Retirement?’ Manchester, 27-29 April: View here.

Impact Newspaper from the Bargehouse event 1-2 October w2014: View here.

Blog Article and disclaimer information: http://ageactionalliance.org/the-age-of-no-retirement-comes-to-manchester/

Contact email:

act@ageofnoretirement.org

NHS England News: Dementia Announcement

By on 03 02, 2015 in communityDementia

 

We share a news article from NHS England: Original Article

A new vision for dementia, announcement by the Prime Minister, has been welcomed by NHS England’s Clinical Director for Dementia Professor Alistair Burns.

On Saturday 21st February, David Cameron announced the next phase of the government’s “challenge on dementia” programme.

He pledged £300m of investment into dementia research over the next parliament, a new global fund on dementia, one million NHS staff to be trained in dementia, and faster assessments, better care for all. Nationally, initial dementia assessments will take place in an average of six weeks, followed by better support post-diagnosis.

Professor Burns said: “Awareness of dementia is at its highest level and to have 1 million Dementia Friends shows the enormous strides we have taken in the last three years.

“We are beginning to change the way society respects and treats people with dementia. We can change the lives of tens of thousands of people for the better if we can continue to raise awareness, invest in the search for new treatments, and most importantly improve the lives of people with dementia and their carers.”

The number of people being diagnosed with dementia has been steadily rising and as of January an estimated 398,597 people had been added to the dementia register, up from 250,000 in 2009.

Since March the numbers have jumped from 349,000 with between 5,000 and an extra 10,000 people a month now being added to the dementia register.

Announcing the dementia vision, Prime Minister David Cameron, said: “Dementia is one of the greatest challenges of our lifetime, and I am proud that we are leading the world in fighting it.

“Because of the growing strength of our economy, we can invest in research and drug-development, as well as public understanding, so we defeat this terrible condition and offer more hope and dignity for those who suffer.

“That way, we can help make Britain a country that offers security in retirement for all.”

He also announced the creation of a new global fund on dementia, which would see investors from the public and private sectors unite to fund a range of research projects.

Promising Approaches to Reducing Loneliness and Isolation in Later Life

By on 02 02, 2015 in communityloneliness

On Monday 26th January, the Campaign to End Loneliness launched their brand new guide on what works to address loneliness in older age.

‘Loneliness is a bigger problem than simply an emotional experience.  Research shows that loneliness and social isolation are harmful to our health: lacking social connections is a comparable risk factor for early death as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and is worse for us than well-known risk factors such as obesity and physical inactivity’. Find out more about loneliness here.

Developed by the Campaign to End Loneliness and Age UK, Promising Approaches to Reducing Loneliness and Isolation in Later Life draws on experience, expertise and evidence to set out a new framework for understanding how to tackle loneliness and isolation.

The Campaign to End Loneliness and Age UK have produced a report that offers practical answers to what works in tackling loneliness. In the report, the Campaign to End Loneliness argue that leaders in health and social care must recognise the individual’s experience of loneliness and should not seek a ‘one size fits all solution’.

They set out a new framework for understanding how to tackle this multi-faceted problem, presenting a range of projects and examples from around the country.

This guide can help ‘commissioners, funders and deliverers of services that support older people to identify the areas of need in your communities, and support you as service providers, in the delivery of more effective loneliness interventions’. To find out more, and see how you can involved in this campaign, visit the Campaign to End Loneliness website here.

CtoL

Acts of Kindness

The festive period is a time when we are encouraged to think about those near to us who may need a little extra support, those who struggle to heat their homes, those who do not see anyone, those who struggle to feed themselves and their family. It is put on our hearts to help those less fortunate with Act of Kindness.

This got me to thinking about acts of kindness that could we could practise throughout the year. With 2015 just around the corner, people will be setting New Year’s resolutions to get fit, lose weight, eat less, spend less, give more…. can we perhaps include in these resolutions some specific acts of kindness for those in the community who are lonely and isolated? This sounds daunting, and with our lives already so busy, can we really spare the time and effort?

Yes, we can.  It can be an easy and fulfilling act if we put our minds to it. It can be as simple as donating to charity those clothes we never wear, offering to get some shopping for a neighbour when we do our own weekly shop, or picking up a little something extra for the local food bank – even easier now if you can get it delivered. What about picking up an extra newspaper when we go to the newsagent, mowing an older person’s lawn when we have the mower out anyway, taking someone’s dog for a walk or doing a jigsaw with an elderly housebound person. Let’s surprise ourselves and others with some acts of kindness in 2015.

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Playing in the woods.

Today we share a post from The National Trust and their Outdoor Nation Blog posted on August 15, 2014.

It’s not just children who need play, argues Fiona Harrower, Visitor Experience Manager at Hatfield Forest.

Virtually all of my favourite childhood memories involve playing outdoors.  Even now, when I’m meant to be grown-up, I still can’t resist a puddle or balancing along a fallen tree.

Den building at Hatfield. © Fiona Harrower

For the last couple of years we have celebrated the national Play Day at Hatfield Forest with one goal: to encourage play with no play equipment.  With a thousand acres of woodland and grassy plains to explore this should have been a realistic challenge.

Or at least you would have thought so.

But I’ve noticed that many of our visiting parents are desperate for a trail to follow, a map to highlight where to play, actual trees and logs signposted as okay to play on.  Whereas their children, when allowed to just play freely, are quite happy to find their own spots, make their own games and use their imagination.

So our role is to teach the parents how to play in the outdoors, as the kids are experts at it already.  With a large number of veteran trees, we have an added challenge of balancing the promotion of natural play with the conservation of Hatfield Forest.

The 50 things to do before you’re 11 3/4 campaign has helped us to promote our no need for play equipment message, by giving us a tool to spark families’ imagination.  The scrapbooks, and even more so the stickers, are a big hit.  Our top play activities at Hatfield Forest are tree climbing, den building, making grass trumpets, exploring inside a tree and making mud pies.  We hold Wild Wednesdays throughout the summer holidays and have over 150 children participating each week.

Pie making during Mud Week! © Fiona Harrower

But play isn’t limited to Wednesdays only; it’s something we promote every day.

Play is one of the simplest ways to get kids outdoors.  The health benefits are clear.  Ask a child if they want to go on a five mile hike and you may get a moan, but spend hours running through long grass, climbing trees and building dens and they won’t notice they’re ‘exercising’.

Play is a universal way of connecting people to the outdoors.  It’s something children intrinsically know what to do.  We just need to give adults the permission to play too.

The British Red Cross

The Red Cross is a volunteer-led humanitarian organisation that helps people in crisis, whoever and wherever they are. You may be aware of the work they do abroad, but did you know that they offer a range of services across Britain?

A crisis can happen to anyone. The British Red Cross helps more than a million people in the UK every year, supporting them in emergencies, providing care in the home, and teaching life-saving first aid skills, among other services.

Independent Living:

  • Support at home
  • Mobility aids
  • Transport Services
  • Hand, arm and shoulder massage

Support in UK emergencies:

When emergencies occur, the Red Cross supports the police, ambulance and fire services, local and health authorities and utility companies. They also provide advice on preparing for emergencies, and information on Emergency response volunteering.

First Aid:

The Red Cross offers First aid training courses throughout the UK, and online, They provide teaching resources for teachers to build a generation of life-savers, and have a team of trained first aiders to provide support at public events across the UK.

Refugee Support:

The Red Cross has a long tradition of providing practical and emotional support to vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers in the UK. As a leading humanitarian organisation, they often need to respond quickly and effectively to crises. For example, they can support large-scale arrivals or give emergency provisions to those facing severe hardship.

Teaching Resources:

Looking for imaginative teaching tools that are simple to use? You’ll find them here – free resources, ideal for citizenship and PSHE teaching, tutor time and across the curriculum. With topics ranging from severe weather and flooding to Child soldiers and War the resources cover important topics using a variety of activities.

For more information please visit: British Red Cross

BRC

The Importance of a Cuppa

The idea of Afternoon Tea seems more popular than ever. There is traditional afternoon tea, gluten free afternoon tea, savoury afternoon tea, champagne afternoon tea or if you prefer, a simple cream tea. The common thread is a nice cup of tea to complete the experience.

Tea consumption increased dramatically during the early nineteenth century and it is around this time that Anna, the 7th Duchess of Bedford is said to have complained of “having that sinking feeling” during the late afternoon. At the time it was usual for people to take only two main meals a day, breakfast, and dinner at around 8 o’clock in the evening. The solution for the Duchess was a pot a tea and a light snack, taken privately in her boudoir during the afternoon.

The only difference now is that a cup of tea has come to be seen as a very good excuse to meet up and have a natter, put the world to rights, console and commiserate over.  Not feeling too well? I’ll just put the kettle on. Daughter gone off to university? Come round and have a cuppa – I might even have some cakes in the cupboard……

For those who feel lonely, or have mobility restrictions, organisations both locally and nationally are making sure that arrangements are in place so no one has to miss out. One of these is Contact the elderly. They organise regular Sunday afternoon tea parties for people over 75, who live with little or no social support.

That cup of tea is equally important to keep us going throughout the day. The Royal Voluntary Service highlights that the humble tea round is a tradition that is slowly becoming extinct in today’s fast-paced busy workplace. 2.5 million workers in Great Britain say they don’t have the time to put the kettle on for their colleagues. We jumped on board their campaign and got the boss to make the tea!

Tea

Visbuzz and The British Red Cross

Visbuzz has been working with The British Red Cross in Halton. Here’s what they had to say about the project:

Partnership work in Cheshire helps beneficiaries combat isolation and loneliness in Halton.

The Cheshire health and social care team are hard at work to ensure that the roll-out and implementation of Visbuzz goes as smoothly as possible.

The Visbuzz device is being used to reduce isolation and loneliness. It offers a single task mobile touch screen that enables beneficiaries to connect face-to-face to those who matter most to them.

British Red Cross support worker David Warrener along with co-ordinator Joan Carter have completed training enabling them to install the equipment and assist beneficiaries to log-on and benefit from the Visbuzz experience.

Red Cross health and social care senior service manager John Morris explains “Halton’s loneliness strategy has acknowledged that loneliness impacts on an individual’s health and quality of life. Some estimates put the health impact of loneliness as equivalent to smoking fifteen cigarettes each day, of greater severity than not exercising and twice as harmful as obesity. The Visbuzz project will be piloted with a small number of local older people and will enable the Visbuzz users to keep in contact with family, friends and carers. The British Red Cross support at home team have been working hard with Halton Borough Council, Halton Clinical Commissioning Group and Visbuzz, to develop this interesting project.”

This photo shows David Warrener assisting beneficiary Ruth Barrow to contact her son Clive in Scotland through Visbuzz.

BRC

 

 

 

 

Audiobook

The benefits of audio services

Audio books can be used to increase the pleasure and learning of many people in society, and have been found to have many benefits. They can be used to introduce students to books above their reading level, model good interpretive reading, and provide access to subjects and literature while on the go. Audio books can additionally help to reduce loneliness.

Listening to audio books can open up whole new worlds, and bring stories to life for people who may have failing eyesight, or find it difficult to sit, hold and read a book. You can become engrossed in a whole new world. The sense of achievement that can be experienced by learning a new subject or the joy of getting wrapped up in how your favourite character will develop. These feelings can be addictive, a welcome distraction and wonderful company, enabling you to experience a raft of emotions and feelings as you journey along with your new companions.

Listening Books is a charity that provides audiobooks to people across the UK who find it difficult or impossible to read due to illness or disability. Find out more here

It is not only books. Newspapers and magazines can also be provided in audio format. Being able to connect to the world, hear what is going on and keep up to date with current issues and good news stories helps us to feel connected and feel less isolated.

The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) offers several reading services, giving access to books, newspapers and magazines in a variety of different formats. RNIB benefits a wide range of audiences, find out more here

Audio books are available in a number of different media including cassette tape, CD, mp3 downloads and can also be found at local libraries, as well as to buy in most bookshops.

Audiobook

Two Senior Women Playing Dominoes At Day Care Centre

Keeping Active

Keeping active into older age is the key to staying fit, mobile, healthy and independent. Being active does not necessary mean getting down to the gym or attending your local keep fit class, although for some this is ideal. Being active can increase well-being and reduce social isolation.

Here are some ideas for keeping active:

Social Clubs – these can include lunch clubs, computer clubs and book clubs. People with a similar interest can get together and spend time on that shared interest. It could be as specific as dominoes or Scrabble, or as wide as tea and cake!

Art and Craft – learning a new skill, or continuing with a craft you already enjoy is a great way to keep active. There are art and craft groups ranging from knitting to drawing or card making. Arts and crafts are a  great way to spend time with people or just to enjoy in your own home. The joy of making things is that you can give them to others as presents and keep sakes, which boosts feelings of well-being.

Crosswords and Quizzes – these can be enjoyed as part of a group, or by yourself. It is always beneficial to keep challenging yourself intellectually, and  it’s fun to have a bit of a competition with those you know. Challenge yourself to see how many answers can you get without resorting to the dictionary or encyclopaedia!

Singing – there is nothing better than a good sing along. Music can help to motivate you, reduce stress and stimulate memories. There is also the benefit of being able to enjoy music when you are alone, making you feel less lonely. Why not put on a favourite song and have a sing along in the front room?

Some useful links in relation to keeping active:

http://www.elderlyactivities.co.uk/

http://www.ageuk.org.uk/health-wellbeing/keeping-fit/getting-moving-/

And for those who want to get physically active for the first time, the NHS offers a useful guide to getting started for older people: http://www.nhs.uk/Tools/Pages/Exercises-for-older-people.aspx 

Two Senior Women Playing Dominoes At Day Care Centre

 

Happiness

By on 03 24, 2014 in community

Last week, on 20th March, it was Happiness Day. It made me wonder – why just one day?  I have met a number of wonderful individuals who seem to have decided that they are going to have a happiness life, not just a day. They make you want to be around them because their happiness is contagious! Did they practise to be that way? Is it a conscious decision made every morning, or is it effortless?  On the other hand – Happiness Day … a whole day? That’s quite a lot of pressure really. What if I’m tired, or have an argument with someone, can I try again tomorrow?

We all have different perspectives, experiences and opinions. During the course of a week, we can be exposed to a number of different social interactions. Some of these interactions can be positive, and some can be negative. It is easy to judge others by how we are feeling, by what has affected us, by what we are looking to achieve that day but we rarely stop to appreciate the fact that we have no idea what has already happened that day to the individuals with whom we interact.

If we are treated with respect, and made to feel good about ourselves then we appreciate the other person and walk away smiling. If we are disrespected, cut up in traffic, or someone jumps in front of us in a queue, we become the victim and judge the other person as mean and selfish. It is our natural instinct to become outraged and upset, but what if we stop for a moment? What kind of day has that person had? There is no excuse for behaving badly, but we tend to make bad choices if we’re mad, or scared, or stressed.

However we feel, whatever is going on in our lives, we are social creatures. Happy or sad, we are all part of each other’s lives.  From the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, the definition of SONDER helps me to put across my point.

The benefits of owning a pet

Owning a pet can be a great way to reduce loneliness and increase wellbeing. Pets make you feel loved and provide friendship. They can not only improve a person’s quality of life, but improve their health too. They have been shown to reduce the feelings of isolation and anxiety, and can lead to increased socialisation. If you have a dog, there is also the increase in activity of course.

When you walk your dog, people stop to talk to you and to your companion, you meet other dog owners, you get outside more and you generally feel better – even owning a goldfish or a hamster can be beneficial. Having a pet means that you have something to talk to, to share your thoughts and decisions with, something to come home to and to make you feel needed, appreciated and depended upon. For some people their pet is their sense of purpose and pride.

Pets are used in various forms of therapy, including helping people suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to re-enter society. There is no need to explain to your pet what you’ve been through and there is no judgment of you, simply acceptance and company. Pets in residential homes have been shown to improve both patient and staff morale, and they can also provide a great source of entertainment and distraction. The national charity Pets As Therapy has volunteers who provide therapeutic visits (mainly with dogs, but there are a few cats too) to hospitals, hospices, care homes, nursing homes and special needs schools.  These visits bring comfort and companionship to thousands of people, reduce their feelings of isolation and speed up their recovery from illness.

Owning a pet can decrease depression, stress and anxiety and have medical benefits which include lowering blood pressure, improving your immunity to disease and even decreasing your risk of heart attack and stroke. There are many benefits of owning a pet, whatever the make or model you choose.

Do remember though, that sometimes they may eat your shoes!

dogs like to eat shoes

Tackling Loneliness

In the first project of its kind in the UK, Visbuzz is working with Halton Clinical Commissioning Group and Halton Borough Council to install Visbuzz units in the homes of some of the area’s most isolated and vulnerable residents. The project also involves training volunteers from the CCG, local authority and local community groups such as The British Red Cross and Wellbeing Enterprises in how to use Visbuzz effectively in the users’ homes.

This is an amazing opportunity to influence positively the lives of isolated and lonely individuals. In previous posts I have discussed the importance of social interaction, meaningful contact and face to face communication and this project brings together all of these aspects, with a view to collecting and collating evidence to further support work in this field.

Loneliness is not simply a matter of connecting with people, it is about connecting with the people that matter.

For those of you who are new to Visbuzz, our vision is a world in which loneliness does not exist. Visbuzz connects you face to face easily and simply with those who are important to you; just by touching their picture. We have used the most up to date technology, making Visbuzz as simple to use as possible. Visbuzz allows you to connect to your loved ones through a computer tablet with one touch, reducing loneliness and increasing wellbeing.

Not only can Visbuzz help those who are isolated, vulnerable and lonely, but Visbuzz can also give their carers, family and friends, peace of mind and reduce their worry levels.

Loneliness can affect all of us at one time or another, and is not just someone else’s problem. Together, we can go further towards a world in which loneliness does not exist.

Is loneliness affecting you or someone you love? What ways have you found to combat loneliness? Let us know in the comments section at the bottom of this page.   

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Solutions to Loneliness

Last week, the Cardiff Blues Rugby Team donated 30 tickets to the Royal Voluntary Service (http://www.royalvoluntaryservice.org.uk/), for volunteers and older people to go to the game. For lonely people, it is not, as the Royal Voluntary Service highlighted, solutions to loneliness are not always about a cup of tea.

For some people, the solution to loneliness is tea and cake, just look at the work by Contact the Elderly (http://www.contact-the-elderly.org.uk/), but for others this isn’t going to cut it. The solution needs to fit the individual otherwise the help being offered can lead to increasing loneliness rather than eradicating it.

In west London, they have numerous solutions to end loneliness, including Men’s Sheds (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7T8RTis6JGI) where it is easy to build relationships as those involved get to know each other through the DIY projects and work they do together. Age UK Milton Keynes (http://www.ageuk.org.uk/miltonkeynes/) offer coach trips for those over 55, and local churches can be found to offer a range of community services from mother and baby clubs to creative threads (knitting & needle work clubs).

There is also always the opportunity to learn new skills. Age UK highlight that there are now more than 600,000 learners over 60 in England alone. There are local computer clubs, evening courses, and courses available on line or through the internet. Future Learn (https://www.futurelearn.com/) offer a range of on-line courses from a range of universities free of charge. Sometimes, the support of a befriender, volunteer or family member may be required initially but people are never too old to learn!

The key to solving loneliness is building up meaningful relationships. As Kim Culbertson puts it: ‘People think being alone makes you lonely, but I don’t think that’s true. Being surrounded by the wrong people is the loneliest thing in the world’.

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Our 2014 resolutions – three weeks in

So as we approach January 21st and 3 weeks in to 2014, it is an opportunity to look at how our resolutions are going, or not…. Have you managed to be kinder, to eat less, drink less and exercise more? If you have, well done and keep going – you will already be feeling the benefits and will be well on your way to realising the outcomes you desire.  If you have only managed one of these things, then that’s good too – don’t give up.

I have come to the conclusion though, having thought about goals and milestones, that the key is not when we set them, or if we are managing to maintain them, but that we have them, and we keep going. Irrespective of our little failures, keep going.

If you are not getting to the gym as much as you’d hoped, or you are still giving in to the temptation of those left over chocolates from Christmas, I’m here to say it’s ok and you do not need to give yourself a hard time. I also wanted to let you know that it’s not too late. You do not need to start your healthier eating on a Monday, or your month of kindness on the 1st January. You can do it any time – today, or tomorrow, or even next week. The important thing is that you want to do it.

We also do not need to make life immensely difficult for ourselves, small changes can be the easiest to maintain – add fruit to your breakfast and lunch, add a smoothie to your afternoon routine, take fruit into work for colleagues instead of biscuits, walk round the block at lunchtime with a colleague – not only do you get out of the office but you can catch up with their news as well.

You can start your acts of kindness close to home – give someone a lift to work, invite the new person to lunch, take the neighbour’s dog for a walk, make an extra portion of your evening meal and take it round to your elderly neighbour. You haven’t missed the window of opportunity for change – it’s here and now.

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Loneliness

Loneliness is being talked about more and more within the media, among policy makers and by society as a whole. Has there been an increase in loneliness, or are we understanding and talking about the concept more? Maybe it’s a little of both.

Loneliness can affect the new mother who has no adult contact, the isolated grandmother whose last conversation was 4 days ago, the recently widowed husband who isn’t sure what routine means anymore, or the working professional who goes home to an empty house. No one is immune. Some people value their solitude, but when does solitude turn to loneliness? Families used to live in the same house, same street – at most a couple of streets away in the same village. Now we have cousins in Australia, sons and daughters in Scotland, brothers and sisters in America.

Popping round seems to no longer be an option, and individuals are turning to other avenues of support and contact where family once was. Even if you do have people around you, unless you feel in control and view these contacts as meaningful, you can still be lonely. Who wants to be talked at, made to feel inadequate or made to participate with an activity just because someone thinks it’s what you should do, what you need.

The key lies with being able to connect with those you want to, when you want to, how you want to. A coffee with Frank, a game of cards with Joyce, a film with Jenny, a chat with Aunty Catherine….

There are some fantastic options out there to reduce loneliness, with businesses, charities and communities becoming more focused on making sure the hard to reach, isolated and lonely are reached, and in ways that make them want to engage.

What would you like in place to make you less lonely? What ideas do you have to help others?

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Our Big Society

 In 2010, the Government promoted the Big Society as a way of putting power in people’s hands. The launch of The Big Society was to encourage and enable people to play a more active role in society and come together to improve their own lives and the lives of others.   Irrespective of political stance, the idea of supporting people who care about their community and want to get involved in improving the community around them cannot be a bad thing and comes in many guises.  

Ultimately, people care for, and want to help, other people. There are already a range of community based services, including those working towards reducing loneliness and increasing inclusion within society, and within these, volunteers play a key part. Volunteers have always been integral to delivering services on the ground. They are now taking a more central role within community services, with some organisations being made up of between as many as 50% and 100% volunteers. Through volunteering, people can gain a sense of civic responsibility, get the chance to realise and develop their skills and at the same time see the difference they make within their own community. 

As Lynne Berry, chair of the Commission on the Voluntary Sector and Ageing says, ‘Charities and voluntary organisations are in the business of hope, of changing the world for the better. They are also committed to challenging injustice and righting wrongs; they are about creating an inspiring future’. 

Without volunteers giving their time, energy, and resources, the Big Society would not be able to exist, and community care would look like a very different landscape.  

So, thank you to the volunteers out there, keep going. 

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Bringing healthcare home

Mobile health (mhealth) is the key word meaning to deliver healthcare through mobile communication devices. Using personal wireless technology, medical care and information can be brought to the home of the patient. Visbuzz has created a platform that turns a smart device into a communication portal to connect you with those who matter most. It allows friends, family, doctors and therapists to engage with those who find it difficult to make frequent journeys.

A big challenge for carers is making high-quality healthcare accessible and available to everyone. With an ageing population the key is to put the care back in the hands of the patient through preventative measures. Visbuzz gives patients the control and power to connect to those they need and want to, without the feeling of intrusion. With extra functionalities of leaving “text messages,” patients can schedule meetings with family members with a simple touch screen method. Giving friends and family of patients the key to unlocking the difficulties in staying in touch with relatives that live far away could be the answer to improving wellbeing, healthcare and life satisfaction.

The economic driver in using Visbuzz is the reduction of hospital visits, bed space and doctors time as well as long journeys from family and friends to stay in contact. Using the portable device to connect and stay connected to those who are most important will reduce these factors and improve the lives of patients and their families.

Get in contact today to find out more about how Visbuzz can change your relationship with your family today. Connect to those who are most important to you.

How can mHealth actually help me?

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“mHealth” is a key word that has been flying around cyber space for some time now with large corporations outlining how it will increase profits and decrease government expenditures, but what I really want to know is how can it benefit me and my family?

Indeed, the Federal Communications Commission’s mHealth Task Force has found that wireless and remote access to health records and electronic prescriptions alone could make $29 billion over the next decade. Undoubtably, on an enormous scale, mHealth is going to help healthcare systems worldwide improve the service to millions of people, but what about in my home and for my loved ones? What difference can be made?

Visbuzz has created a unique device that personalises communication that can be applied to improving healthcare. The mobile software system connects the primary user to the people that matter most to the, including, perhaps, their doctor. At her bedside the primary user has her complete support system; friends, family, doctor, nurse and therapist, all of whom can provide care and love any time of the day. This innovative method of communications is a well-needed replacement to the current and traditional care-home environment. Visbuzz identified unmet needs in the market where isolated individuals needed easy access to their loved ones without the difficulties of using complex technology. Results have been positive from the pilot studies that healthcare organisations across the UK are embracing the solution, as well as individuals with personal needs of their own.

Personalised mHealth looks at each person in their own right with their needs as the foremost important factor in their care. Visbuzz creates an environment where the primary user can connect to those who matter the most, in a place they are comfortable and without the stressors of technology as a burden. These traits have the potential for doctors to implement continuous monitoring, lending insights to lifestyle habits and dynamic physiological changes to improve the health of the primary user. Of course Visbuzz is not just a medical advantage with the use of doctors, research continually finds that recovery is much more likely when the patient is happy and connected to friends and family.

Get back in touch with your loved ones today, talk to Visbuzz.

mHealth: a new vision for healthcare

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Whilst new reports say UK economic growth revised up to 0.7%, the long road to recovery still remains a critical challenge. One area where there is certain room for improvement in within the healthcare market. The 2013/2014 budget for healthcare is £95 billion, and increasing each year, calculating 18% of the total government spending. It is therefore imperative that we look at ways in which we can cut healthcare costs. We are in a spiral of healthcare costs as expectations of patient’s are high and financial resources are tight. However there is help at hand in the form of mobile applications and technology.

The modest costs of implementing mHealth applications could significantly lower healthcare costs across the UK and the world, resulting in happier healthier patients and more financial leeway to look at preventative medicine. Currently only a small amount of government funding has been allocated to mHealth and social health where patients can access healthcare advice and information from their phone and tablets. Being connected to ones doctor using an electronic device and reducing the need for face to face interaction for simple check ups or questions will inevitably reduce the time and costs for the patient and also for the healthcare organisation. A report by The Boston Consulting Group and Telenor Group found that costs relating to data collection in healthcare organisations could be reduced by 24% when using mHealth. They found that mobile devices could be used for remote diagnosis, speeding up of processes, avoiding duplication and saving between 20-30% in administrative fees.

However, there are the cynics about introducing mHealth as a primary method of communication between a patient and their doctor. Willa Field, Chair of the HIMSS Board of Directors, pointed out that elderly people are unlikely to adopt new technology without incentive and there are privacy and security concerns that go on alongside. It is important to recognise these limitations and find a way that will improve the service for all users.

Visbuzz is a mobile technology device built onto a portable tablet with a primary aim to connect people with those who matter most to them. It leaps over the hurdle of questions about incentives, understanding technology, costs and security through being built for one purpose only: to connect to your loved ones. Steve McNulty originally built Visbuzz to speak to his mother on a more regular basis without the complexities of explaining technology and having a high premium price to go with. This unique combination of factors that Visbuzz has to offer will largely contribute to reducing healthcare costs, improving communication and overall wellbeing of the primary user.

Please get in contact today to find out more about Visbuzz and how it can help you and your loved ones.

The Impact of Technology on Healthcare

Mobile communications and multimedia technology are playing significant roles in giving patients responsibility to their own healthcare, which in turn improves adherence to prescribed medications. With regards to mHealth and adherence trends, Aunia Grogan, CEO of Atlantis Healthcare said, “Technology is at the heart of what we do,” in developing treatment adherence. “The strategic use of technology is critical to effectively deliver mass personalisation, ensuring the right patient receives the right message at the right time, in the right way.”

Research has found that non-adherence is an individualised belief of the patient about their illness and their prescribed medications. The first step in changing the behaviour of the patient is to initially reframe the beliefs. Grogan says, “mHealth is increasingly important to channel and deliver relevant and meaningful interventions that can drive long-term behaviour change.” However, she emphasised that for the treatment to be successful, the patient needs to be actively engaged with his or her own recovery. For many patients it can be difficult to access their doctor on a regular basis, increasing the likelihood of their noncompliance due to not being properly informed about their medications. It is important that we use the technological devices we have available for the benefit of patients who have difficulty in accessing healthcare.

A new technological device available on the market now is Visbuzz, a game changer within the communications space. Visbuzz is a tablet application that gives people the opportunity to connect with those who matter most to them without the fuss of technology. Whilst multimedia technology is the driving force behind Visbuzz, the primary user does not need to be competent in technology at all. In fact, to call someone it is as easy as pressing the contacts picture on the screen. This ties in extremely well this improving adherence in those who are reliant upon medication but find it difficult to travel to healthcare organisations. Using Visbuzz, patients can communicate with their doctors to manage their healthcare program and improve their happiness and wellbeing.

To make the difference for one of your family members, contact Visbuzz to understand more about how easy it can be for them to connect to those who matter most.

The story of Visbuzz


My story begins, as many do, with a vision for a better place for those I love.

The heat of the midday sun shone through the window, burning me crimson as the traffic slowly ploughed on. The radio blared out some old rock hits from the 70’s intermitted between reports of a roadblock on the motorway. I lost count of how many hours I had been sitting there and I daren’t think about the journey home. How I envied those on the other side of the road, blistering along with their roofs down and hair blowing. ‘Perhaps I’ll have next weekend off’ I ruminated. But even as the thought entered my mind, guilt crept over my shoulder and sat heavily in my chest for the remainder of the crawling journey.

Once I had arrived at the house I grew up in, my Mum could see the stress in my face, my body language. Immediately she apologised and said that I shouldn’t have come all this way just to see her. For the rest of the short visit there was an uncomfortable knowing that this was less than ideal for both of us. We both carried guilt. For my Mum it was the thought of dragging me down the motorway most weekends, and for me, the thought of not doing that.

The story’s knight in white armour is Visbuzz, a product I invented initially to connect with my Mum in a way that was straightforward to understand and effective to use. Visbuzz is a tablet with an integrated application for the user, like my mum, to connect with those who matter most. The simplicity of the interface means that for even technology novices this device is easy to use, by simply pressing a picture to call!

Visbuzz dams a hole in the market where there is increasing demand and decreasing support; personalised care in homes for those who need connectivity. With studies carried out all over Britain, results have come back pretty glum. Half of over 65 year-olds do not see their families more than once a month and 1/10 elderly people in the UK suffer from “intense loneliness”. This common finding is both shocking and moving – moving me into action to help my mum and those in her position. Visbuzz is a single-task device that connects people with those who matter most to them.

The story of Visbuzz continues to give everyone the opportunity to have a device that can connect them to the people they love, the communities they know and the professionals that can help.

The story of Visbuzz

My story begins, as many do, with a vision for a better place for those I love. The heat of the midday sun shone through the window, burning me crimson as the traffic slowly ploughed on. The radio blared out some old rock hits from the 70’s intermitted between reports of a roadblock on the [...]


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