Category Archives: Health and Wellbeing

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

What was it I came up here for?

Many of us have those moments where you walk upstairs to get something, get to the landing and have no idea what it was you went upstairs for! We put the kettle on, get our favourite mug out ready for a nice cup of tea, only to come back into the kitchen an hour later with the tea still unmade. Someone gives us directions and within seconds we can’t remember whether it is left or right at the post box.

The causes of forgetfulness are numerous. They run from being overwhelmed with responsibility and demands to not paying close enough attention – we simply didn’t “hear” the instructions in the first place. Other times we are so distracted by everything that is going on around us that we are on overload and have too much to remember and can’t. But when should we worry that it is becoming more serious?

Forgetfulness results from changes in the brain and can be a normal part of aging or a symptom of another condition or disease. When you experience forgetfulness, you may find it harder to recall information or events, learn new things, or form new memories. As people get older, changes occur in all parts of the body, including the brain. As a result, some people may notice that it takes longer to learn new things, they don’t remember information as well as they did, or they lose things like their glasses. These usually are signs of mild forgetfulness, not serious memory problems. Abnormal forgetfulness isn’t only about failing to remember; it’s more complex than that.

Be concerned when you see a pattern of deteriorating functioning, not just correctable incidents of forgetting. Loss of previous abilities or negative changes in long-established, characteristic behaviour and personality patterns indicates a need to seek help. Understanding normal forgetfulness can help us adjust more gracefully to the challenges of healthy aging. We need to give ourselves and our loved ones more time to recall events, names, and words as we age, because “normal” recall can take longer. Knowing that can help us plan to build in extra time for certain events or tasks.

http://www.nia.nih.gov/health/publication/forgetfulness

http://www.patient.co.uk/health/Memory-Loss-and-Dementia

http://www.ehow.com/about_5137621_causes-forgetfulness.html#ixzz32X7tjZtD

http://psychcentral.com/lib/when-to-worry-about-forgetfulness/00013100

Mr-Forgetful

Safety at Home

We all need to be aware of the potential dangers we can face while at home, and these dangers can be increased for those with limited mobility, sight or hearing.

Ensuring that smoke detectors are installed can save lives in the event of a fire. Most Fire and Rescue departments in the UK offer free Home Fire Safety Checks and you may also be eligible to have free smoke alarms fitted. The Fire Brigade has run a campaign over the past couple of years called ‘Time to Test’. When you change your clocks twice a year, you can use this as an opportunity to test your smoke detectors. It is important to check that your smoke detectors are working on a regular basis. There are also smoke detectors with visual alerts for those with a hearing impairment.

If the home uses gas, do you have a carbon monoxide detector? Carbon monoxide (CO) can be produced by faulty heaters and you cannot see, taste or smell it. There are a range of detectors available including those with alarms that are audible and/or visual.

Trips and falls can be a danger to all, but especially older people. You can reduce the danger of trips and falls by ensuring all rugs are secured to the floor and any hazards are removed from the floor areas and nothing is left lying on the stairs. In addition, using a pick-up stick or grabber to help pick things up from the floor and putting a letterbox cage over the letterbox on the inside of the door, to prevent post from falling onto the floor can also reduce the risks.

If you are particularly worried about the safety and wellbeing of an older person, there are a range of personal alarms available where the person can activate the alarm themselves, and sensor options for others to monitor activity, or inactivity. You can find further advice from a number of sources including: Which and Age UK.

If we spend just a couple of minutes thinking about Home Safety, we will be able to keep ourselves and others happy, reassured and safe in our own homes.

House

 

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

Beat the Blues

There are many negative consequences of loneliness and isolation and one of these can be deterioration in our mental health and mental processes. A lack of social interaction and activity, and not taking an interest in our diet, can mean a decline in mood and mental wellness. Sometimes it can be the things we think will pick us up, which actually bring us down!

Foods which negatively affect mood and can increase feelings of anxiety include sugar, caffeine, alcohol and chocolate, while drinking water, eating vegetables, fruit and oil-rich fish can reduce stressful feelings and increase positive mood. I get it, we enjoy some of the things that aren’t good for us, but for how long? Alcohol is a depressant and the morning after we feel it, chocolate is great for the first hit, but how often do you wish you hadn’t finished the whole bar, layer, box? Getting more of the good stuff in your diet makes you feel good.

In addition to eating the right things, there is more and more research showing how exercise improves mental health and cognition. Exercise makes you feel better; you get a sense of achievement over getting started and proving you have the will power. And for most people exercise releases some nice helpful hormones which make you happy. It also increases blood flow to the brain, helping mental functioning. With some types of exercise you can also get to meet others and build relationships. Physical exercise has been found to ease depression, slow age-related memory loss and prevent Parkinson-like symptoms.

Anyone can do some form of exercise and feel the benefits. Actor Christopher Reeve made sure he exercised whenever he could even though he was a paraplegic. Twelve years after his fight with Chris Eubank resulting in six brain operations, boxer Michael Watson completed the London Marathon in 6 days, 2 hours, 27 minutes and 17 seconds. No one thought he would walk, write or talk again but he defied those expectations.

You don’t need to run a marathon to feel the benefits – there are plenty of at home, chair activities to get started: http://www.nhs.uk/LiveWell/fitness/Pages/sitting-exercises-for-older-people.aspx 

 

Too much tech?

We here at Visbuzz love technology, and advocate for digital inclusion. We provide an extremely simple way for people who don’t use computers to make and receive video calls to and from their family, friends and health care professionals. Visbuzz can make a huge difference to the lives of people who use it, particularly if they feel lonely or isolated.

In contrast to those individuals who don’t use computers or smart phones, are those of us who may use technology using it too much?

For Lent, I decided to give up playing games on my phone. I thought that it would be a good idea, and I had been noticing that the amount of time spent on various different versions of bubble this and candy that could be better used, and it would give my hands and eyes a bit of a break from the small screen. In giving up the games,  I have realised that I used the them as a distraction much more than I thought. This has led to many moments of ‘well, what do I do now?’.

In search of other more peaceful, creative and in the moment activities, I have found a number of different ways to fill this time and would like to suggest some, either for you to move away from that hand held technology, or simply as nice things to do with your time.

Colouring in: A brilliant way to spend some time.. You can use pencils, pens, paints, crayons, chalks and charcoal. You can use books for children, books for adults or print some templates from the internet (if you don’t have a printer at home your local library should be able to help).  There are also ‘mandalas’ which are used to accomplish relaxation and focus your mind. They are simple geometric shapes with no beginning or end.

mandalas

An example of a mandala.

Getting close to nature: Going for walks and taking in the surroundings can be very therapeutic and calming. Looking at trees, and up to the sky can give you a very different perspective on life. Why not try being more hands on – even the most un-green fingered individual can achieve a wonderful feeling growing some cress on the windowsill and then adding to an egg sandwich! If you feel you are up for even more of a challenge, you could get yourself a window box or  clear a part of the garden to create your own growing piece of art.

So, switch off those electronic games, and go and do something different instead.

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 the radio or 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

If you want to build up slowly, or are anxious about getting active, why not start by involving the help of others.

In Copenhagen, being 97 is no barrier to enjoying cycling with people being pedalled around by volunteers! Find out more here.

Copenhagen

 

The January Blues: How to lift your mood.

The festive season is over, it’s back to work for some and it is still dark outside – no wonder January feels like the gloomiest month of the year. Add to that freezing weather, feelings of loneliness and failed resolutions, and it’s no surprise that lots of us are feeling out of sorts and low. The good news is that it takes less effort than you think to lift your mood. Here are the three reasons from http://www.netdoctor.co.uk/healthyliving/mood.htm why you might have those January blues and ways to beat them.

1) Weight gain over Christmas Studies have shown we can gain as much as five to seven pounds over the Christmas week alone. How to turn it around: Festive weight gain doesn’t have to be permanent, according to Karl Simpson, Fitness Manager at the Virgin Active Health Club in Broadgate.

‘Following a sensible healthy eating plan with exercise, most people can lose approximately 2lb per week – that’s nearly all your Christmas weight gain in three weeks. Cut back to three smaller meals a day and two snacks equalling around 1500 calories per day (2000 calories if you’re a man).’

If you’re desperate to lose the weight at a faster rate, try the following:

• cut out treats such as your morning coffee and muffin

• reduce sweet snacks to once a week

• limit alcohol because it restricts the number of calories that can be burned off.

2) New Year over-analysis Self-reflection at this time of year can make us all focus on what’s wrong with our life, leading us to set unrealistic goals to become our ‘ideal’ person. Small wonder, then, that a third of us lose our resolve to keep our resolutions within a week. How to turn it around: Although self-improvement is important, going overboard can backfire. To lift your morale and gain perspective, life coach Fiona Harrold suggests making a list of everything that is already great with your life, taking stock of all that you feel grateful for right now.

‘It’s healthy to feel motivated to make changes at the beginning of a New Year,’ says Fiona, ‘but avoid the mistake of only focusing on what’s missing in your life. Balance your drive for change with an appreciation of the here-and-now and your sense of disillusionment will go.

3) It’s cold and dark outside Seasonal affective disorder, or the winter blues, is thought to affect up to two million people in the UK as the lack of natural sunlight leads us to feel depressed and lethargic. How to turn it around: There is hope: the days are already getting longer, and January averages less rain and more hours of sunshine than December. Boost your mood by making a lunchtime walk a daily habit. Just 30 minutes of natural light, even weak winter sunlight, can be enough to make you feel happier and energised. Don’t let the wintry weather put you off your exercise routine either.

‘When it’s cold and dark outside, it is much more tempting to curl up on the sofa than to put on your tracksuit and brave the elements,’ says fitness coach Kristoph Thompson. ‘But exercise leaves you happier and more motivated. ‘Always have a backup plan so if your outside exercise is impossible due to weather conditions, you know what to do instead. Swimming makes a good plan B if it’s too rainy to run. ‘Where possible, aim to exercise during daylight hours, whether it’s before work, in your lunch break or at the weekend.’

Age Action Alliance: Ageing and growing old are not the same thing

Old Age creeps up on you oh so stealthily then suddenly WHAM! – it hits you like a steam train.

At first, we just notice we groan a bit as we get up (or down) from the chair – so tend to sit for longer; then we might huff and puff walking up the stairs – so we take the escalator instead; carrying the shopping is hard work – so we wheel a trolley and park as close as we can to the supermarket door. Basically, we do less and try to make life easier.

Denial is a strong human trait, none of us likes to think we are getting older or admit to any decline in our abilities or levels of activity. Yet nature deals us a cruel triple whammy as every year our muscles waste, bone density reduces and our joints become stiffer.  Sounds gloomy, but it doesn’t have to be like this.

We have all seen photographs of centenarian marathon runners or body builders in their 90s – they are exceptional – but we don’t have to give into the ‘pipe and slippers’ just because the clock is ticking. Research has produced an overwhelming amount of evidence to show just how important it is to exercise – at any age. But just the word, exercise, is enough to put us off. So the new mantra should be to just MOVE MORE!

I have listened to, worked with and taught thousands of people who thought they were “past it” or “shouldn’t” or “couldn’t” – but they are not and they should and they can! With encouragement, persistence and a little knowledge, it is amazing what can be achieved. Once you start, just 10 minutes will suffice, the desire to do a little more comes naturally. The benefits can seem minor but they make a huge difference to our quality of life and are self-perpetuating.

MOVE IT

The question I get asked most often is, “What should I do…?”

There is no one-size-fits-all answer, but we do know that to stop the clock we should do a combination of strengthening, aerobic and flexibility exercises. These form the basis of everything else and leads to better health, balance and quality of life. This is why I have put together a library of free exercises, guides and videos. They’re all simple, fun and easy-to-follow. Just 20 minutes a day of moderate intensity exercise can help you to stay stronger and more mobile. Just go to http://www.moveitorloseit.co.uk/getmoving/ for advice on how to get started.

Professor Janet Lord, expert in active ageing, explains, “…it is never too late to start. Even if you are already beginning to struggle with daily tasks, these exercises will allow you to take control and turn back the clock!”

Click here for the full article

Visbuzz shares a recent blog from Age UK: Older, not colder

By on 11 24, 2014 in elderlyHealth and Wellbeing

Age UK Blog: Older, not colder

The weather may still be relatively mild, but there’s no doubt that winter is just around the corner and for many older people, this is a huge worry. Age UK’s new research has found that 1 in 3 older people are concerned about keeping their home adequately warm this coming winter, and 70 per cent of older people are concerned about the high cost of energy.

THE OLDEST HOUSES IN THE EU

Sadly, it’s the same story every year: rising energy bills, winter health problems and excess winter deaths. Every winter, 25,000 older people in England and Wales don’t survive the cold weather – that’s 206 deaths a day, or one death every seven minutes.  Why is this? Because we live in cold homes.

The UK has the oldest houses in the EU, which over half built before 1960. On average, older UK homes require at least twice the energy to stay warm compared with many much colder European countries.

So what can we do about it?

Age UK has today (November 12th 2014) launched its campaign for warm homes, which is calling on the Government to make millions of homes much more energy efficient. We believe that an ambitious energy efficiency programme to bring all our housing up to standard is the only sensible and long-term solution to fuel poverty and excess winter deaths.

ENERGY EFFICIENCY IS THE SOLUTION

This means upgrading 2 million low income households with an energy performance rating of D, E, F or G to Band C by 2020, and upgrading all houses to an A or B rating (like today’s newly built housing) by 2030, starting with the poorest and most energy inefficient homes.

We’re calling on the Government to drive forward a major energy efficiency programme, which should be area-based and locally driven, targeting the poorest and most energy inefficient homes first.

We also want local authorities and Health and Wellbeing Boards to take action to reduce the risk of death and ill health associated with living in a cold home

To find out more and read our new report, Older, not colder, visit our website now.

lizzie-lindsay-2

 

Feeling under the weather campaign from the NHS

By on 11 10, 2014 in elderlyHealth and Wellbeing

Today we share a post from The NHS: Top doctors urge people not to store up health problems if “feeling under the weather”

Feeling-under-the-weather

The NHS has launched its national public awareness campaign in a bid to persuade people to seek advice early from their local pharmacist if they are ‘feeling under the weather’.

The campaign, ‘feeling under the weather’ has been launched to encourage people, particularly older people and those with existing respiratory conditions, to nip health problems in the bud by seeking early advice from their local pharmacist.

Every year the NHS sees a huge increase in numbers of emergency admissions to hospital over the colder months. Those with existing respiratory conditions, such as asthma or bronchitis are particularly vulnerable, and for frailer and older people, even the common cold can become more serious.

Professor Keith Willett, NHS England’s clinical director for acute care, said:

“As a doctor who has spent some 30 years working in A&E, I know we have to do better at helping people stay well, not just picking up the pieces when they fall seriously ill. The NHS has not spent enough time broadcasting that message in the past.”

“Every winter, doctors and nurses see a big increase in the number of older and frail people who are admitted to hospital because of respiratory or other chronic conditions usually worsened by immobility, the cold and viral illnesses.”

“People often don’t seek advice for wheezes, coughs and sneezes because they don’t think it’s serious enough, or they don’t want to waste their pharmacist’s time. But no problem is too small for your local pharmacist, who is a highly trained and trusted source of health advice.”

Building on the success of last winter’s campaign and the evidence base for the urgent and emergency care review, ‘feeling under the weather’ aims to relieve pressure on A&E departments by promoting earlier access to health advice and self-care information from community pharmacy services or NHS Choices.

NHS winter planning started earlier than ever before this year, with hospitals, GPs, social services and other health professionals coming together to identify local pressures and respond in every area of the country.   The NHS is determined to protect the good standards of service that patients deserve, despite the very considerable pressures we anticipate over the winter months.

Dr Bruce Warner, Deputy Chief Pharmaceutical Officer for NHS England, said:

“Pharmacists and their teams are well trained and well placed to be able to offer advice to people seeking help. They can provide medicines advice and support for minor ailments, advise you about how to manage a long term condition and tell you if something needs more urgent medical attention from your GP, or even your local hospital.”

“You don’t need an appointment and many have consultation areas so your local pharmacy is a good place to start when you’re feeling unwell.”

“We would encourage people to seek help from their pharmacist when they first feel unwell rather than waiting until it becomes more serious.”

This year’s awareness campaign targets people aged over 60 years old, as well as the carers of older people. It encourages more use of the self-care information about minor ailments and illnesses on the website NHS Choices, as well as more use of the services and advice available in community pharmacies.

The public will see posters on bill boards, phone kiosks, shopping centres and supermarkets, including sites near pharmacies. Adverts will also be run in national newspapers, magazines and a range of websites, as well as on commercial radio stations. Posters are being sent to pharmacy services for display.

Many people are not aware that they can get advice on minor ailments from their local community pharmacy service. Expert help can be provided to people for them to manage their long-term conditions or for ailments such as a bad cough, wheezing, a cold or sore throat. Many pharmacies have longer opening hours than the average GP practice, and most have a private consultation area. If people need to see a doctor, they will be advised accordingly.

 

Falling back with the clocks

On Sunday we saw the clocks go back. Some people will have stayed up later to take full advantage of the extra hour in bed, those with children (and dogs or cats!) will have had no change in routine at all and felt maybe a little cheated. Most of us will still be trying to figure out how to change the time on the oven, the video and in the car – unless we didn’t put the clocks forward in the spring and therefore out clocks are correct for the first time in 6 months….

The days are getting shorter and we will soon be experiencing the shortest day. On the bright side, that must mean we’re on our way to the longest day again and summer is just around the corner? In the mean time we must fight our urges to hibernate and spend all of the hours of darkness away from the world and instead keep looking forward. It is still quite mild out there, and any amount of fresh air is good for the body and the soul. Sometimes we cannot get away from routine – we have to go to work, take kids to school, go for appointments and meetings, and the changing of the seasons is purely an inconvenience. The kids may find a blessing in an occasional snow day though!

If however you do not have a regular routine to pull you out of your chair or off the sofa, wrap up and be brave. Get into the garden and take in the colours, the changes and animals scurrying around. Or wander down to the park, or a near bench and watch the world for a minute or two. You will be amazed at home good you feel getting outside and being a part of something bigger.

image

 

Stay fit and healthy this winter

By on 10 13, 2014 in ActivitiesHealth and Wellbeing

It may be cold (and rainy!) outside but winter needn’t be the unhealthiest time of year for you and those around you.

Here are five ways to make sure that even when your body is telling you to hibernate you can keep healthy and fit, no matter what the weather’s like:

1. Eliminate your sleep debt

“On average we sleep six-and-a-half hours a night, much less than the seven to nine hours recommended,” says Jessica Alexander, spokesperson at the Sleep Council, which aims to raise awareness of the importance of a good night’s sleep to health and wellbeing. But in winter, we naturally sleep more, due to the longer nights. “It’s perfectly natural to adopt hibernating habits when the weather turns cold,” says Jessica. “Use the time to catch up.”

2. Keep exercising in the winter months

Make exercise a winter priority to make sure you stay fit and healthy as the weather gets colder. Find a winter buddy to exercise with at least once a week, or someone to be accountable to. You can keep each other motivated during this period. Trick yourself by making your goals more achievable by telling yourselves that you are going to exercise for just, say, 15 minutes per session. Most likely, when you get to that stage, you will want to keep going.

3. Eat more fruit and veg

When it’s cold and dark outside it can be tempting to fill up on unhealthy comfort food, but it’s important to ensure that you still keep your diet healthy and include five portions of fruit and veg a day. If you find yourself craving a sugary treat, try a juicy clementine or satsuma instead, or sweet dried fruits such as dates or raisins.

Winter vegetables such as carrots, parsnips, swede and turnips can be roasted, mashed or made into soup for a comforting winter meal for the whole family. Explore varieties of fruit and veg that you may not normally eat.

4. Try new activities

Don’t use the cold winter months as an excuse to stay in and lounge around. Instead, why not try out a new activity, maybe ice-skating, taking a bracing winter walk on the beach or exploring your local park in the different seasons. Regular exercise helps to control your weight, boost your immune system and is a good way to break the tension and boredom that can result from being constantly cooped up inside the house.

5. Have a hearty breakfast

Winter is the perfect season for porridge. Eating a warm bowlful on a cold morning isn’t just a delicious way to start your day, it also helps you to boost your intake of starchy foods and fibre, which give you energy and help you to feel fuller for longer, stopping the temptation to snack mid-morning. Oats also contain lots of vital vitamins and minerals. Avoid adding sugar or salt. Instead add a few dried apricots, some raisins, a sliced banana or other fruit for extra flavour and to help you hit the five-a-day target.

With thanks to the NHS and the Telegraph.

Warm in Winter

 

Be Prepared As The Seasons Change: What Is Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Today, the weather has turned. We have been so lucky over the summer that the dark, wet weather we are usually so ready for comes as a bit of a surprise. We can hold onto the fact that summer was good to us, however as autumn turns onto winter, the days become shorter and many of us try to fight the instinct to hibernate.

The weather can have a big impact on our mood, and it is good to be aware of some of the reasons behind this so we can prepare for the winter season and how it can affect us.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that has a seasonal pattern and is thought to affect about 2 million people in the UK.  The symptoms of SAD recur regularly each winter and usually start between September and November, continuing until March or April and are similar to those for depression.  These include a lack of interest in life, lethargy, feelings of anxiety and an inability to cope.

Treatments for SAD include counselling, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and antidepressants, which are used to treat other types of depression. SAD can also be treated with light therapy which for some people can improve mood considerably. Light therapy involves sitting in front of, or underneath, a light box – a lamp in various designs with a very bright light.

SAD is thought to be linked to reduced exposure to sunlight during the shorter days of the year so light therapy can work by simulating the sunlight that’s missing during the darker winter months. The additional light encourages your brain to reduce the production of melatonin (the hormone that makes you sleepy) and increase the production of serotonin (the hormone that affects your mood).

You can find out more about SAD, symptoms and treatment from the NHS Choices Website.

SAD

 

Accessible Days Out in London

With the sun shining and the holidays in full swing, you might be wondering where you can go for a fun day out. If you have a wheelchair user with you, or are a wheelchair yourself, use a guide dog or have restricted mobility, it is helpful to know in advance how accessible some of the tourist attractions are. Here are some ideas for accessible days out in London.

1. The London Eye, one of the most popular tourist attractions in London is fully wheelchair accessible. It is the tallest observation wheel in the world.

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2. Kew Royal Botanic Gardens are fully accessible and disabled toilets are located at the entrance. Guide dogs are allowed in every part of the gardens and if you need to hire a wheelchair it can be booked in advance.

3. At the London Zoo, many exhibits are displayed at a height which is suitable for people in wheelchairs and most of the zoo will be accessible. Disabled toilets are available. Admission is free for the companion traveller of wheelchair users, but those with guide dogs should know that guide dogs cannot be admitted.  You can make arrangements to have a guide dog looked after while a zoo volunteer guides you around the zoo. ZSL London Zoo seeks to provide equal opportunity for all to enjoy the animal exhibits and visitor facilities. The Zoo is more than 170 years old and contains many old buildings, 12 of which are listed. Nevertheless, most of the Zoo is accessible for wheelchair users and those with restricted mobility.

4. The Cabinet War Rooms, used as headquarters by Winston Churchill in World War II have 21 underground rooms and are a real must-see for any history buff. All rooms are wheelchair accessible, disabled toilets are available and guide dogs are permitted in the museum. There are also some visual and hearing impaired aids available.

5. The Gothic architecture and exquisite craftsmanship of Westminster Abbey should not be missed. Steeped in history with the weddings and funerals of famous Monarchs and the 1953 Coronation of Queen Elizabeth, the Abbey has excellent wheelchair access.  Guide dogs are allowed in all parts of the building and visual and hearing resources are also available. Kings, queens, statesmen and soldiers; poets, priests, heroes and villains – the Abbey is a must-see living pageant of British history. Despite being a protected Gothic building reasonable adjustments have been made throughout the Abbey for people that have extra mobility requirements, whilst a fixed hearing loop and touch tours are available for those with sensory impairments.

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6. At St. Paul’s Cathedral only one part is inaccessible to wheelchair users – the American Chapel. Disabled access is via an elevator and assistance is available should it be required. Guide dogs are welcome and touch and audio provisions are in place for the visual and hearing impaired. “Enter St Paul’s and enjoy the cathedral’s awe-inspiring interior. Take advantage of a new touch-screen multimedia guide or join a guided tour to explore this iconic building, both now included with the sightseeing admission charge.” You can’t fail to be captivated by the grandeur and triumphant architecture of St Paul’s Cathedral. With ramp access to the south entrance and hearing loops throughout it’s a haven of tranquility in the heart of the City.

7. If you want to see some famous but waxy faces at Madame Tussauds it is strongly recommended that you book in advance as the museum has strict health and safety rules and only three wheelchairs are permitted into the museum at one time. Priority admission will be given to wheelchair users who have pre-booked their visit. Entry is free for everyone who holds a valid disability registration card.

8. The world-famous British Museum exhibits the works of man from across the globe, dating from prehistoric to modern times. Highlights include the Rosetta Stone, the Parthenon sculptures and the mummies in the Ancient Egypt collection. Entry is free but special exhibitions require tickets. With free parking for blue badge holders, audio described exhibits and lifts throughout you can be sure of a great day out at the British Museum.

9. Buckingham Palace serves as both the office and London residence of Her Majesty The Queen. It is one of the few working royal palaces remaining in the world today.”Walk in the footsteps of our reigning Monarch with a visit to Buckingham Palace. With level access, lifts, hearing loops and free of charge wheelchairs, the palace is a “must see” in the Capital. Wheelchair users are requested to pre-book so the palace can make arrangements for you.

10. Hundreds of exciting, interactive exhibits in one of London’s most beautiful landmark buildings. Despite being over 130 years old, the Natural History Museum has a whole range of access facilities including lifts and ramps throughout most exhibits and all stuff receive disability awareness and equality training, all perfect for making your journey through the ages as hassle free as possible.

With thanks to, and to find out more, visit http://www.travelingwithmj.com/

Life made easier 2

Carrying on from the last set of great innovations and products that could help the life of an elderly person, we have some more inventions that could come in very handy!

So we’re going to start off with a step stool with handle. When you struggle to reach high, to that book right on the top shelf, many people would use a step ladder or stool. But for some, balancing can also be very difficult, so that’s where the step stool with handle comes in! It lets you reach further while also giving balance and security.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Patterson-Medical-Chrome-Plated-Handle/dp/B0056PPR9S

Next up is the button helper! For many people with arthritis doing up buttons can be near impossible: like trying to nail jelly to a tree it can be intensely frustrating. With the use of the button opener the task can be made simple and easy and will save a lot of pain. Doing up the buttons on a shirt or wherever can be a difficult task for even the most dexterous, but for people with shaky hands, unsteady fingers, arthritis or any other similar problem it is far too difficult, but this makes it nice and simple.

http://www.elderberrydirect.co.uk/button-helper.html

Many elderly people struggle to touch small fiddly buttons, some suffer from arthritis, and to aid these people Big Button Phones are available. With these large buttons dexterity is not needed to operate these machines, making calling loved ones far easier for them. Some of the new phones are ridiculous, you can hardly see the buttons on the phone let alone press them, so a big buttoned phone is a very welcome addition to elderly friendly gadgets.

http://www.argos.co.uk/static/Product/partNumber/5528666.htm

Lastly is another aid for those who struggle to grip and twist. Turning a stiff tap handle can be a real struggle, but with a tap turner it can be easy. Providing more leverage, anyone can easily put the tap on, or turn it off. Maybe you or someone you know can turn a tap on fine, but struggles to tighten it back up again so it doesn’t drip. If that’s the case then this could be perfect.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Pair-Easy-Turn-Crosshead-Turners/dp/B008ATCCGI

We have selected an sample of the devices and suppliers out there but there are many more if you have time to explore.

InnovationThis blog post has been contributed by our work experience student, Jamie Cox.

30 Days of Adventure

Adventures make us grow and laugh and learn about the world and ourselves.

On Friday, Psychologies Magazine started their 30 Days of Adventure Challenge.The team decided they needed to practice what they preach, shake up their own routines and inject a little excitement into their everyday lives, so I thought I would join in. The challenge is to have an adventure every day for 30 days, no matter how big or small. Examples given include sleeping on the opposite side of the bed, taking swing dance lessons or packing your case for a spontaneous trip.

Easy peasy then…. or so I thought. If I sleep on the opposite side of the bed, my radio and plug will be on the wrong side, and after a sky dive and the Yorkshire 3 peaks, I would like to be adventurous in a non-costly kind of a way.

Now we are 3 days in, and the ideas are already running out! I have eaten Squid (having never done that before it was quite an adventure for me!), I have started a paint by numbers (nearly finished) and I went to a dog show with friends and even entered into one of the show categories (with a four legged friend). My other ideas include being more crafty, joining some meet up groups and finding a new curry house. Another way to increase your adventures is to say yes a little bit more. I tend to say no to things if they do not fit into my routine, or because I am too busy, or because it doesn’t sound like my kind of thing. This month it will be yes – well mostly!

Psychologies offers some other helpful  ideas to guide along the way including waking up early and going for a walk just after dawn, wearing a colour you never usually wear, watching a film you wouldn’t usually watch,  visiting somewhere local you have always wanted to go but hadn’t got round to. Follow their progress here: https://lifelabs.psychologies.co.uk/

Adventure

The Health+Care and Commissioning Show 2014

By on 06 30, 2014 in Health and Wellbeing

We spent Wednesday and Thursday last week at the Health+Care and Commissioning 2014 Show. With the Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt (Secretary of State for Health), Rt Hon Norman Lamb (Minister of State for Care and Support) and Andy Burnham (Shadow Secretary of State for Health) leading a diverse panel of speakers, it was an interesting couple of days. There was a focus on integration throughout the Show, and case studies from Clinical Commissioning Groups and Local Authorities with debates around loneliness, dementia, mental health and the Better Care Fund.
We were lucky enough to exhibit, and attend a few talks around loneliness and social exclusion. We met some wonderful people and organisations making a real difference in the lives of people, and challenging the stigma attached to the subject of loneliness. These included Action on Hearing Loss, Age UK, Alzheimer’s Society, Avante Partnership, British Red Cross, Essex Cares, Livability, Macmillan Cancer Support, Mears Group, Midland Heart and Royal Voluntary Service to name a few.
The Rt Hon Norman Lamb highlighted that technology in care is crucial and that addressing loneliness and isolation reduces hospital admissions. Tracey Robbins, Programme Manager for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation shared their work on how neighbourhoods can contribute to the well-being of local people at risk of, or experiencing, loneliness in a sustainable way.
We were able to highlight the role Visbuzz can have in combating isolation, increasing social and digital inclusion, increasing wellbeing and reducing the costs of caring. It was fantastic to be able to demonstrate how well Visbuzz works with one of our very own Visbuzz Champions from the British Red Cross located in Halton having a one touch video call with some of the delegates gathered around our stand at the Show.
It was a great couple of days, and so positive to see people working together to improve health and care, and the quality of people’s lives.

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What did you do at the weekend?

By on 06 16, 2014 in Health and Wellbeing

Three of the Visbuzz team travelled to Wales and climbed Mount Snowdon last weekend as preparation for our Yorkshire Three Peaks challenge in July. During the climb, we encountered all kinds of people (and dogs!) of different ages and abilities, however the thing that struck me was the different things people think of doing on any particular day. Some of you will have spent that day with family and friends, carting the kids round to their activities or shopping for groceries. Others will have had a relaxing day in front of the TV or pottering around the house, catching up on work or progressing that To Do list.

We, however, had a plan to climb up a mountain. For the more sensible people, there was a fantastic steam train that safely delivered them at the top of Snowdon, and then back down to the bottom again. Unfortunately the weather on Saturday left a lot to be desired so neither those on the train nor walking were able to experience many spectacular views.

There was another group of people on Snowdon that day; these people were not just out to climb Snowdon, these people had an even greater plan for their day!  They were running up and down the mountain – some were competing against others in a race – and there were others carrying bikes up the mountain to cycle back down again.

This demonstrated to me the fantastic differences between us all – from the chatty car park attendant when we parked the car and the helpful staff in the cafe half way up (hot chocolate very much appreciated thank you), to all those determined runners, cyclists and walkers. The sheer variety of individuals in the vicinity at the same time all with their own lives, goals coming together for a shared experience is certainly something to contemplate. It demonstrated to me that life is not a competition, and we all have our parts to play – no matter how moderate or extreme.

Snowdon

 

Forgetfulness

By on 06 02, 2014 in Health and Wellbeing

Many of us have those moments where you walk upstairs to get something, get to the landing and have no idea what it was you went upstairs for! We put the kettle on, get our favourite mug out ready for a nice cup of tea, only to come back into the kitchen an hour later with the tea still unmade. Someone gives us directions and within seconds we can’t remember whether it is left or right at the post box.

The causes of forgetfulness are numerous. They run from being overwhelmed with responsibility and demands to not paying close enough attention – we simply didn’t “hear” the instructions in the first place. Other times we are so distracted by everything that is going on around us that we are on overload and have too much to remember and can’t. But when should we worry that it is becoming more serious?

Forgetfulness results from changes in the brain and can be a normal part of aging or a symptom of another condition or disease. When you experience forgetfulness, you may find it harder to recall information or events, learn new things, or form new memories. As people get older, changes occur in all parts of the body, including the brain. As a result, some people may notice that it takes longer to learn new things, they don’t remember information as well as they did, or they lose things like their glasses. These usually are signs of mild forgetfulness, not serious memory problems. Abnormal forgetfulness isn’t only about failing to remember; it’s more complex than that.

Be concerned when you see a pattern of deteriorating functioning, not just correctable incidents of forgetting. Loss of previous abilities or negative changes in long-established, characteristic behaviour and personality patterns indicates a need to seek help. Understanding normal forgetfulness can help us adjust more gracefully to the challenges of healthy aging. We need to give ourselves and our loved ones more time to recall events, names, and words as we age, because “normal” recall can take longer. Knowing that can help us plan to build in extra time for certain events or tasks.

http://www.nia.nih.gov/health/publication/forgetfulness

http://www.patient.co.uk/health/Memory-Loss-and-Dementia

http://www.ehow.com/about_5137621_causes-forgetfulness.html#ixzz32X7tjZtD

http://psychcentral.com/lib/when-to-worry-about-forgetfulness/00013100

Mr F

Safety at Home

We all need to be aware of the potential dangers we can face while at home, however these dangers can be increased for these with limited mobility, sight or hearing.

Ensuring that smoke detectors are installed can save lives in the event of a fire. Most Fire and Rescue departments in the UK offer free Home Fire Safety Checks and you may also be eligible to have free smoke alarms fitted. The Fire Brigade has run a campaign over the past couple of years called ‘Time to Test’. When you change your clocks twice a year, you can use this as an opportunity to test your smoke detectors. It is important to check that your smoke detectors are working on a regular basis. There are also smoke detectors with visual alerts for those with a hearing impairment.

If the home uses gas, do you have a carbon monoxide detector? Carbon monoxide (CO) can be produced by faulty heaters and you cannot see, taste or smell it. There are a range of detectors available including those with alarms that are audible and/or visual.

Trips and falls can be a danger to all, but especially older people. You can reduce the danger of trips and falls by ensuring all rugs are secured to the floor and any hazards are removed from the floor areas and nothing is left lying on the stairs. In addition, using a pick-up stick or grabber to help pick things up from the floor and putting a letterbox cage over the letterbox on the inside of the door, to prevent post from falling onto the floor can also reduce the risks.

If you are particularly worried about the safety and wellbeing of an older person, there are a range of personal alarms available where the person can activate the alarm themselves, and sensor options for others to monitor activity, or inactivity. You can find further advice from a number of sources including: Which and Age UK.

If we spend just a couple of minutes thinking about Home Safety, we will be able to keep ourselves and others happy, reassured and safe in our own homes.

 

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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

Goal Setting

By on 04 14, 2014 in Health and Wellbeing

Goals

It can be difficult to sit and think about what we actually want from life, and it is sometimes easier to stay with what we know and within what we feel comfortable. Goal setting can be a personal way of helping you to realise where you want to go in life, and achieve the things you want, turning your (possibly unknown) desires and dreams into reality.

Goals can be as big or as small as you want, however this works better if the goals are realistic. You can have a completely different list for ‘win the lottery’. We can look at that another week!

It may be your goal to meet more people. In order to achieve this, we would need to identify the steps needed to reach this end goal. They may be:

1. To check if there is a local book group

2. Find out when and where they are meeting

3. Plan how to get to the location on time

4. Speak to at least 2 people before you leave at the end of the evening

All of these steps are achievable with a little planning, and in case you get cold feet, give yourself a deadline.  This is a very simple example, and goals will be very specific to you and what you want for life. Some of you may want to go on a tour of the world, or become a famous writer and it’s important to know that even the biggest of goals can be broken down into smaller achievable steps.

The key is taking the time to think about where you are and where you want to be, and then you can work out how to get there. Having your goals written down is a big part of achieving them. You can monitor progress, amend them depending on any changes in circumstances, and check off your steps as you complete them.

In last week’s blog we looked at writing to your future self, and this can be a great way of keeping track of your goals. You can write down your goals for the future in a letter to yourself and re-open it in a 1, 5 or 10 years time. There is even a website that will send you your typed letter by e-mail whenever you choose: http://www.futureme.org/  

So why not have a go at some goal setting – you never know where you might end up!

 

 

 

Goal Setting

By Admin on 04 14, 2014 in Health and Wellbeing

It can be difficult to sit and think about what we actually want from life, and it is sometimes easier to stay with what we know and within what we feel comfortable. Goal setting can be a personal way of helping you to realise where you want to go in life, and achieve the things [...]


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