Our golden years

It won’t have escaped your attention that we’re living longer, there’s hardly a day that goes by when there isn’t a mention of our ageing population on the TV or in the newspapers. I can’t help but notice that a lot of these stories focus on the problems of getting older, loneliness, living with multiple health conditions and the financial struggles - issues which, in my opinion, aren’t exclusive to growing old.

There are many organisations out there with the aim of making those golden years a little (or a lot) more fun. There are organisations bringing the old and young people together like North London Cares, South London Cares and Cocktails in Care homes. Then there’s Casserole Club where you can share a meal with your older neighbour and not forgetting Good Gym who turn exercise into positive social action with older more isolated members of the community.

Back in the summer I relaunched ageing innovators website, a project from the Health Lab here at Nesta, and published a blog focused on those organisations who were innovating in dementia care. This time around I want to shine a light on those innovators who use various mediums to enhance the lives of our ageing population.

Bright Shadow’s mission is to enable people with dementia and those affected by it to live well and to thrive. They deliver Zest workshops which use a variety of performance activities such as song, movement, music, story-making, puppetry and other sensory stimuli to celebrate the present moment and create opportunities for people with dementia to express themselves, interact with others and take part in meaningful activity.

Oomph! provide exercise therapy classes using upbeat music, sensory props and reminiscence imagery to stimulate the mind, body and soul of participants. Oomph! have run their classes in almost 1000 care settings to date and have shown a 10 per cent increase in self-reported quality of life over 3 months of regular participation.

Fixperts is about fixing for someone. It is a creative social platform and education programme that invites people who are good at making and repair to fix for others. Each project, which applies creative skills to solve problems, is shared on an online platform to inspire others to do the same. Making an immediate difference to people’s lives is a core Fixperts principle, and ageing well and mobility is one of the main areas that volunteer makers tackle problems in. Examples of projects include:

  • A sock-horn for Edna which transforms her mornings and means she can put on her socks on by herself.
  • A custom-made button-fastener made for 82 year-old Tom whose rheumatism makes it difficult to close buttons himself.
  • A belt that can be closed with one hand for post stroke wheelchair user John.

My House of Memories is an app developed by Liverpool Museums which allows you to explore objects from the past and share memories together. It can be used by anyone, but has been designed for, and with, people living with dementia and their carers. Browse through objects from across the decades, brought to life with multimedia, to reminisce about a range of everyday objects, from school life to sport. Save objects to your own memory tree, memory box or memory timeline.

Men in Sheds - Originally developed in Australia, this programme creates an opportunity for men of all ages to meet and make things together in a relaxed setting designed to feel like a shed.

‘Sheds’ around the country are equipped with woodwork tools and managed by volunteers who put on a range of activities, often around designing, recycling and making. The ‘sheds’ provide a space for men to meet up to use their existing skills, learn new skills or just put the world to rights over a cup of tea. The model has been successful at connecting men who may not normally go to organised activities, as well as supporting older men who feel isolated or are going through major life changes such as bereavement.

We know that there are many more examples out there of organisations innovating to improve the lives of our ageing population. If you know of any great innovations in ageing please add an example via our website or contact the Nesta Health Lab team via email [email protected]


Hollie Brennan

Hollie Brennan

Hollie Brennan

Programme Coordinator, Health Lab

Hollie joined Nesta in May 2014 as the Programme Coordinator for Health Lab.

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