Beyond text and images: Tackling loneliness with technology

Dr Eiman Kanjo is a Senior Lecturer at Nottingham Trent University. Eiman has written some of the earliest papers in the research area of mobile sensing and she currently carries out work in the areas of technologies and data science for health & Wellbeing, Smart cities, Environmental Monitoring and its impact of health, and wellbeing monitoring. She tweets @eimankanjo She will be speaking at the Loneliness in Older People and its Impact on Health event on 13 June at Wellcome Collection in London.

Loneliness is a sad and frustrating event in anyone’s life, however its impact is more damaging for older people. Many older adults have lost so much of their independence they are left with memories of the life they once knew. Things that were once so important to them are taken away, such as the ability to drive, go to church, read a book, or even connecting with their loved ones.

Among the ways to combat loneliness, technology is starting to play a major role in helping to bridge the gap of interactions that older adults need.

In general, older adults do not necessarily dislike one form of technology or another, however, they are sometimes distrustful about the need for technology or about their ability to utilise it. Continue reading

The Lonely brain

Dr Samuel Barnes Ph.D is a Lecturer at Imperial College London in the Division of Brain Sciences and was recently awarded a UK Dementia Research Institute Fellowship. The goal of his research is to understand the role of neural circuit plasticity in aging and neurodegeneration. His group uses a combination of in vivo voltage and calcium imaging, bioelectronics and electrophysiology to investigate the neural plasticity factors that make the aged brain susceptible to neurodegeneration and ultimately dementia. You can read more about his work here.  He will be speaking at the Loneliness in Older People and its Impact on Health event on 13 June at Wellcome Collection in London.

Daydreaming can be one of life’s great pleasures. Losing yourself in a thought or spending time quietly reflecting on the day’s events is an important part of modern life. But what if solitary thought was the only option? For many older people periods of loneliness are all too frequent. Such periods of social isolation can involve little to no contact with people for prolonged periods of time. What do these prolonged stretches of loneliness do to the brain?

To answer this question, we must consider how the brain processes the sensory and social world. The substrate of thought is the electrical activity that flows between neurons in the brain. These tiny nerve cells are connected to each other forming complex circuits that store and process sensory experience. Continue reading

Hidden Carers – sharing the stories of older male carers

Louise Bate is an Engagement and Communications Officer with Healthwatch Dorset. Healthwatch is an independent watchdog, working to help people get the best out of their local health and social care services. Healthwatch enables local people to influence the delivery and design of local services, by sharing their views with health and care commissioners and providers: www.healthwatchdorset.co.uk 

More than 51,000 carers in England are men aged over 85; a number that has more than doubled in the last decade. It’s such a huge number of people that it’s hard to imagine. We wanted to make the numbers real – so we’ve been working with Bournemouth University and the Carers Support Service to listen to older male carers, gather their stories and give them a stronger voice.

Carers over the age of 85 are the only demographic of carers where men outnumber women (59%). Men are more likely to become carers in older age than at other times in their life and usually as a result of caring for their partners. Continue reading

Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds

Dr Zoe Wyrko is a Consultant physician at University Hospital Birmingham and is the Director of Workforce for the BGS. In this blog she discusses the recent Channel 4 programme in which she appeared, Old People’s Home for 4 Year Olds. She tweets @geri_baby

I’ve always had a soft spot for care homes. As a child I would occasionally go into work with my Mum and meet some of the old ladies she talked about. When I was older I started work in the same nursing home as a kitchen girl on Saturdays, and then later progressed to health care assistant. I remain proud of my training record from that time, showing I am competent to deliver personal care, clean dentures and cut nails.

This is why I was excited when an approach came from CPL productions, who were looking for geriatricians to be involved with a television programme they wanted to make about introducing children to a care home environment. Continue reading

Suffering in silence: A global epidemic

This blog is the collaborative work of BGS President-Elect Prof Tahir Masud and his team Aneesha Chauhan, final year medical student, University of Oxford and Sanja Thompson consultant physician, Geratology department, University of Oxford.

Everyone has experienced loneliness. Acutely, it is a transient, often mild experience that is relieved by meaningful social interaction. However, we are living in an epidemic of chronic loneliness. More than three quarters of GPs in the UK say they see between 1 and 5 lonely people a day. Furthermore, recent prevalence data revealed that 30% of the elderly are “sometimes lonely” with 9% suffering from severe loneliness. It is being increasingly recognised that loneliness is a pathological state, with its own epidemiology, risk factors, presentations, and increased mortality and morbidity. Continue reading