How much do you know about ageing? As we travelled across the south west launching our new Transform Ageing programme we discovered that, even with a team of 'experts', there was so much more to learn. From the power of friendship in dealing with dementia to robots that help to connect people in homes to the outside world, we were heartened to learn these five things that you may, or may not, already know about ageing.

1. Swing music can help with bereavement

Eighty-five-year old Graham has enjoyed making friends by the sea in retirement in Paignton. He’s part of an active older community that “includes magicians and performers”. He’s a musician and his wife Sheila always sang in his band. “Sheila had a big voice, Ella Fitzgerald style”, he says with a smile. But, life’s been less bright since she died last summer. “I’ve had problems sleeping”, says Graham. Recently, he’s added another gig to his calendar that’s helping him cope. He plays swing tunes on the keyboard at the memory café in Paignton that Sheila, who had Alzheimer’s, went to. “People with dementia, they love music” he says, “They all get up and dance and have smiles on their faces”. Graham says it works both ways though, and performing really helps him. He says “if it wasn’t for the music, I’d be in a bad way”. 

2. Dementia can be slowed, or even reversed by making friends

“The only days he would get out of bed were the Tuesdays and Thursdays when he came to you”. One relative’s account of her dad’s time with The Filo Project in Devon. It’s a new system of care that helps isolated people, often with dementia, get out and make friends in a non-institutional environment. In a home setting, groups of three or four people do normal activities, like jigsaws and mending as well as getting a hearty cooked lunch. Director, Libby Price says many of her clients were trapped in their own homes, too worried to leave. But the Filo Project works because “small groups give the time and space for people to feel at ease and to form friendships.”   

3. Robots could soon help you get a prescription

New ways of caring for our burgeoning older community are being thought up in research laboratories around the country. At Falmouth University in Cornwall engineers are working on a robot on wheels that can connect people in care homes to the outside world. "Your GP could check in on you with a video call” says project director, Anna Mankee-Williams, “or a relative in Australia could dial through.”

4. You will need to know about steps

A new app is being designed that will consolidate events for older people along with services like will-writing and physiotherapy. BriteLives.com was born when entrepreneur, John Coulthard couldn’t find an art class for his eighty-eight-year-old mum that didn’t have lots of steps up to the entrance. “We’re making it easy for people to find things” John says, “and the site always shows a picture of the front entrance, so you know if there are steps”. The site has four sections: stay fit, keep learning, find new friends and help with professional services.

5. You can still teach magic tricks

Ninety-three-year old Trevor George has been performing magic since he was ten. He’s loved his showbiz life, most of which has been based in Torquay in the South West of England. He’s sawn women in half, performed mindreading tricks and as well as being an agent for other acts, like Joe Pasquale and Gary Wilmot. When Trevor’s wife died, his daughter stepped into her shoes, ensuring the family business carried on. Trevor performed his last big show at the age of eighty-eight, but he says he’ll never give up teaching magic. “I want to show people that you can have a good life in old age”, he says with a twinkle in his eye. 

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