Stimulating memories – dealing with dementia

This morning I was in the kitchen with Radio 4 on, and happened to catch an episode of this week’s Book of the Week, which is “Gold Fever” by Steve Boggan. The book is an account of how the author decided to see if it was possible to make a fortune by re-visiting the sites of the 19th Century Californian Goldrush. I have caught little bits of it throughout the week, and, from what I can tell, he didn’t succeed in making a fortune, but he did come back with some great stories featuring the characters from the original rush, and some from more recent times.

In today’s episode, he was searching for “the man”, the character who had made the most from prospecting gold in recent years. Eventually he tracked down someone who had made a small fortune from rare gold finds, but the gentleman in question now suffers from Alzheimer’s. The story recounted the author’s frustration with extracting information from the man whose memory had faded. All this changed however, when he decided to take “the man” back to the scene of his prospecting. He then came alive and bubbled over with stories about his former life.

People who work with those who have dementia often talk about their long term memories being sound, but that they can’t remember what happened yesterday. We need to do more work on stimulating memories by helping them to relive their former lives. And, I have a suspicion that, when such people spend much of their lives not being mobile or stimulated, it could just be that what happened yesterday is just not worth remembering.

And, of course, we can now use digital technologies to help stimulate memories, as in the brilliant video below. Let’s do more of this, please!

You can hear the “Gold Fever” programme here.

This was not the social media election you’ve been waiting for

Several times during the General Election campaign I expressed my frustration and annoyance that the main use of social media by politicians seemed to be to tweet grinning selfies of themselves and their campaign teams accompanied by anodyne messages along the lines of “another great morning on the doorstep”. Apart from the fact that I never once saw anyone admitting to a difficult morning on the doorstep, I really don’t think this is a good use of social media at all. I have tweeted this to some politicians, and said it to others face-to-face. The response was usually that they considered this to be a good tool for proving to people that they were working hard on the ground. I disagree.

My alternative was to urge politicians to tell stories about what people said to them on the doorstep. I think this would be a much great contribution to political debate. And I have urged politicians to use social media to tell their own stories. Someone who did this was Naz Shah, the ultimately successful, Labour challenger to George Galloway in Bradford West. She told her story in public, and I think the public warmed to her as a result. Instead, most politicians prefer to pump out prepared versions of the party line. As Stephen Waddington has already suggested, this was not the social media election you have been waiting for.

A particular point of interest is that the Labour Party claimed to have had 5 million doorstep conversations during the campaign.  5 million conversations; just think of the stories that could have come out of those conversations if they had been prepared to tell them. And yet, despite 5 million conversations, they still didn’t see the comprehensive defeat coming. How does that work? Maybe they weren’t conversations at all. Perhaps the way politicians behave on social media is a reflection of how they operate offline too. If so, that is a measure of the challenge ahead, for all of them.

What I learned from my walking tour of 10 Polling Stations on General Election Day 2015

As trailed this morning, today I did a walking tour of the 10 Polling Stations nearest to my house on General Election Day. I did this to highlight the ridiculous situation that our voting system still uses 19th Century methods in 2015. I hope that we will have online voting before the country as a whole does this again.

First, here’s the story of the day.

 

Prelude

 

The Starting Point

 

 

Polling Station 1 – I voted

 

Polling Station 2

 

Polling Station 3

 

Polling Station 4

 

Polling Station 5

 

Polling Station 6

 

Polling Station 7

 

Polling Station 8

 

Polling Station 9

 

Polling Station 10

 

So, what did I learn?

Well, I learned that the terrain of Huddersfield is pretty challenging, something I already knew, but perhaps needed to be reminded of. And some of the Polling Stations were in quite hilly places. They must be difficult to get to for people with restricted mobility.

I also learned that Polling Stations are in some pretty varied places. But, in my sample of 10, there was only one, at Paddock Village Hall, that was in a place which seemed to be offering other reasons for people to be there, namely a community cafe.

And I perhaps learned most from the 40 minute break I took along the way in a pub. I overheard a couple of conversations, one involving two people who were voting today for the first time in years “because it’s important this time, isn’t it?”; and one about voting in Australia, which is not only compulsory, but, it seems, is made an occasion of, with barbecues at the Polling Stations.

I think we need to move to online voting as soon as possible. But, in the interim, barbecues at Polling Stations doesn’t seem like a bad idea.

General Election 2015 – Touring the Polling Stations

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It’s a matter of extreme frustration to me that the benefits that digital technology is bringing to all our lives are seemingly not allowed to touch the world of politics. And so it is that most of us will pick up a piece of card which came through the letterbox a few weeks ago and trudge off to a drafty school hall to place a cross on a piece of paper.

I think younger people in particular find this ridiculous, and it is a reason why many of them don’t vote. We need secure, online voting, and we need it well before the next General Election.

So, to highlight this absurdity, I have decided to spend a substantial part of this General Election Day touring the 10 nearest Polling Stations to my house. And I’ll be doing this on foot. I expect to have to buy a new pair of shoes by the end of the day. I’ll be recording my reflections on the way.

Watch out for the updates, on my Twitter account.

See you later. And, whoever you support, or don’t want to get in. Vote!

Here is the map of the polling stations. It is on Google Maps at https://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?mid=zPzr7KA767V8.khe9J9CRM4Dk

Screen Shot 2015-05-07 at 09.27.42

Stories not Statistics

You know me I like stories. I promote storytelling; particularly Digital Storytelling.

I am constantly being told that evidence is what matters. That you cannot tell stories without evidence. Well, that may be true…. but….

Most people would agree that social housing and the people who live in it have been unfairly stigmatised. Despite all the efforts to get social housing to be a key issue in the 2015 General Election, whenever the subject of housing is raised, the politicians end up arguing over which party does most to promote home ownership. It’s like Mrs. Thatcher’s oft quoted view that anyone over 30 who uses a bus is a failure. She also changed the paradigm so that society’s prevailing view is that anyone who doesn’t own their own home is a failure, or at least that is what everyone should be aspiring to.

And so, social housing tenants are stigmatised, and the media pile in reinforcing this stereotype by pumping out poverty porn like “Benefits Street”, “How to Get a Council House”, “Skint”, and “Immigration Street”.  And still, people tell me that he only way to counter this view is by producing evidence to the contrary. And the evidence they want to produce comes in the form of reports, statistics and infographics.

But, stop to think for a moment. Where is the evidence that backs up the viewpoint promoted by the purveyors of poverty porn? It’s not there. They go out, they find a story they want to tell, and they tell that story, whatever the evidence might suggest. And they are the ones whose world view prevails. The public is not interested in evidence. If they were, news channels would have larger viewing figures than soap operas.

So, please; by all means produce your reports, your statistics, and your infographics. But don’t kid yourself that any of this wins hearts and minds. It’s the stories of people living happy and productive lives in social housing that will be much more persuasive.

Drones for Social Good

There has been much talk, but very little action about the topic of using drones for social good.

140122133610-drone-fly-in-2-story-top

I am determined to address the lack of action, and I am therefore raising money for a Drones for Social Good Project.

I’d be really grateful if you would visit the crowd funding link here http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/drones-for-social-good and contribute if you can. Even if you can’t contribute then it would help greatly if you could share the link across your networks. All contributions are welcome. I’d be particularly interested to hear from organisations seeking to make a substantial contribution in exchange for use of the drone on their projects.

 

Older People, Technology, and Social Isolation

This is by way of a progress report on my ambition to put measures in place to make sure no older person needs to be lonely at Christmas 2015 if technology can provide a solution for them.

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This is a description of some things I have done, some I have observed and some I am planning. In some cases I am describing plans and concepts and cannot go into real details as there are negotiations on-going to confirm arrangements. Everything I am setting out here, though, is a practical contribution to ensuring that the barriers to new technology adoption among older people can be broken down. They are also demonstrations of what needs to be done. I could not claim that the totality of what is here is a comprehensive approach. We need to scale these initiatives up, roll them out across the country, and fill in the gaps. I am still looking for funding to make more of this happen. Please get in touch if you can help.

Digital Tea Parties

During the past year I have run Digital Tea Parties in Leeds, Trafford, and Whitby, and there are a number of others in the planning stage. Digital Tea Parties are a great way of introducing older people to new technologies in a non-threatening environment. They allow the focus to be put on human communications and individual and community interests, rather than shiny tech. They are a familiar environment, in trusted locations, and they offer opportunities for those with a degree of interest to take the lead in introducing their peers to new gadgets. It is important in my view not to try to force people to use technologies they are uncomfortable with at the outset. Seeing others like them having a go can overcome that “tech is not for people like me” prejudice that often acts as a barrier.

digitparty_leeds3

Providing Connectivity

I am working with partners to connect up a sheltered housing complex, provide free wifi throughout and run a number of digital tea party-type sessions to kickstart residents’ use of new technologies. We intend this to be a demonstrator project that can be rolled out widely.

Relevant Content

I am convinced that one of the barriers to new technology adoption is that older people struggle to find content that is of interest to them. And, in addition to this, I believe that activities such as slumping in front of the television actually contribute to older people’s social isolation by disengaging them from the world around them. Work at Digital Tea Parties, particularly the reaction to the pub crawl video at Urmston, convinced me that people need content to engage with that is directly relevant to them, as I expanded on here. I have now secured funding as part of a larger project to develop this idea further and to create content which can be used with groups of older people to engage them with their local communities.

I am also seeking funding to run this Seaside Recollections project in which I would tour seaside locations guided in real-time by older people in pursuit of their memories of childhood holidays.

digitparty_leeds4

Reminsences and recordings

Also as part of the above, secured, project, I will be conducting video and audio interviews with older people participating in the initiative. I believe this is an important thing to do for a number of reasons, namely;

  • it stimulates the older person’s memory
  • it breaks down some of the barriers to new technology adoption
  • it creates more content of interest to older people
  • it can change perceptions of older people by allowing them to present themselves as they were in their younger days
  •  it contributes to project evaluation

Staff Digital Confidence

I am working on a number of initiatives to promote digital skills, confidence and fluency amongst staff working with older people. None of these yet have funding, which is extremely disappointing, because I firmly believe that often staff act as gatekeepers, seeking to keep the older people away from technology because they are frightened of the consequences of letting them loose on it.

 

All of these are activities which can turn the tide in the battle to promote technology adoption among older people, and achieve the ultimate goal of breaking down loneliness and isolation. We need to roll these things out more widely and scale them up. If you can help, please let me know.

 

Convincing older people to join the digital life

2015-04-07 12.20.05

Yesterday I ran another Digital Tea Party, this time with Leeds and Yorkshire Housing Association at their West Thorpe Sheltered Accommodation site in Whitby.

This was a Digital Tea Party with a difference, as we hadn’t had the opportunity to test the connectivity at the venue before the event. When I arrived I discovered that, not only did the in-house wifi not extend to the residents’ lounge, but there was little or no 3G or 4G connectivity available either. Eventually, I managed to get online via Emily Fulda‘s phone, but I could only connect my laptop, and we couldn’t get any of the other devices we had online. That meant the event resembled a lecture more than it did a party.

Nevertheless, it turned out to work quite well. While setting up, I put the video below on the screen, and it immediately generated a discussion, centred on the steam-powered bus it featured, which apparently has been banned from the streets due to a number of issues around its operation.

Discussion in the group moved on to where people came from. 4 of the residents had originated in Leeds so I was able to show a video that had been very popular at the Digital Tea Parties in Leeds

And then we discovered a real gem. One of the residents had himself been videoed reading his poems, so we were able to find those on Youtube and show them to the gathering

This was a particularly important breakthrough. I have found that in these circumstances it is important to break down the “technology is for for young people” argument. This is often achieved by finding one or two enthusiasts in the group, and getting them to lead the way and act as champions with the rest. Here, we were able to show videos of one of the residents who was himself a digital trailblazer. This sparked curiosity even in some members who had been disengaged up till this point. David talked about how he chats to his brother in Australia using Facetime. Unfortunately, it was not possible to arrange a demo of this, in part due to the poor connectivity we were experiencing, and, perhaps, mainly due to the fact that his brother would have been soundly asleep at the time.

digiteaparty_whitby2

So the discussion ranged from keeping in touch with relatives, via online shopping, to being able to listen online to local radio stations from back home. And then we were on to musical tastes. A couple of classical music videos were run for the benefit of residents, and then a member of the group mentioned he was into AC/DC. Although a rendition of the great Australian band’s “Thunderstruck” did not go down that well with most in the room, there was much more interest when I asked if anyone had seen the Bad Piper’s version below.

I’ve come across too many events with older people where it has been assumed their musical tastes are rooted in the 1930s. Most people’s musical tastes are forged in their teenage years. If you were a teenager in the 1930s you will be well into your 90s now. Most of the residents at our event were in their 70s and would have been teenagers in the 1950s and 60s. Thus AC/DC is a much more likely choice than is Vera Lynn.

The connectivity issues meant that we were unable to do as much as I wanted, and there was little opportunity for any hands on work with gadgets. But, I still think the event worked. There was lively discussion about the role of technology in member’s lives, with quite a few myths dispelled, and residents challenging each other to give things a try. I think it is very important to get these kinds of issues sorted, rather than forcing people to use technology at their first session if they are reluctant. That kind of approach can turn them off forever. I always say that we have to “normalise” the use of technology in people’s lives. And the first step can often be just to get them talking about it, and not treating it as an alien concept.

After the event, myself and the team from LYHA, Emily, Dan Marshall, and Rio Overton, decided to take a brief advantage of the glorious April weather by heading down to the beach. We passed the huge queues for the numerous Whitby Fish & Chip shops, along the harbourside and onto the beach. And, of course, because Rio was named after the song by Duran Duran, it was compulsory for her to dance in the sand

As I’ve mentioned before, I am determined to do more of these kinds of events, with a view to making sure, by Christmas 2015, that we have comprehensive mechanisms in place to ensure everybody who needs to can access technology to break down their loneliness and isolation. Please get in touch if you’d like to work with me on events like this and more.

 

Channel You

johnpopham:

Thanks for the kind reference, Jon

Originally posted on Jon King:

"What's my motivation?" “What’s my motivation?”

When I pitched for my present job, I majored on capturing the stories of positive people so as to inspire other people to act positively.

A lot of my work centres around Public Health messaging and I made the point that the public is bombarded by warnings and entreaties; to do something-or-other less or more…or not at all. Yet, withal, some people simply won’t act. Is it because they aren’t listening or do they think themselves immune?

I suspect it’s because they’ve convinced themselves that the message doesn’t apply to them. In which case, no amount of top-down hectoring is going to change their behaviour or their minds.

“What if” I asked “we were able to provide a first hand account of someone who did act?”

We would ask them a little about their circumstances, ask them what prompted them to act and, most significantly, ask them how they feel now. Could that…

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