“When we understand the connection between how we live and how long we live, it’s easier to make different choices.” ~Dean Ornish
None of us will be 18 again but there are sensible, practical things you can do to stay safe and active mentally and physically. This series of guides provides some useful tips to help you decide what you would see as improvement and how you could get there. We offer some choice of things you could do so you can face the future happier and healthier by doing things you like. Making plans and tackling some of the things that worry you will help. We point to other resources and organisations which have useful information and offer guidance. And don’t feel you have to try every single thing we suggest.
This series of guides is about general wellbeing and offers all sorts of advice about how to make you and your circumstances work better.
Why choosing is important
Research from the Institute for Ageing at Newcastle University shows that maintaining your levels of independence in the small things helps stops progression into larger problems associated with a steeper and quicker decline. Often the first activity to become difficult is cutting your toenails. If you are having difficulty with this it is probably a sign that at least one of your capabilities is in decline. At this point you have a choice, whether to re-able yourself to cut your toenails or to arrange for ongoing help with toenail maintenance.
If you successfully ‘re-able’ yourself you may:
• Live 3 years longer • Get another 6.5 years of independent life (measured by whether or not you need help to cook a hot meal) • Reduce your final period of dependence from 5.5 years to 2 years.
With foresight and planning you should be able to prolong the period before any of these problems even emerge. If you already need help with some activities it might be possible to become more able again or at least slow decline. Choosing the right activities could lead a happier life too.
If you have a critical issue bothering you, click here for some information about what you can do now.
How to get the latest Health Active Ageing
If you are looking for some regular handy tips to help keep you shipshape, you have some choices:
The simplest is to fill in your details below and click on the ‘Get Healthy Active Ageing’ button
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Many moons ago I set out to create the Assure after a conversation with my mother and looking for the appropriate way to look out for her as she lived in her home by herself (with pets) and was not, as the saying goes, getting any younger.
Exploring the traditional pendant alarm approach, I found they were limited in their function and that they have impediments to being worn all the time, and apart from that people tend to not wear them. The new Internet of Things (IoT) monitoring expects certain behaviour and can report when something doesn’t happen but you may have to wait for an expected event to be missed to find out that someone needed help 12 hours before – which I didn’t think was good enough. So we set about creating the Assure, finding talented partners and investment and developing the stay-connected wristband to make sure you could have cover throughout your home and garden 24/7.
In the early hours of yesterday morning I got a call from the system saying my mother had called for help. I looked on the portal and could see that she was moving, but had definitively called for help. Though I didn’t have to look, I just wanted to double check.
I live some distance (about 3 hours drive) away and so I called an ambulance which arrived a short time later. It seemed that she had gone downstairs for a bathroom break in the middle of the night and slipped or fallen as she started up stairs back to her bedroom. She is now ensconced in the Royal Bournemouth hospital where she has been diagnosed with a broken ankle. None of us know when an emergency will occur and we were lucky that it was not a particularly cold night and that she was found quickly. But had she had any other system it could have taken hours, or she could be lying there still.
Advice given out by some local councils can help us be good neighbours during these colder times.
Sometimes a reminder is handy to show us that small actions can have large consequences.
Seeing people If you know someone who lives alone, make sure you pop in from time to time. If you have neighbours who are willing you could set up a rota so you can visit a few people once a week, when it suits you. If you can only make one visit a week try and make it on the night the bins go out, that way you can do it rather than have them risk slipping on a cold night.
Are they warm enough? If possible you should make sure the house is warm enough. 21 degrees is a good minimum for a sitting room (i.e. a room where they may be sedentary for a long period of time) and 18 degrees in sleeping rooms (where bedclothes will provide warmth). Falling below these temperatures could create long term health issues. Of course ‘the Assure’ can help you monitor temperature and even send an email if the house seems too cold while the wearer is at home.
Make sure there is food in their cupboards If getting to the shops has been difficult they may be running low on stocks. Are there some easy, nutritious and warming snacks about, like soups?
Medicines Likewise, if trips out are tricky are they running out of any medicines they need? Unless you know their regime it may be that asking them about their stocks is the only way.
Medical appointments Is anything being missed because they don’t like travelling by themselves in the bad weather? Bear in mind there is often community transport available to take people to and from medical/health appointments.
Snow clearing and salting icy paths If you are clearing your path consider if your neighbour would benefit from your help clearing theirs too.
One of our users got in touch with us to say they had recently taken their mother on holiday and that they had left her Assure band ‘somewhere safe’; so safe, in fact that it could not be found.
Could we help her find it and another thing she had noticed was that on her online dashboard sometimes it could be seen and other times not. It looked to her like the battery might be fading.
We thought it odd that the battery could be fading, many of our bands last well over a year before the battery starts to fade.
We don’t have a find my band feature and so we set to work behind the scenes using engineering clues from how the band reports back to us. One colleague replied that the battery seemed fine but there were definitely issues with the band connecting to the base station almost like it was in a metal box and another strange thing was that it was reporting far greater temperature swings than the base station. The suggestion was that perhaps it was in a metal box in a conservatory.
I was telling my wife about this detective work but before I could mention the metal box in the conservatory she said ‘So it’s in a car then’. This explained why sometimes the band was out of range and fitted the other circumstances perfectly. We suggested that the glove box was explored. And there it was.
Whilst we are unlikely to be able to repeat finding lost bands quite so precisely we thought the story at least was worth repeating.
Councils are being urged to deliver a culture of care in the ‘Helping people look after themselves’ report. Acticheck can help.
We believe there are many people who are able to cope in their own homes most, if not all, of the time. Often there is a natural network of people – family, friends and neighbours – who would be willing and able to help, if they knew help was needed. No-one is invincible and knowing that help will be to hand if needed can be a great comfort, helping people live with confidence.
We like to think of these networks as communal care and whilst some people might have a plentiful network to call on others might use ‘co-managed’ care with a professional care provider as their fall back position whilst others might just use the professionals.
Our award winning wristband is designed to give home & garden coverage and be worn 24/7 ; after all you never know when help might be needed.
Our Assure system has the usual SOS button plus other really useful alerts – fall detection, our unique ‘wellness check-ins’, household temperature warnings and system down warnings. We can even let chosen people know when everything is good by giving daily ‘up & active’ emails.
Importantly, it is simple to set up remotely through an online dashboard. This is a boon not only to family members who might want to set it up at home and install it on a weekend visit but also to hospitals and clinics that want to send people home to a safe environment. An extra night in hospital costs £250 – when the person would prefer to be in their own home. The Assure costs less than that for a full year and can be set-up in 10 minutes, given to the person when they are sent home and be plugged in, verified and working within 60 seconds.
This means no more overnight stays in hospital waiting for an installer to visit the vacant home before the patient can return!
The assure has a unique combination of qualities which together bring significant benefits to our wearers.
Let’s get who the Assure won’t work for out of the way first and then we’ll let you know why we are a great solution for anyone else who spends significant time alone.
Though we have made the Assure as easy to use as possible it does need the wearer to interact with it. So if you are looking after someone who cannot remember to squeeze both buttons together if they want help, or to confirm they are OK by pressing a single button when the band buzzes then the Assure is not for you. In this case you may want to consider a system that monitors the home rather than the person. Such systems are typically more expensive than the Assure and require active interaction from the carers and are somewhat less effective at calling for timely help1 , but they can work around the person rather than with them.
If you have read this far it means you are thinking about the Assure for someone who can interact with it and whether it is for yourself or someone else the Assure is different for the following reasons.
The Assure is truly designed to be worn all the time. This is known in the trade as ‘fit & forget’ and is important because no one knows when an emergency will happen including high risk times when showering or an overnight visit to the bathroom.
There are several attributes designed into the Assure that mean it can be worn for a full year without taking it off.
We have built in an extraordinary 1 year battery life, so no recharging2. It is worth checking on some solutions that say they ‘can be worn’ 24 hours a day as they may also say they need to be re-charged
Waterproof for showering and bathing
Made of comfortable medical grade silicone to fit wrist sizes from 12-21cm circumference.
Stylish enough to win international design awards so you will be comfortable wearing it wherever you go
Activated with a simple squeeze meaning it can’t accidentally be set it off in bed, unlike single button wristbands.
So having designed a system that can be worn all the time we then considered if we could improve on the systems which had been around since the late 1980 and were still based on telephones. Using the latest in technology we realised we could do far more than basic SOS alerts and the wellness check-ins are unique to us.
Wellness check-ins. Choose the times for the band to buzz on the wrist and confirm you are OK by pressing a single button, wherever you are (You don’t have to go to the phone or alter your normal behaviour)
Fall monitoring. The band can listen for a ‘jerk’ pattern which is typical of a fall and then if there is little movement afterwards will again ask if you are OK by buzzing on your wrist. These settings can be personalised to suit frail or more active wearers
Household comfort zones. Put the Acticheck base somewhere representative of the household temperature (i.e. away from heat sources and draughts) and set a minimum temperature that will trigger an email. This can also be used as a frost monitor so even if the wearer is not at home responders can be warned if the pipes are in danger
Communication lost. If we don’t hear from the base for a period of time we will send an email to any administrators letting them know there may have been an internet outage. With traditional systems ‘No news is good news’ but with the Assure even if circumstances mean we don’t have you covered we’ll let you know.
A while back I was speaking with my mother and she asked why there wasn’t a service that could phone you up every day and make sure you were OK. She was not in poor health but sometimes it would be days without anyone visiting her and she just wanted the reassurance that if anything should happen she would get help soon and if the worst was to happen that her pets would be taken care of without delay.
The problem with the existing services was that they only work if you can guarantee to be by your phone when they call. If you lead a modern lifestyle where you don’t know when you are going to be in and out then there would be too many times when she’d come home to find a panicking friend. Times have moved on but essentially the telephone check still suffers from a lack of knowing whether you should be able to answer the phone or if you’ve gone out. There are generally override measures but they all ask the user to let the provider know rather than simply ‘knowing’ and that doesn’t suit everyone.
Technology has improved hugely and there are all sorts of internet based devices that look to see what is happening in the home and then make assumptions from that; this is called the ‘internet of things’. They tend to be complicated to set up and work on the basis that people follow a regular routine. Some of them will only raise an alert when they spot something out of the ordinary, so if you fall over putting the rubbish out one night it might be 9.00 the next morning, when you haven’t made a cup of tea, that the alert is raised. This didn’t seem good enough cover for my mum.
We wanted something that gave the best persistent protection (after all, you never know when an accident will happen) with the least system management possible.
So we studied what was available and what the shortcomings were and set to work using the best of technology to create the ideal system for the thoroughly modern lifestyle. We developed the Assure to be about the ‘Internet of people’ – connecting the wearer with the friends, family and neighbours just when they need it – and giving the concerned responders confidence that the wearer is OK, without pestering them.
To achieve this the Assure wristband has the following unique combination of design features:
A one-year battery life, so no recharging
Waterproof for showering and bathing (and dancing in the rain)
Squeeze SOS buttons, so no accidental alarms
Comfortable to wear being made from super soft silicone
Comfortable to be seen wearing, winning a prestigious IF Design Award for its contemporary styling
When it is linked through the stylish base station you have complete home & garden coverage and the following comprehensive alerts mean that the Assure gives excellent overall protection
SOS alert buttons
Always listening for signs of a fall
Wellness checks: Proprietary timed checks when the wristband buzzes asking the wearer to confirm they are OK by pressing a single button on their band. Ideally one in the morning and one before bed (and maybe one in between) gives everyone confidence in the ongoing wellbeing of the wearer
If the system fails (e.g. a power cut or internet outage) an email will be sent to the wearer and their administrators
Now you can also have a system that is good enough for my mum.
(and please remember that if you don’t get on with it the Assure comes with a 28 day quibble-free guarantee.)
There is some great research by the Institute of Ageing at Newcastle University (www.ncl.ac.uk/ageing/) showing that our ability to live fully independently is reliant on us being able to undertake a variety of ‘activities of daily living’. What they have observed is that usually it is the ability to cut our own toenails that is the first activity for which help might be needed.
Getting the nail clippers out as part of a regular health visit seems a good idea however this is addressing the symptom rather than the cause – a decline in physical abilities. If someone is no longer physically able to cut their toe nails, it is likely to be not long before shopping, or walking a few hundred yards, becomes difficult.. The act of kindness with their toenails is allowing the first domino to start a cascade down the slope of decline.
The latest thinking is that ‘re-abling’ is the best in the long term – finding the right exercises to give enough strength, balance and flexibility to enable people to cut their own toenails – and will take them to the top of the slope adding to the quality of life. Some stamina exercises would help keep them be able to do other things too.
One easy way of finding suitable exercises is to look at NHS Choices suggested exercises at www.nhs.uk/Tools/Pages/Exercises-for-older-people.aspx. Moving on from the basic exercises there are even video classes to help to build all round fitness for all levels of ability at www.nhs.uk/conditions/nhs-fitness-studio/Pages/welcome-to-nhs-fitness-studio.aspx and you don’t even need to leave home.
As always, make sure you stay hydrated (drink water) and we suggest you make sure you have a good method of getting help if you need it – you can guess which we recommend.
Yesterday the Acticheck Assure competed with 5 other finalists from across the world for the BT Infinity Labs ‘Consumer Tech’ competition – and we finished as runner-up.
BT runs ‘Innovation challenges’ to find the best of global innovation with a view to potential commercial partnership to bring the products and services to a wider audience.
This competition was about connecting Friends, Family & Neighbours and we’d like to congratulate Invoxia, a global company, who won with ‘Triby’. It’s a super stylish device for keeping people connected during their everyday lives (see: http://www.invoxia.com/triby/), in some ways the other side of the coin to the Assure which connects people when their everyday lives take a turn for the worse.
The judges commended the Assure for the unique and simple approach that we have taken in solving the wide ranging problem of keeping vulnerable people independent with the least intrusion in their lives. We hope to work with BT to spread the confidence that the Assure brings more widely.
We have been aware for some time that paying for the Assure and a year’s service in one go does not suit everyone. We now have a plan that can bring you the benefits of the Assure but spread the cost.
The system can be provided for an initial payment of £49.99 (plus VAT if applicable) followed by monthly payments of £9.99.
What is different
On the Monthly plan we will monitor the battery life in your system and send you a new puck in good time for a simple swap that you do at home. It is likely to be more than a year between swaps, but the exact duration will depend on how you use your system.
How the monthly plan is paid
If you pay by Debit or Credit card the recurring payments will start 30 days after delivery on the same card. If you would prefer to pay via Direct Debit just email firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll send you a link to set it up. We will also send you a link for this when your card comes towards its end date.
If you pay by Paypal we will be in touch with you asking you to set up a Direct Debit for the monthly payments.
We hope this will enable more people to enjoy the confidence the Assure brings.
If you know something is wrong then please contact an expert immediately.
Your doctor can help with medical problems, or if you are in an emotional crisis you could contact the Samaritans. You can call them free from any phone on 116 123, email email@example.com or you may have a branch near you that you can visit (see www.samaritans.org/branches).
If the cause of your crisis is feeling overwhelmed by a financial or legal issue then they may suggest a local legal centre or the Citizens Advice Bureau as a good first step to solving your issues.
There is a Spanish phrase that says ‘Where there is a will, there are many ways’. Just because what you have tried so far has not worked does not mean there is nothing else to try and these people are expert at finding the right solution in a crisis, and they care.