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A bus pass to meet-up on Memory Lane…

In her latest News Space blog, Age Space’s Annabel James looks at news and views about elderly care and carers…
Dementia that may not be Alzheimer’s…

You may have seen the headlines that millions of elderly people have a form of dementia that has been misdiagnosed as Alzheimer’s disease. One expert called it the most important dementia finding in years.

The condition, known as “Late”, shares similar symptoms to Alzheimer’s, but it is a distinct disease, the journal Brain reports.

It may partly explain why finding a dementia cure has failed so far.

Having a better understanding of Late might lead to the discovery of new treatments and researchers have written guidelines to help increase awareness and advance research into the newly defined disease.

Here’s more from BBC News

Let’s meet up on Monday!

The Rural Coffee Caravan – a charity addressing loneliness and isolation in Suffolk by providing social spaces in rural places via mobile community information cafes –  also manages MeetUpMondays, where commercial premises open up for all-welcome get-togethers. Take a look at their video:

Plenty of room on top!

What really is the secret to a happier life? Having a free bus pass!

Perhaps not much consolation to those of use who look unlikely to get one in the future, it seems those who do receive concessionary travel are more likely to enjoy a better quality of life. They have greater life satisfaction and fewer symptoms of depression  than those who do not, according to researchers from University College London.

Their study also discovered that older people with bus passes are more physically active and less socially isolated than those without one. The analysis comes after peers said that pensioners should be stripped of ‘outdated’ perks such as free bus passes to make Britain fairer for younger people.

The science of the sniff

Losing the ability to smell strong odours such as onions, petrol or lemons in later life could be a warning sign that an early death is approaching, a new study suggests.

It is known that losing the ability to smell often goes hand-in-hand with diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s as the neurodegenerative conditions kill off olfactory nerves needed to sense odours.

Now experts say it is important for older people to let their doctor know if their sense of smell begins to diminish as it could herald unseen problems. Read more from The Telegraph report

Voices from the past

Artificial intelligence software is being developed that asks lonely older people to recall memories from their lives. These are then transformed into a written and audio biography they can pass on to their children.

Memory Lane is a Swedish prototype for a voice-assisted, artificial intelligence (AI) tool that captures people’s life stories.

It works by asking the user questions about their life, then using their answers to ask related, intelligent questions to delve deeper into a topic, and hold a conversation in as “human” a way as possible.

Over days or weeks it remembers what a person has spoken about before, and organising this data into a “memory graph”, which structures people’s memories into chronology and level of importance.

Christian Souche, director at Accenture Interactive Innovation Centre, says that the aims were twofold; to enable older people to tell personal, unknown stories and leave them to younger generations of family or friends, and also to tackle feelings of social isolation by allowing them to talk freely.

“Voice is a fantastic channel with which to connect different generations,” he says. “It is super accessible and simple and means anyone can share and save their memories. Not only rich or famous people, who can hire someone to write a biography for them. People leave material goods, money and maybe facts about their life when they die, but rarely their full personalities. This is what we want to try to capture.” Read more here

And finally…

As we head into Dying Matters Week, how would you like to spend eternity as a flower bed?

In America, Washington appears set to become the first state to allow a burial alternative known as “natural organic reduction” — or human composting. This is an accelerated decomposition process that turns bodies into soil within weeks.

Katrina Spade, the founder of Recompose, came up with the idea — modelling it on a practice farmers have used for decades to dispose of livestock.

She modified that process a bit, and found that the use of wood chips, alfalfa and straw creates a mixture of nitrogen and carbon that accelerates natural decomposition.

Spade said that she doesn’t want to replace cremation or burial. Instead it offers a meaningful alternative that is also environmentally friendly. And do you know what? Resting in peace among the begonias doesn’t sound like such a bad idea!