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“Eleven,” Julia said to herself, “I am only eleven. What am I doing at this ‘grown-up’ meeting?” Julia knew she had been useful in setting the room up for Carl’s first network meeting. She had directed the arranging of the chairs and made sure the placement of the chips, vegetables and dips was just so. When it came to arranging rooms she knew what to do. Julia’s dream was to be an interior decorator. She spent many hours watching the Home Channel and Martha Stewart’s flair for organization was not lost on her. Read more »

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  A person who is vulnerable, isolated, ill, or experiencing one of life’s challenges can benefit both physically and emotionally from the support of a strong network. All involved – the individual, friends, family, caregivers and supporting organizations – have the same goal: for the person to live in an optimal situation, make authentic choices, and experience good health and personal satisfaction. Read more »

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The shades of the small room with the parking lot view were drawn and the stale air of the nursing home stopped me in my tracks at the doorway. I looked at the familiar knickknacks that godmother Martha has chosen to surround herself with here in what is sure to be the last place she lives. I think perhaps it is a blessing that she has lost her sight. At least she can’t see how the dim light in this place renders the remnants of her many past homes faded, tatty and lifeless. My eyes shift to Martha in her chair. At 86 she has become frail and brittle. The arthritis she has struggled with for half a century has immobilised her body and put permanent deep, dark circles of pain under her eyes. Sitting motionless in her chair, her short shock of white hair is combed back with a pouf at the front. It looks a little like a greaser haircut or a waterfall in the vernacular of the fifties. To complete the look she is wearing a pair of wrap around sun glasses that someone has brought for her to help keep the whispery shadows she still sees to a minimum. Read more »

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This pre-Green Paper roundtable drew together voices from carers’, disability rights and service user movements in order to explore and subsequently publicise shared positions on some of the key questions about care and support currently faced by families, including the significance of the independent living agenda. Policy recommendations and a list of those endorsing them can be found at the end of this report. Read more »

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In the quest for better health, many people turn to doctors, self-help books or herbal supplements . But they overlook a powerful weapon that could help them fight illness and depression, speed recovery, slow aging and prolong life: their friends. Researchers are only now starting to pay attention to the importance of friendship and social networks in overall health. A 10-year Australian study found that older people with a large circle of friends were 22 percent less likely to die during the study period than those with fewer friends. A large 2007 study showed an increase of nearly 60 percent in the risk for obesity among people whose friends gained weight. And last year, Harvard researchers reported that strong social ties could promote brain health as we age. Read more »

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  Among other things, I’m a media critic. For more than 15 years, I’ve practically made a living out of warning people about the perils of commercial media. In books and speeches, in columns and workshops, I’ve shared research about the negative social impacts of fashion magazines (body image and self esteem problems in women), violent video games (decreased sensitivity to the suffering of others in teens), sensationalized TV crime coverage (increased fear and inflamed prejudice among seniors), and the pervasive advertising suggestion that the solution to all our problems lies in purchasing new and improved stuff (the destruction of our small and fragile planet). You can imagine how much fun I am at parties. Read more »

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  It’s 2009 and technology and social media are around every corner. As we read the news and talk to our friends, it seems as though everyone is sending email, checking Facebook, watching videos on YouTube and even blogging. Well, not everyone. While the majority of Canadians (a whopping 70%) are using Facebook, and 58% of Canadians are blogging, many of our citizens are still not online, never mind using the latest and greatest social media tools. Age is one factor. The “it girl” of social media right now is a micro-blogging application called Twitter. You can use your Twitter account to send short (140 character) messages out to your network of followers (the people who want to see where you are, what you’re doing, and what you’re thinking about). While 63% of 19-25 year olds are Twittering, only 10% of those over the age of 61 are using the site. Read more »

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Irene is a willowy, no nonsense sort of Brit. A few years back, as she and her husband were about to enter their early retirement years, he passed away suddenly. Ireneʼs life changed radically. She found the nights the hardest. She was forced to make some tough decisions that included moving to an apartment. She hoped she would feel less lonely closer to others. When moving day came the first people she met at her new building were Milton and his elderly mother, Edna. When Irene overheard the soft British accents she introduced herself and a three way friendship began. During an early visit she learned that Milton lived a few miles away but made regular visits to his mother. Edna told Irene about how she too had lost a husband and how she had been worrying about Miltonʼs future. She told Irene about the network she and Milton were working to set up. Milton was lonely. He had always been in special programs as a child. He had worked for a while in a sheltered workshop and now in middle age he volunteered a few hours at the local seniors’ home. Edna worried because he tended to watch too much television, especially in the daytime when his favourite ʻStarsky and Hutchʼ and ʻThe Andy Griffith Showʼ were on. Milton was immediately charmed by Irene. Irene is a wonderful listener and she was committed to helping others in this new phase of her life. Over time Irene became a member of Miltonʼs network. At first she saw her time with Milton as a part of her volunteer work. Then a crisis struck that resulted in a true friendship. Milton had to go into the hospital for extensive orthopaedic surgery. It was clear Edna could not care for him when he was due to leave the hospital. Irene and Miltonʼs network created a plan to share the care for Milton in his own apartment. During this time Irene took to calling Milton every night just before bedtime to check in and see how everything was. On good days he would make her laugh by whistling the theme song from ʻThe Andy Griffith Show.ʼ Read more »

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  Social isolation has been shown repeatedly to prospectively predict mortality and serious morbidity both in general population samples and in individuals with established morbidity, especially coronary heart disease. The magnitude of risk associated with social isolation is comparable with that of cigarette smoking and other major biomedical and psychosocial risk factors. However, our understanding of how and why social isolation is risky for health—or conversely—how and why social ties and relationships are protective of health, still remains quite limited. Brummett et al. contribute importantly to increasing such understanding, but also fail to capitalize fully on opportunities to contribute even more. Read the entire article here.