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News & Views – Wellbeing and Why it Matters

News & Views - Wellbeing and Why It Matters

News & Views – Wellbeing and Why it Matters

Estimated reading time: 9 minutes

Listen to this week’s news above or read on!

We enjoy sharing information about technology, wellbeing, housing and social care that we find interesting.  For the past year, our social media was the main place that we published these articles and news stories.  Our blog has mainly covered internal news and more recently our interviews with experts in the social care and wellbeing sectors.

Our mission is very much about educating and helping people learn more about the potential of smart home technologies.  Making this information accessible and in a format that is easy to refer back to is also really important, hence this weekly round-up.

In this week’s instalment, I’ll provide insight into:

  • Wellbeing and why it matters, including how loneliness impacts wellbeing and evidence that investing in wellbeing in the workplace is good for business.
  • Future smart technology developments such as use cases for cargo companion robots and Toyota’s latest smart city project in Japan.
  • Ways to boost your wellbeing with plants, dancing, photography and some fantastic resources from the Health Service Executive in Ireland.

Last Week’s News & Views

Wellbeing and Why it Matters

Study Reveals Rise in Feelings of Loneliness over the Course of the Pandemic

There is a strong link between loneliness and wellbeing.

Led by the Mental Health Foundation, the Mental Health in the Pandemic study reveals important insights into research that started at the beginning of the pandemic to track mental health trends across society.  The research pulls in expertise from academia, including the University of Cambridge, Swansea University, the University of Strathclyde and Queen’s University Belfast.

Anxiety related to the pandemic has fallen from 62% of those surveyed in March 2020 to 42% in February 2021.  However, loneliness has become much more prevalent, increasing from 10% to 26% of those surveyed over the same period.

Feelings of loneliness were highest in young adults, with 48% of people aged 18-24 years of age identifying as lonely in February 2021.  Data from the same period shows that loneliness was also more likely to affect people who are unemployed (33%), single parents (30%) and people with a pre-existing mental health condition (40%).

You can read more about the study by clicking here.

Investing in Health and Wellbeing Benefits can Noticeably Improve SME Productivity

According to recent research, 60% of the small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) polled said that investing in health and wellbeing initiatives had a high impact on boosting the productivity of staff, while 22% rated them as critical to maintain high productivity.  This shows a real shift from wellbeing support being a nice to have to becoming an essential part of running a successful business.

As a response to these findings, the Association of British Insurers has launched a campaign to encourage wider knowledge about benefits communication with regard to new members of staff, as well as an online toolkit SMEs can access to help boost staff wellbeing and productivity.  This includes advice on how to create a Day One Statement that informs employees about their companies’ efforts to support their health and well-being, allowing them to feel good, understand their rights and make the most of any benefits.

You can read more about this story by clicking here.

And here are some handy links below to the ABI resources:

Work and Wellbeing Hub

Nurture Wellbeing at Work from Day One

Future Smart Tech Developments

Are Cargo Carrying Robots the Perfect Companion for Older Adults?

The UK’s National Innovation Centre for Ageing (NICA) is testing the functionality and use cases of robots called Gita to support older adults out and about.  Gita is made by Boston-based robotics company Piaggio Fast Forward and is a cargo-carrying robot which follows you around.  The robot can carry up to 18 kg of cargo, travel at up to six miles per hour for up to four hours of continuous use. The robot uses a suite of sensors to enable it to see its user and its environment.

The robots are being tested by the NICA team based within Newcastle University. They’re looking into people’s reactions to the Gita robots and how they interact with them, as well as whether they can boost people’s confidence to go out into their communities and help them feel more connected to the outside world.

You can read more about this futuristic idea by clicking here.

Building Work Starts on New Smart City in Japan

Work is underway to create a 175-acre smart city at the base of Mount Fuji in Japan, about 62 miles from Tokyo.  It will be approximately 5 years before the first residents move in.

According to Toyota, their “Woven City” will eventually house 2,000 Toyota employees and their families, retired couples, retailers, and scientists.  The intention is for the site to be a testing ground for technologies like robotics, smart homes, and artificial intelligence.

“Building a complete city from the ground up, even on a small scale like this, is a unique opportunity to develop future technologies, including a digital operating system for the city’s infrastructure,” said Akio Toyoda, the company’s president, in a statement.

“With people, buildings, and vehicles all connected and communicating with each other through data and sensors, we will be able to test connected AI technology in both the virtual and the physical realms.”

Ways to Boost Your Wellbeing

Looking after Plants has been Proven to have a Therapeutic Effect

Sales of house plants have soared throughout the pandemic, because caring for house plants has helped people cope with the loneliness of lockdown and improve their wellbeing.  The shared passion for creating a little patch of greenery has also encouraged people to build online communities to connect, share advice and socialise.

This short five-minute video by Channel 4 shares people’s stories of how plants have helped them and the benefits that they provide.

Gardening was my mum’s biggest passion; she literally was a plant hoarder.  During her illness, being outside or pottering in her greenhouse brought her so much comfort and joy and definitely improved her symptoms.  I remember the week before she passed away, helping her out into the garden because it was a sunny day and we potted on some seedlings together.  The nurses who came daily were always constantly amazed that she was able to still do so much outside.

I wish I could say that I had inherited her gardening skill, maybe one day!  I love watching gardening shows as it reminds me so much of her.  If you want to check out some of our favourites for tips and advice, see the links below.

Gardeners’ World

Beechgrove Garden

Dancing is Good for Wellbeing

Dancing is not a passion of mine, I have the most terrible co-ordination.  However, I absolutely loved this article I read recently in the Financial Times (FT) by Rebecca Newman.

My kids and I have been obsessively watching The Masked Dancer all this week.  Who would have thought the concept of celebrities dancing in insanely large and hot costumes, for the judges and viewers at home to try and guess their identity would be so entertaining.  The show transcends all ages and the contestants have clearly loved every minute of it.  My daughter has loved recreating the choreography of her favourite characters.

There are some excellent examples and quotes from the FT piece.  The headline alone made we want to read more as it describes the wide variety of dancing genres – The Twist, Bollyfunk and Cher-obics as being wellbeing superpowers.

This quote from Stanford University lecturer, health psychologist and The Joy of Movement, author Kelly McGonigal is beautiful, where she says: “Dancing triggers endorphins, but it goes deeper than that. Music can evoke feelings of happiness – and moving to music deepens these feelings as we embody the joy. Dancing takes us into our memories also.”

You can read the full article about the benefits of dancing by clicking here.

Art Plays a Valuable Role in Improving People’s Mental Health

In this story, a museum and a healthcare trust have developed an innovative partnership, aiming to combat loneliness through photography.

The project mentored 10 budding photographers with long-term health conditions to document their lives during lockdown.  Guided by photographer and artist David P. Scott over the 8 week programme they discovered their own photographic style, with their work then being exhibited online.  You can check out each photographers collection chronicling their time in lockdown and celebrating the often overlooked elements of daily life by clicking here.

Health Service Executive in Ireland – Mental Health and Wellbeing Support & Resources

The Health Service Executive in Ireland have developed a Mental Health & Wellbeing Programme which aims to promote positive mental health and wellbeing across the population and among priority groups.  The programme includes:

Need a Great Gift Idea for Father’s Day? Here’s an Idea for You!

Father’s Day in the UK is now only two weeks away.  It can be difficult to know what to get for the special men in your life.  Why not show you care by gifting something wellbeing related.

Gift Fit is the UK’s first dedicated fitness and wellbeing gift voucher platform. You can choose from fitness/wellbeing classes and adventure experiences from around the UK.  Because the gift is a digital voucher it’s also more environmentally friendly!

Visit the Gift Fit website by clicking here.

If you can’t find a location near you, then this is still a great idea and definitely worth investigating whether there are any local companies that offer vouchers for one off experiences.

Key Takeaways

While it is concerning that the levels of loneliness are increasing, it has been heartening to see the ways in which we can support our wellbeing.  With the longer days and slightly better weather we can spend more time outdoors.  Is there a community based activity that you could get involved with to increase your social interaction, or maybe an online group on a topic that you are passionate about like the gardening ones that were mentioned the short five-minute video on gardening by Channel 4.

Despite the pandemic work to develop new innovative solutions to support healthy ageing are continuing and perhaps in the not too distant future we will see companion robots being introduced on a larger scale to help people to participate in activities many of us take for granted, such as being able to shop independently.

I squeezed in at the end of this week’s blog, a recommendation for Father’s Day, a little off topic, but I loved this idea for the wellbeing boost it gives and also the environmental benefits.  I know I would appreciate the gift of an experience rather than accumulating more stuff.

If you are catching up on news you can also read last week’s News and Views post on health and wellbeing innovation partnerships here.

We also published a fantastic exclusive interview on our blog with Annie Gunner Logan, who is the CEO at the Coalition of Care and support Providers in Scotland (CCPS).

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