Sunday, 25 October 2015

Could Facebook be Used in the War on Dementia?

While social media is blamed for many of the society's ills, could it be used as a tool in the fight against memory loss and associated illnesses?

With dementia on the rise, people are looking for more innovative ways to help keep in touch with those who have been struck with the illness. Oddly, and perhaps without realising it, Facebook have supplied several features that may just help.

By 2025, over 52,000,000 people around the world will have been struck down by the disease and numbers are set to double every 20 years. With people moving abroad to work, marry and live, chances are many of these people will have some form of social media account.

Guardian Angels

In 2011, Facebook launched its “Trusted Friends” feature which allows users to nominate up to five friends to help them recover their account. Once a person discovers they can't log in, due to a forgotten or hacked password, codes are sent to the people they've nominated. These friends then give the codes to the affected person, allowing them to regain access to their account.

Facebook Phone Apps

The Facebook app for the iPhone is an easy and clean design with easily recognisable buttons for the newsfeed, groups, friends and settings. While the messenger button is a little more awkward to spot, the app is generally an easy one to use and allows a person to use all the functions of the desktop version.

Messenger Video and Voice Calling

Facebook has taken a leaf from Skype's book and introduced video and voice calling to its messenger. As long as the person is logged into messenger, a call is only a click away.

Reminiscence via Facebook

One of the beautiful things about social media is that it allows people to keep in touch with their interests. There's an abundance of pages dedicated to those born in the 50's, 60's, 70's, and 80's with photo albums full of nostalgic images from the eras. Groups have been set up to promote everything from the year a person was born, to their school, former work places, and towns they've lived in.

Support and Friendship

In our busy world, people, especially those with an illness, can feel isolated. Social media offers ways to combat this with groups that allow people to connect with others like themselves. This may be through a shared interest or in finding others who have the same illness as themselves. Many of the groups are closed or secret groups giving users some confidentiality.

While the internet and social media should never be used to fully replace traditional face to face contact, it's a tool that can be used to fight that isolation that is often associated with memory problems.

As always, it's best to exercise caution while online. However, there's no reason why the internet and sites like Facebook can't be used to help those with diseases like dementia continue to live their lives to the fullest.

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Brilliant Books Beneft Night and Access All Areas

Brilliant Books is a project based in Nottingham that encourages kids to get involved with reading. The project runs in schools and, at the end of the term, the kids compile a book of their short stories (Hint: They're pretty awesome!).

On 13th November Mark and Phil, the brains behind Brilliant Books, are holding a fundraiser in Nottingham. Everyone is welcome and there will be music, readings and, of course, books. In another clever move, they've put together a book of short stories written by the best and brightest indie authors. I was honoured to be asked to contribute and my submission, Be You Angels?, can be found within the covers of Access All Areas.

Access All Areas is available in paperback and for the Kindle. All profits go towards Brilliant Books and will be used to purchase books for the schools, a much needed laptop projector and for other core costs. It's a great way to support an amazing project and to get kids reading!

You can find out more about Brilliant books on their blog.

Access All Areas can be purchased at:

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Dance Free

Earlier this year there was a story about a gentleman called Sean O'Brien. Sean was body-shamed on social media for the “crime” of dancing. While he was enjoying himself, others took photos and uploaded them to 4Chan with the intention of humiliating him. It worked.

To a degree.

But it didn't take long for a group of people to pick up on the post and turn it around. Needless to say, Sean danced again, this time to a very different response.

Well over ten years ago, I went through something similar. There was one thing I loved to do... Dance. I'd go to clubs and concerts and just let myself be free. As a larger lady, I didn't care that my body probably wasn't designed to move to music. Music spoke to me and that's all I cared about.

Then the inevitable happened. While at a club one night someone pointed out that others were laughing at me.

My heart was shattered. I felt worthless. Humiliated. Ugly. In a split second, I went from a 20-something woman with the world at her feet to a frightened mouse. Little did I know how much those words would affect me, not just in that moment but for years to come.

That one moment helped to break my confidence and self-esteem. Where once I would have dressed up to go out, I instead hid myself away. I clothed myself in baggy clothing. I stopped going to clubs and concerts. I stopped listening to music except when I was walking to and from work. In my eyes, I was worthless. Everything I worked on, from films to books to jobs was worth nothing. I was worth nothing and didn't believe either myself, or anything I did, should hold any value.

Moments like that shouldn't have been inevitable because everyone should be free to express themselves through dance. No one should feel like they have to hold back because of the way they look or move. Music lives within us, built in to our bodies, and the desire to move with it is overwhelming. So much so that it shouldn't be suppressed just because of what others around us think.

Yet so often this desire is hidden away, the fear of ridicule crippling us. We want to sway, or bounce, or wave our arms. But we're scared of what the people around us will think.

On 3rd October 2015, I decided it was time to chase away the shame and stigma that I'd attached to myself for so long. Thanks to my day job, I'd met a wonderful group of people all of who attend a local Zumba class. Over a number of months, their gentle persuasion became good natured pressure until I finally cracked.

It would be fun.

It would be an opportunity to get out.

But it still made me nervous.

A barrage of questions rolled around my head. What did I wear? What were the people like? Would I fit in?

It was a long walk to the venue, one that left me with plenty of time to change my mind and turn around. Already I was making up excuses, preparing them for Monday morning. I didn't feel well. My back ached. I was tired. It had been a long week. I needed to wash my hair. All of them plausible in my mind.

Yet, at the same time, I knew I'd be letting down the very people who'd invested time and love in me. They wanted to see me there. They wanted me to join in. It was at that moment that I realised that people did want me around. They did want to know me. And they weren't judging me.

So I continued my walk until I found myself at a school on the other side of town. There were lots of cars arriving and leaving, all of them I assumed going to the Saturday morning football match. I felt alone and scared, my nerves getting the better of me. But I'd gotten this far so there was no giving up.

Walking through the gates, I looked around and tried to find a hint of where this two hour dance class would be. Finally I saw people who looked like they might be heading to such a class (think sports wear). Quietly I fell in line behind them until someone noticed me. They turned, smiled, and introduced themselves before asking if I was there to dance.

I was. And that tiny spark of recognition form a complete stranger was all it took to relax me.

I danced for two whole hours, only stopping to catch my breath or take a drink. It didn't matter that I didn't know the moves. It didn't matter that I was completely out of time. No one stared at me. No one judged me. No one laughed at me. I was having the time of my life and I'd found a safe, happy space where I could be myself.

Slowly... Slowly... I can feel my confidence returning. And I can't wait for the next class! (Which won't be 2 hours long, thank goodness!)

No one should be shamed for dancing. No one should feel like they have to stand in a corner because of the way they look. Music moves us, just as it should. Let it flow through you and enjoy the experience.