Travel, Older Adults and Accessibility

A recent article in enRoute magazine entitled 3 European Cities for Travellers with Limited Mobility brought to light the growing number of tourist destinations that offer accessible holidays. The cities listed in the article include:

‘Ever since hosting the Summer Paralympic Games in 1992, Barcelona has continued to improve its facilities. With 100-percent-accessible buses, elevators and ramps at many metro stations and silky-smooth streets for wheelchairs, Barcelona is a shining example of how accessible a city can be, making it a beacon for the rest of the world.’

‘Although Athens is one of the world’s oldest cities, its attitude to accessibility is surprisingly modern. It hosted the 2004 Summer Paralympic Games, an event that saw many historic heritage sites become accessible for the first time. While ancient cobbles make some of the roads tricky to navigate, Athens has the most accessible metro system in Europe, with an elevator at nearly every station.’

‘Paris is becoming more disability-friendly every year. A flat city with smooth sidewalks and regular wheelchair-accessible buses, the City of Love is relatively easy to navigate, and most of the top tourist attractions, including the Eiffel Tower, have wheelchair access.’

Another good example of an accessible tourism destination is the United Kingdom. Open Britain ‘allows you to create the perfect holiday for you, tailored specifically to your access requirements, whether this means wheelchair access or just having good lighting’. The site covers everything you need to ‘make the perfect accessible holiday in the UK’ with topics ranging from travelling with medicine to accessible countryside trails. There’s even an option for locating accessible grass-roofed lodges, farm cottages and log cabins available for holiday rental. With captioned theatre devices there is no need to miss out on some of the best theatre in London because of auditory challenges. If you are colourblind using the London underground map can be a challenge. The Colourblind Tube Map is a free app that compensates for several types of impaired vision.

Closer to home, Canadian Paraolympian and philanthropist Rick Hansen has introduced an online tool called planat access matters. This tool allows users to ‘post and search access reviews of buildings around the world. Accessibility is rated from a mobility, sight or hearing perspective.’

Do you have a favourite accessible holiday destination or ideas about how destinations or travel can be made more accessible? We’d love to hear about it.

Creative Aging

maskmakingDr. Gene Cohen’s 2001 seminal study entitled The Creativity and Aging Study revealed that high-quality, professionally conducted, community based arts programs possess ‘powerful positive intervention effects’ for older adults (65+). Participation in arts programs showed a positive impact on the older adult participants’ ‘overall health, doctor visits, medication use, falls, loneliness, morale, and the total number of activities one is engaged in’.

The Centre for Elder Research is committed to seeking innovative ways for older adults of all ages and abilities to actively participate in the creative and performing arts. We are pleased to announce that we have partnered with the Faculty of Animation, Arts and Design at Sheridan College to explore the feasibility of offering a program of intensive workshops and experiences in the creative and performing arts for adults 55+.

In order to plan a comprehensive program that meets the needs and interests of participants, we would appreciate it if you would complete a brief survey by clicking on the link below. The survey will take only about 10 minutes to complete and will be available until October 3rd. This is your chance to tell us what you would like to experience at this kind of summer institute!

Ten Apps for Older Adults

Application software more commonly known as ‘apps’ have become increasingly popular since they were first introduced in 2008. Today apps are able to do everything from delivering detailed weather reports to analyzing your sleep patterns. Hence, the popular phrase ‘there’s an app for that’. There’s even a blog to keep you up to date on the latest apps called Today in the App Store.

Here’s our list of ten useful apps for older adults:

  1. Pandora
    Music possesses therapeutic properties that can improve an individual’s well-being. With this app you can ‘create personalized stations that play only the music you love’.
  2. Goodreads
    Studies have shown that lifelong learning offers increased knowledge and critical thinking skills, improved health and well-being, longer life span, greater likelihood of community and civic engagement, increased creativity and greater self-fulfillment. With over 500 million books recommended by 20 million members you will be able to find the perfect book to suit your interests. You may be interested in ‘The Creative Age: Awakening Human Potential in the Second Half of Life’ by Dr. Gene D. Cohen.
  3. Medisafe Medication Manager & Pill Reminder
    Reminds you to take your medication on time and manages your medications. Create a ‘med-friend’ to notify you if you don’t check that you took your medication.
  4. Skype
    Keep in touch with family and friends with a video call on Skype.
  5. HeartWise Blood Pressure Tracker
    Keep track of your blood, resting heart rate and weight.
  6. Silver Surf
    Features large navigation buttons to control the browser, dynamic text zoom up to 200%, high contrast mode to make for easier reading and more for the ’50 plus demographic”.
  7. Lumosity Mobile
    ‘Challenge your brain with games designed by neuroscientists to exercise memory and attention.’
  8. TED Talks
    Short (18 minutes or less) talks covering ‘science to business to global issues’ presented by dynamic speakers. Check out the ‘Older People are Happier’ talk by Laura Carstensen, Director of the Stanford Center on Longevity.
  9. Mint Personal Finance
    Manage your money by having Mint organize and categorize your spending.
  10. Eye Reader
    Eye Reader turns your mobile device into a magnifying glass.

Do you have a favourite app? We’d love to hear from you.

Older Adults Actively Engaged in the Making of Music

LeonardWhile passively listening to music has numerous merits, many older adults are creating their own music. A University of Massachusetts paper entitled ‘Benefits of Music Participation for Senior Citizens: A Review of the Literature’ states that ‘active music participation holds numerous benefits for senior citizens, including, but not limited to’:

  1. an overall sense of physical and mental well being, including the lessening of stress, pain and medication usage,
  2. the slowing of age related cognitive decline,
  3. feelings of pleasure and enjoyment,
  4. pride and a sense of accomplishment in learning new skills,
  5. creation and maintenance of social connections,
  6. a means of creative self expression, and
  7. the construction of identity at a time in life when sense of identity may be in flux.

Just two days after his 80th birthday Leonard Cohen will be releasing a new album. The album ‘Popular Problems’ is his second since his return to the spotlight in 2008. According to Rolling Stone magazine, “he stunned his fans by staging three-and-a-half-hour concerts that quickly brought him from tiny theaters in Canada to sold out arenas across the globe’.

Tony Bennett is another performer who proves that age is no barrier to having a successful musical career. At age 88, Bennett is turning younger audiences on to classic songs by Cole Porter and Gershwin. The New York Times reported that Tony Bennett “has not just bridged the generation gap, he has demolished it”. Bennett and Lady Gaga have teamed up to produce a new album called ‘Cheek to Cheek’ to be released in September.

An article in the Phoenix Star entitled Age is not a Cage reports on a new concert series called ’90 and Growing Strong’ featuring 99-year-old pianist and composer Irving Fields and fellow musicians Fyvush Finkel and clarinetist Sol Yaged, both 91. The trio performed for a packed house earlier this month.

Proving that you are never too old to rock, the American Young@ Heart choir has been recruiting older adults (the average age is in the 80’s) to perform contemporary music in schools, community centres, prisons and concert halls since 1982. The award winning Young@Heart: Rock and Roll Will Never Die documentary chronicles the choir’s humour, enthusiasm and courage tackling punk classics such as ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go’ by the Clash or ‘I Wanna be Sedated’ by the Ramones.

Don’t have any past experience playing music? It’s never to late to learn. Check out Millicent Randle’s dream come true as she plays the drums for the first time at 100 years old.