Bobby and David (that’s me) have known each other for a long time. A very long time, a serious long time, three decades long, since David moved over from the US, when soccer did equate to football. Bobby’s mum’s name is Daisy. She knew David’s mum when they were students in India. What I’m trying to say, is we go back.
When we were kids, sometimes Bobby would really get on my nerves, and have three times as many goes on the Atari, or cheat at Monopoly. When I needed a fair adjudicator, Daisy (aunty) would step in to deliver justice. And a very fair justice was served, indeed.
Daisy, in her professional life was a nurse, in north-west London, and retiring meant she spent more time socialising at her local Methodist church and without a doubt, seeing more of her grandchildren (some would argue, they are quite cute).
In the August 2015, she had a fall, and went to her local A&E. This led to Daisy having a stay in hospital, and after a few weeks she was discharged to go home, but in many ways start living a new reality. She found moving up and down the stairs very difficult and began living on the ground floor only. This had a knock-on-effect on her confidence and without really knowing it, she was spending more time at home, alone, and less and less time connecting with her church and family, the people she loves.
In September 2015, Bobby met with me, and told me about Daisy (Aunty’s) situation. Over some coffee, we discussed how this must happen to thousands of older people and their families every year. Bobby in a moment of inspiration, asked me, ‘what should ‘we’ do about it?.
Now that was a very good question, and I think he may have pre-meditated this conversation, knowing full well, I had been working in behavioural change in health for the last few years with my brother-in-law Indi.
Enter Indi, right stage. Let me introduce you to Indi. He’s a prescribing pharmacist, who also runs a health consultancy in the West Midlands. He’s also has a great family, super fit, a keen footballer and I guess a generally good good guy, whose Achilles heel is being a Liverpool supporter. Did I just really write that?
So the three of us met many times, over many a coffee to find ways to improve older people’s lives in a meaningful way. We spitballed many an idea, creating better nursing homes, providing care, care so good that Virgin would be proud. Oh, Virgin do care services, do they. We looked at Ai, we looked at the Internet of Things (IOT), at intergenerational clubs, at health devices, apps and all types of gizmos and gadgets. We even found research supporting the ownership of a dog, can greatly and I mean greatly improve the health and wellbeing of an older person.
It felt like we were looking at this whole area, the wrong way. We decided what we considered revolutionary with a small r, to go and do some real research with at least 100 older people and try and understand them better, rather than solutionizing (don’t you just hate that word?).
So yours truly, spent about 9 months, contacting community centres, councils, churches, tennis clubs, across the 33 London Boroughs. I then went and did a mixture of interviews and empathic research (a fancy way of saying, spending time observing and connecting with them, rather than just ask survey questions), with 104 older people. I was really honoured that they would let me have a peek into their lives, and to boot, I was schooled in country dancing, snooker, yoga, sitting down strength training and knitting; i was propositioned once to be a potential marriage partner for the daughter of one of my interviewees, and I was treated to all sorts of wonderful foods, from traditional roasts, Christmas meals, samosas, not forgetting tea and delicious home-made cake. During that part of the research, over time, people opened up their homes, community centres and aspects of their lives. Their wit, curiosity and and honesty was dazzling.
The picture is of some of the very lovely people who allowed us in their lives.
Want to know what they said, how they felt and how they see this blue and green rock hurtling around the sun – without the varnish?
The big reveal will happen in the next blog.