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The virtual reality time travel idea tackling dementia

Transform Ageing funds 19 big ideas to improve the lives of people in later life, as entrepreneurs respond to social challenges set by local communities

19 social entrepreneurs have successfully responded to an innovation challenge from communities in the south-west, and will receive funding and support to deliver lasting social impact in the region.

The selected ventures are being supported by Transform Ageing, a first-of-its-kind initiative to change the way society approaches and designs  services for people in later life. Funded by the Big Lottery Fund, the largest founder of community activity in the UK, Transform Ageing takes a community and design-led approach to improve people's experience of ageing. It brings together people in later life, social entrepreneurs, and health & social care leaders to define the challenges and to support the development and delivery of new approaches to ageing. All ventures responded to sic distinct innovation briefs set by local people in Somerset, Devon, Torbay and Cornwall.

Transform Ageing is focused on the south-west of England. It is being delivered by UnLtd, the foundation for social entrepreneurs, Design Council, Centre for Ageing Better and the South West Academic Health Science Network. Delivery of the programme is supported locally by four organisations: Community Council for Somerset, Devon Communities Together, Torbay Community Development Trust, and Volunteer Cornwall to ensure the challenges meet specific local needs.

Social entrepreneurs who have successfully responded to the innovation briefs developed by local people include:

Move It Or Lose It; founded by Julie Robinson; from Birmingham proposed area of impact: Devon and Torbay. This venture provides accessible sessions for those in later life- bringing people together, promoting community cohesion and improving physical and mental health.

The Sewing Rooms; founded by Paula Gamester and Maureen Fazal; from Skelmersdale, near Liverpool and proposed area of impact: Devon. The venture improves health and wellbeing by employing people who face specific challenges around isolation or dementia. It does this through bespoke training workshops and a manufacturing department that makes soft furnishings, accessories and bespoke upholstery for private and corporate clients. 

Book Of You; founded by Tom and Kathy Barham; from north Wales and proposed area of impact: initially Devon, then across the south-west . This venture uses the proven benefits of reminiscence to create a life story using words, pictures, music and film. It means people can bring family, friends and carers together to show who a person was- and who they are now. It was originally set-up to help people living with dementia, but the team now work with a wide range of people, including those living in assisted accommodation and young adults with learning difficulties.

NEDCare; founded by Julia Darby; from Dartmoor and proposed area of impact: rural Dartmoor. This innovative social care company provides personalised community-based care and support in people's homes. It brokers carers from the local community, providing trustworthy and friendly carers who help people remain as independent as possible in their own homes.

VRTU; founded by Arfa Rehman; area of impact: Devon and Torbay. This exciting technology is the world's first platform to provide reminiscent experiences from around the world. It is designed for people in later life- especially people with dementia. The app can be used to revisit old memories in virtual reality and create new memories too.

All ventures responded to six distinct innovation briefs set by local people in Somerset, Devon, Torbay and Cornwall.

Mark Norbury, UnLtd CEO, said: "Older people have amazing energy, talent and ideas- and it's vital we harness these to address the urgent challenges or ageing society faces- so it is fantastic to see the launch of this impressive cohort of Transform Ageing ventures. These coail entrepreneurs are delivering truly fresh thinking with the potential to transform our health, connectedness and productivity- enabling us to see our ageing society as the wonderful opportunity it is."

Clare Devine, Design Council Executive Director, said: "It is fantastic to see these ventures responding to the insights generated by local people. This really is about design led innovation from the grass roots of the community, People in later life, social entrepreneurs and public sector staff have worked collaboratively to understand in depth what would make a difference to day to day lives. Now we have an exciting range of idea responding to what local people want and need."

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