Ideas for Life – Society
Research done by universities in the UK doesn't just affect society; people from outside traditional academic circles are part of university research, driving projects, informing studies and helping ideas develop.
From psychologists working with the police to a scheme to promote health for elderly people that has been rolled out across Scotland, Ideas for Life has picked just a few highlights that show the growing links between UK universities and society.
Magic Carpet rolls out across Scotland
This magic carpet isn’t about to fly you off your feet – in fact, it’s designed to keep them firmly on the ground.
The carpet, created by scientists at the University of Manchester, can detect when a person has fallen over and help predict mobility problems.
Nearly a third of people who responded to the Universities UK Ideas for Life survey said they wanted to see improved care for elderly people.
With falls accounting for nearly 50 per cent of hospital admissions for over-65s in the UK, this project is directly addressing that need.
The carpet contains plastic optical fibres that map a person’s walking patterns as they tread on it by sending the signals from them to a computer.
Gradual changes will be monitored and alerts sent out if the person seems to be getting less stable, or if they do experience a fall.
The technology could also be used by physiotherapists to map changes and improvements in a patient’s gait.
Researchers say the carpet is low cost and low maintenance – meaning it could be used in many places from homes to hospital wards.
The over-85s’ MOT
All cars in the UK need to pass a Ministry of Transport test or ‘MOT’ to check that they are roadworthy – unless they were made before 1960.
Not so for the older people who are already benefiting from this project designed by Glasgow Caledonian University which tests their strength, balance and general levels of health so they can stay fit and ‘roadworthy’ for longer.
The ‘Functional Fitness MOT’ is aimed at the fastest-growing age group in the UK, the over-85s, although younger people are able to take it too.
It has already reached more than 350 professionals working in health, fitness and activity among the elderly since it was launched across Scotland in 2011.
Glasgow Caledonian University was helped by the BHF National Centre for Physical Activity and Health at Loughborough University and Later Life Training in promoting the use of the Functional Fitness MOT.
Some local fitness agencies have said their MOT events drew in up to 90 participants in one day.
Teenagers, technology, texting
Safe, enjoyable cities to live in – these were a priority for 38% of people who responded to the Ideas for Life survey. But what about safety in the other area where many of us spend much of our lives today – the Internet?
From access to information, news and new and ever faster ways of connecting with others, the web can be a fantastic force for good. But there’s no denying the less positive aspects of the Internet, including worrying trends such as cyberbullying or Internet crime.
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Professor Andy Phippen from Plymouth University has conducted a study working directly with young people across the UK to discuss their attitudes to the Internet.
Using their feedback, his team has produced recommendations for the Government and other bodies designed to enhance Internet safety while still promoting the freedom and flexibility that are so fundamental to the web.
Stress tips from the police
When it comes to dealing with stress and developing personal resilience, who better to ask than someone in one of the most stressful of all jobs – the police?
Researchers at Anglia Ruskin University have been working closely with 350 officers and staff from police forces in the UK to identify how officers develop resilience.
They want to investigate which types of resilience and techniques work best for them and find out what people outside the police can learn in terms of dealing with stress.
Results were published in a book called Leadership Resilience in November 2013.
Plans are underway to extend the research on a larger scale in the UK, the Netherlands and the USA.
The bigger society
The work one company does to provide training and promote creativity for its staff can have a knock-on effect for the whole of society, according to research by economists at Anglia Ruskin University.
In a theoretical advance that could change the way we think about the interplay between investment, company policy and society, the researchers have developed the concept of ‘knowledge spill-overs’.
These, they say, represent how the internal policies of a company to boost innovation can affect innovation policies in other companies and indirectly drive productivity and creativity across society.
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Ideas for Life were part of Universities Week run by Universities UK in partnership with Research Councils UK, the Higher Education Funding Council for England, the National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement and universities, research centres and public bodies across the UK. Find out more here.