The Clockhouse Project Focus Group

Date: Monday 16th January 2017

Venue: Clockhouse, Long Ground, Greater Leys Oxford, OX4 7FX

At the beginning of last week Living Well Oxford visited the Clockhouse Project in Greater Leys (  The Clockhouse Project is part of the Leys Community Development Initiative (Leys CDI), and is run with, and for, local over-50s living in and near the Leys.  As we are interested in gathering local views about our forthcoming Ageing: From Birth and Beyond “pop-up shop” in Templars Square Shopping Centre, a consultation with the members of the Clockhouse Project was an opportunity not to be missed.

Our “pop-up shop” of activities and information themed around ageing and dementia will open in Templars Square from 15th – 21st May, to tie in with Dementia Awareness Week.  We have researchers from the University of Oxford and Oxford Brookes coming along to present their latest research in a fun an accessible way for the public, and will also have local charities and other organisations there to provide practical information and signposting.

The visit to the Clockhouse Project provided a forum for us to find out what the members  think about our project, and to gather some ideas to help us develop it in the most appealing way for the Templars Square audience.  Our session was part of the bring-and-share welcome lunch for new members, so we were able to chat with the members in an informal way over lunch and a cup of tea.


All the members we spoke are visitors to Templars Square, with the frequency of their visits ranging from a few times a week to only occasionally.  We discussed which parts of the centre they visit most, which will help inform our marketing strategy nearer the time.  Two of the group members mentioned visiting the monthly Age UK information stand(, indicating that there is an audience for the kinds of information we’ll have at the “pop-up shop”.

We then moved on to discuss the group members’ thoughts on medical research.  They were broadly supportive of medical research, but weren’t sure about getting involved in it.  We know that some of the researchers coming along to the “pop-up shop” are interested in discussing the importance of public involvement in research to combat neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.  So it is important that we feedback these community conversations to the researchers, to enable them to prepare appropriate materials to help them talk about their work with this public audience.

In terms of ageing-related health conditions, those that the group were most interested to learn more about included dementia, diabetes and stroke.  The range of medical research conducted in Oxford is broad, so we hope to be able to invite researchers who work on the various conditions mentioned by the group.

We then moved on to talk about the different kinds of activities we should include.  The group members said they would be interested in talking to experts at the “pop-up shop”, but a few expressed concern that one-to-one conversations could take up too much of experts’ time.  Public engagement is an integral part of University research, and this is something we can emphasise in the “pop-up shop”.

One group member suggested having a singing group.  This is something we’d like to explore, as we feel entertainment could be a good draw to bring people to the event.  We also asked how they would prefer to tell us what they think of the “pop-up shop” (i.e. provide feedback), to make sure that we include appropriate methods in our evaluation of the event.

Our session at the Clockhouse Project was very interesting, and we enjoyed gathering the views of the group’s members.  We look forward to taking these ideas forward, and will share project updates as the plans develop, so watch this space!




Memory Lane Focus Group

Date: Thursday 15th December 2016

Venue: The Heritage Learning Centre, Museum of Oxford, Oxford Town Hall, St Aldate’s, Oxford, OX1 1BX

Last month Living Well Oxford joined The Museum of Oxford’s Memory Lane group (  This monthly reminiscence group enables people to meet, share memories and reminisce about the old days.  Each session is themed around a different topic, to encourage participants to communicate with each other by sharing stories and memories in a fun and interactive way.  There is also the Memory Lane Movers and Shakers group, which is a gentle dance and music group where sessions are inspired by the memories and themes of Memory Lane.

The mid-December meeting was Memory Lane’s Christmas session, which included a review of the various sessions in 2016, and a Movers and Shakers taster.  It was then time to introduce the Living Well Oxford project and our Ageing: From Birth and Beyond “pop-up shop” which will run in May 2017.  This provided an opportunity for us to find out what this local group of older people think about the project and gather their views to feed into the development of the event.

This session enabled us to focus on the marketing and evaluation of the “pop-up shop”.  Things that would attract the group members to come and visit the “pop-up shop” included:

  • Demonstrations
  • Seeing the research equipment
  • Finding out how to continue to live independently and get help

It was useful to discover where the group find out about local events, and where we should aim our marketing and distribution of posters / flyers.

Our “pop-up shop” is funded by Wellcome, and we need to make sure we evaluate it carefully and appropriately.  The group provided useful insight into how we can effectively gather this feedback data from the “pop-up shop” visitors, and suggested the idea of group feedback opportunities as part of the shop itself.  This is something we hadn’t previously identified.

At the end of the session we asked the group:

What health condition / health and wellbeing issue do you think is society’s greatest concern in an ageing population?


It was interesting that they identified dementia and loneliness as the top two issues.

It was a great pleasure to work with the Memory Lane group, and we would like to extend our thanks to all the members who participated in December’s session with us.  We are looking forward to taking their feedback forward into our planning for the “pop-up shop”.

Our progress with the project will be featured in future blog posts, so keep reading!




The Oxford Academy Focus Group

Date: Wednesday 7th December 2016

Venue: The Oxford Academy, Sandy Lane West, Oxford, OX4 6JZ

Earlier this month Living Well Oxford paid a visit to The Oxford Academy (  This was the first of our consultations with the community local to Templars Square Shopping Centre.  We are running these sessions to gather community members’ views, to inform the development of our Ageing: From Birth and Beyond “pop-up shop” which will open in Templars Square during Dementia Awareness Week in May 2017.


This focus group comprised a group of Year 12 and 13 pupils, who were encouraged to discuss their views and ideas about the “pop-up shop” project, and the topic in more general terms. We started the session exploring their perceptions of ageing and dementia, what they were looking forward to in later life and what concerned them about getting older / ageing.  Interestingly, two of the top three concerns were illness and dying.


However, when it came to thinking about what they would be doing when they are older, the pupils envisaged active lives.


We then moved on to think about what ageing-related research topics were of most interest to them. We have a working list of local research scientists and health professionals who have expressed an interest in participating in the “pop-up shop”, and the pupils were asked to rank these topics in order of interest.  Top of their list of was cancer, followed by brain development, and how the brain ages.

Next we explored what types of activities they would like to see included in the “pop-up shop”.


At the top of their list of recommendations were: hands-on activities, games, crafts, food, experiments and real science.

As the “pop-up shop” is a new endeavour for the Living Well Oxford project, we wanted to find out the pupils’ views on how best to market and evaluate the event.  We divided the group into two teams, one to explore how we can encourage lots of people to come along, and one to discuss how we can measure the success of the event.


Working with The Oxford Academy pupils was a great opportunity.  We are looking forward to incorporating their suggestions into the development of the “pop-up shop”, and we look forward to continuing our conversations with them as the project progresses.

We’ll keep you updated on future developments, so watch this space!

DNA After Dark: Shaken and Stirred

Date: Thursday 10th November 2016

Venue: Magdalen Road Church, 41 Magdalen Road, Oxford, OX4 1RB

This adult-only session was the latest in Science Oxford’s Gunge for Grown-ups series (  On a dark and wintery night in East Oxford we were joined by scientists from Reading University ( and Oxford University’s Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics (, to get up close and personal with DNA through a range of interactive hands-on activities.

After a brief introduction to DNA and genes, we began to explore inheritance.  A simple dice and Lego game elegantly demonstrated how we inherit our genes from our parents.  Each group “mated” the same fictional male and female creatures, known as “luxbops”, and saw how it is the combination of what we inherit from each of our parents that determines our characteristics.


We then used the newly generated genetic information from the “mating” process to create the “luxbop” offspring, using edible glue and a variety of sweets to demonstrate different eye colour, tail length, tail thickness and so on.


It was interesting the see the variety of characteristics amongst the offspring as seen here:


A re-designed version of Scrabble was a great way to explore how small changes in our genetic code can cause big impacts.


There was also the opportunity to have a go at tissue culture with cauliflower, by cutting off a small piece and placing it in special gel to encourage the growth of new roots and shoots.


A newly developed card game demonstrated how our blood group (which we inherit from our parents) can determine our susceptibility to disease.


And finally, the strawberry DNA daiquiris. Using the right ratio of crushed strawberry, pineapple juice and 63 % rum, we saw how easily DNA can be extracted from strawberries, before enjoying a rather strong mini-cocktail!



What the audience thought:


We would like to thank the participating scientists for their ideas and enthusiasm which made the event so enjoyable.






Wellcome People Award

The Living Well Oxford project has recently secured a Wellcome People Award (  This grant will enable us to run a “pop-up shop” of activities entitled “Ageing: From Birth and Beyond” in Templars Square Shopping Centre in Cowley for a week in May 2017.

This will be a great opportunity to build on the other Living Well Oxford events and activities we’ve been involved with so far, and to widen our collaborative working.  The aim of the “pop-up shop” is to create an appealing and relevant interactive experience which will reflect input from both the local community and local researchers.  We want to inspire the project participants to share their stories and passion in innovative ways, which will in turn stimulate and engage the public.  We would like the local community to feel connected to Oxford’s research and vice versa.

We will be working with local seldom-heard groups to gather their views on public engagement, and the kinds of opportunities and events which would be of greatest interest and relevance.  We will then feed this learning into the planning of the “pop-up shop”.  We will be working with local researchers, clinicians and charities to create the content of the shop.

The “pop-up shop” is entitled “Ageing: From Birth and Beyond”, and we want to highlight the research in Oxford which is investigating how our bodies change, develop and age at different stages of our lives (not just in our later years), and indicates what measures we can take to look after ourselves.  We want the activities to have a wide appeal, so that anyone passing the “pop-up shop” will be able to find something which is relevant and interesting to them.  The “pop-up shop” will open during Dementia Awareness Week 2017.  There are 850,000 people with dementia in the UK, with numbers set to rise to over 1 million by 2025.  Dementia an area of extensive research in Oxford, which hosts one of 15 Alzheimer’s Research UK Network centres (, and Oxford Dementia and Ageing Research (OxDARE,

As the project progresses we will be posting updates here, so watch this space!

If you are interested in getting involved, please get in touch through our contact page.



Oxford Open Doors

Date: Saturday 10th September 2016

Venue: Chemistry Research Laboratory, 12 Mansfield Road, Oxford, OX1 3TA

Oxford Open Doors ( is an annual Festival of Oxford, organised by Oxford Preservation Trust in partnership with the University of Oxford.  It is a weekend when we celebrate the city – its places, spaces and, most of all, its people.

The Chemistry Research Laboratory on Mansfield Road was the setting for this event, entitled “Cardiac Chemistry: Understanding, Imaging and Treating Heart Disease”.  It was organised by the Department of Chemistry ( and the Radcliffe Department of Medicine Division of Cardiovascular Medicine (  The Living Well Oxford project was invited to bring along activities related to the cardiac theme.


The afternoon included an interactive panel discussion with scientists from the Department of Chemistry and the British Heart Foundation, discussing heart disease research, from drug development to the latest heart scanning techniques.  Visitors were also given the opportunity to meet the scientists and have guided tours of the laboratory to learn more about the latest research.


In addition, there were a number of other activities including the British Heart Foundation stall, where visitors were encouraged to have their blood pressure measured so that they could “know their numbers”, and the Keytones (the Chemistry Department’s very own choir).


Visitors to the Living Well Oxford stall were invited to have a go at using the stethoscopes to listen to their own hearts, which can be easier said than done sometimes.  There was a model heart to open up and examine, and some associated information about the heart and blood pressure.  We also had a couple of quizzes, one based on the NHS Choices online blood pressure quiz, and one which included some beautiful microscope images provided by the researchers.




It was a good opportunity to meet members of the public interested in research, as well as the researchers themselves.

Feedback from the event included:

I was really impressed by the facilities and equipment in the lab.





Super Science Summer School

Date: Wednesday 27th July 2016

Venue: East Oxford Primary School, Union Street, Oxford OX4 1JP

East Oxford Primary School was the setting for the first of this year’s Science Oxford Super Science Summer Schools (  These free clubs are for children aged 8 – 12 years old, and provide participants the opportunity to experience the wonder of science in an exciting and fun way.


Living Well Oxford was invited along to run one of the morning sessions, and we jumped at the chance.  The broad theme was energy, so we focussed the session on the energy our bodies need.  We started the session looking at food chains, thinking about how all the energy we consume in our food started out as light energy from the sun.

We then proceeded to take apart sprouting seeds, so see how a bit of water and a few days, can transform a dried up seed, and enable it to grow its first root and shoot, and start photosynthesising for itself.



We then moved on to look at the range of vitamins and minerals which the plants in our diet can provide.  By exploring a range of fruits (using sharp knives safely, and our senses of touch, smell and taste), we discovered which colours were best for consuming which nutrients, and found out which parts of our bodies would benefit from them (such as our digestive system, our immune system, our hearts etc.).



It was then time to put our own bodies to the test, using stethoscopes to listen to our heartbeats both before and after a burst of hula hooping or jogging on the spot.  Our budding scientists / physicians worked well in their teams to divide the tasks of using the stethoscope, doing the exercise, timing the exercise and recording the number of heartbeats.



A key part of the Living Well Oxford project is community consultation, so we wanted to spend a bit of time gathering the children’s views on looking after themselves and getting older.  While the children were writing and drawing their thoughts, they were multi-tasking, taking it in turns to use the energy in their bodies to shake jars of double cream to turn them into butter.  Their reward for their efforts was a small pot of butter to take home.


The session was great fun, and the children were a pleasure to work with.  We’d like to say a big thank you to the team at Science Oxford for inviting us to be part of such a great week.




Health Day

Date: Saturday 2nd July 2016

Venue: Templars Square Shopping Centre, 129 Pound Way, Oxford OX4 3XH

Templars Square Shopping Centre was the setting for Health Day, a hands-on science fair which was part of Oxfordshire Science Festival (  The Living Well Oxford stall was themed around stroke, and we worked in partnership with the Clinical Innovation Adoption team of the Oxford AHSN ( and the Stroke Association ( to put together a range of stroke-related activities.  These activities were designed to engage with members of the public to raise awareness of blood pressure, atrial fibrillation and stroke.

What causes stroke?  Could you be at risk?  What can you do to reduce your risk?  Come and chat with us to find out more.

Atrial fibrillation (AF) is a heart condition that causes an irregular and often abnormally fast heart rate.  Can you spot the difference between an ECG showing a normal heart rhythm, AF and tachycardia (an abnormally fast heart rate)?

What does AF have to do with stroke?  Why is it important that if you have AF, you have the most appropriate medication?  Come and have your heart rhythm tested by the Stroke Association, and find out more about AF and the work that the Oxford Academic Health Science Network are doing to spread clinical innovation.

A stroke is a serious, life-threatening medical condition that occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off.  The effects of a stroke depend upon the type of stroke and which part of the brain was affected.  Handle our model brain, and find out which areas of your brain are responsible for thinking, balancing and language.  Make your own brain collage to take away.

We will also have some leaflets available for you to find out more about AF, knowing your blood pressure, and how to minimise your risks of stroke.

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Our stall was busy all day, with members of the public enjoying the opportunity to learn more about their bodies. We’d like to say a big thank you to the Stroke Association volunteers who joined us for the day.


You can read about some of the other Health Day activities here (



The Living Well Tales Stroke Poem

The Living Well Oxford project is about working with local people, and making their voices heard. This poem about stroke was compiled in June 2016, using stories from patients, carers, researchers and the Stroke Association, and with guidance from Danyah Miller (  This poem represents a collective voice on stroke.

In 2016 it’s time for stroke.

 Stroke is…

Identity theft

It is devastating, sudden, inspiring, transformative,

uncertain, isolating, dependency, unpredictable, focusing

Stroke is….


Stroke can take away people’s opportunities, abilities, personalities and strength.

It can take away life.

But it can also ignite a real passion in people for the things which really matter.

I felt unwell for about 10 days before my stroke. I had the stroke whilst asleep so didn’t know it had happened, I woke up feeling like I had pins and needles and thought I’d slept a bit funny.

Strokes can seemingly come out of nowhere. My stroke was different.  I had a constant bad headache, but I didn’t know it was a stroke.  My grandma had a number of strokes.  My stroke was almost surreal and then very frightening.

Strokes can make you lose your memory, can really change things. You can forget that your hand isn’t strong anymore, forget that you’ve left the oven on, or that you’ve let the budgie out of its cage.

Stroke can make you forget that you’ve told us that story just a few minutes ago, or that you need a frame to walk with, to take your medication. Sometimes you can forget that you’re loved.

Reading is a challenge

Writing is a challenge

Speech is a challenge

Talking to people isn’t easy

People are often nervous talking to me. They don’t know what to think or to expect.  They often rush due to their nerves and this makes it so much harder for me.  I wish people could talk to me normally, but just speak a little slower.

I am most supported by….. The Stroke Association; my family; Headway, the brain injury charity; my doctor; support worker; clinician.

I am most supported by….. My Speech and Language Therapist; my neighbours; The Cognitive Neuropsychology Centre; my wife, Sam.

What has surprised me most about my stroke recovery is the slow pace of progress; my friends being there for me; that I’ve had to accept the limitations and challenges and adapt to cope.

What surprised me most about stroke recovery is that it’s harder and slower than I anticipated. The uncertainty of outcome, unrealistic expectations and false hope.  That people who have had a stroke have shown such love for their families.  That life is fragile.  That stroke survivors have made me appreciate humans’ ability to survive, adapt and endure.  That it’s really tough.

What I know about stroke is…

That one quarter of all strokes in the UK affect people under the age of 65 years; that we need to make the public aware of stroke and explain the risk factors; I never thought it would happen to me.

What I know about stroke is…

That it can happen to anyone, of any age, even babies; that this is not just a “white old man’s disease”; it’s like winning the lottery jackpot.

What I know about stroke is….

That there are over 1.2 million stroke survivors in the UK. That worldwide, stroke is the second single most common cause of death.

What I know about stroke is….

That worldwide it causes twice as many deaths a year in women than breast cancer and more deaths a year in men than prostate cancer and testicular cancer combined.

What I know about stroke is….

That you just never imagine it will happen to you.

What we know is….

It will take time and patience but we have the motivation to do something positive. Working with stroke patients has shaped who I am.

What we know is…..

Stroke is potentially catastrophic, but also for most people a journey of recovery

We recognise the enormous potential for recovery and progress

This is a positive thing

There is hope

In 2016 it’s time for stroke.


The first public reading of the poem was during the Living Well Tales event, held during Oxfordshire Science Festival in June 2016 (see previous blog post for further details).









The Living Well Tales

Date: Sunday 26th June 2016

Venue: The Story Museum, Pembroke Street, Oxford, OX1 1BP

The Story Museum was a fitting venue for the inaugural Living Well Tales event, which took place during Oxfordshire Science Festival (  The aim of this event was to bring together a range of people to talk about a health-related topic from different perspectives.  However, it wasn’t to be a mini conference, covering the latest research, but a collection of personal stories, which would be meaningful and accessible to a public audience.

We worked with storyteller Danyah Miller ( to help the speakers develop their stories, all related to stroke.  In addition, we asked local people with experience of stroke for their thoughts on the condition, and compiled the Living Well Tales Stroke Poem (see next blog post for further details).


The event opened with a brief introduction to stroke, followed by the first public reading of the Living Well Tales Stroke Poem, which helped to set the scene for our speakers. First up was Jeff Aronson, consultant physician and clinical pharmacologist, who elegantly described the story of aspirin and its use in the treatment of stroke.


We were then joined by Fran Toye, who spoke about caring for her mum who had a number of strokes in her later years. She brought along a dress her mum had made and described how this resilient and determined lady coped with each stroke and didn’t let them get in her way of her normal life.


Next up was Enrico Flossmann, neurology consultant, who outlined the changes he’s seen in stroke patient treatment during his career, and captured how far we’ve moved in recent years to be able to talk about stroke with a sense of optimism. He gave a lovely example of the application of research in the real world, and giving older patients a chance.

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Following on was George Harston, specialty registrar in general and geriatric medicine. George shared the story of June and John, and detailed the vital role that patients play in medical research to help understand what happens when the body experiences a stroke.  This was a really poignant and moving story, and was dedicated to June’s memory.


Finally, we were joined by David Festenstein, who described his own experience of having a stroke, and how he approached his recovery. His positive attitude, optimism and hope made a great difference, and are an inspiration to others.


Feedback from the audience:

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Feedback from the speakers:

Living Well Tales Twitter feedback

You can hear more from David here: