Latest News

Fernhill House trials anti-loneliness technology
Fernhill House is helping trial a simple yet ground breaking technology aimed at helping older people combat loneliness.   

The home has teamed up Hello Daisy – an easy to use low cost alternative to video messaging programmes such as Skype, which will connect the user to friends, family, community organisations and health professionals.   

The mobile phone sized equipment, which can be voice activated, is plugged into the TV – enabling the viewer to connect to those important to them – making it invaluable for people who find it difficult to get out of their homes.   

The system was developed following in-depth research into the health impacts of loneliness on older people, and the barriers preventing them from communicating with friends, family and community.   

The core package will be tweaked following feedback from its trial partners such as Fernhill House, Southbank University and Age UK, with the aim that it will be launched in October.   

Research shows that more than a million of the 11 people in the UK have no human contact for a month, with 700,000 leaving the house only once week or less.   

Studies have linked loneliness to a range of health problems, from high blood pressure and a weakened immune system to depression, heart disease and strokes, with one study showing that loneliness is twice as unhealthy as obesity.    

Age UK data shows that 35 per cent of the UK's over 65s have never used the internet due to lack of interest, skills or money, with 26 per cent trying it but giving up for health reasons such as poor eyesight or cognitive function.   

Fernhill House manager Mike Dearn said: “Being lonely not only makes life miserable for older people, it also makes them more vulnerable to illness and disease.   

“Loneliness is a serious threat to a happy and healthy later life.  For many older people TV is their constant companion and they understand how it works. The Hello Daisy device is a natural extension of that and means, as long as the TV is switched on, that they can get in touch with their friends and family immediately.”   

More information can be found at

Fernhill House embraces suggestions in professor’s memory boosting book
A popular science book by a world leading neuropsychiatry professor offers some helpful tips for older people on boosting memory. 

His advice includes keeping the brain mentally active, taking regular exercise, engaging in social interaction and eating well – all opportunities available in droves at Fernhill House. 

The home is regularly adding to its packed activity programme – with dancers, musicians and speakers among its visitors, regular outings, exercise classes, alternative therapies such as sound therapy and reiki, quizzes and a mouthwatering menu created by an award winning chef.   

“Our Ageing Brains” by Andre Aleman, Professor of Cognitive Neuropsychiatry at the University Medical Centre in Groningen in the Netherlands, looks at why and how our brains age and how we can slow the erosion of brain function. 

Prof Aleman explains that the volume of the brain shrinks by about 15 per cent between the ages of 30 and 90. But while scientists used to believe no new neurons were generated once we reached adulthood, latest research indicates that most brain cells remain reasonably intact until we die, with thousands of new neurons produced daily, even in the older brain.   

The professor explains that diet, exercise, social interaction and intellectual stimulation all play a vital role in keeping our brains alert.             

Cutting calories reduces oxidative stress, the process that occurs when chemically reactive molecules containing oxygen are produced in greater numbers than normal. Some of these molecules are ‘free radicals’, which can cause damage to cells, including the neurons in the brain.   

Avoid eating too many carbohydrates and sugars. In combination with little exercise, this increases the risk of diabetes, which is bad for the brain and can hasten dementia.   Opt instead for a balanced diet including proteins, grains, vegetables and fruits. 

A Dutch study showed improved brain function results from the consumption of lignans, hormone-like substances found in plants such as sesame seeds, linseed oil, broccoli, cabbage, peaches, and strawberries. There is evidence that brain functioning in older people is heavily dependent on vitamin B12, which is found in foods including beef and cod and is also available in B12-enriched soy milk and yeast extracts such as Marmite. 

Around a quarter of old people are deficient in B12. . Other dietary benefits can be gained from omega-3 fatty acids, found in oily fish such as mackerel, salmon and herring which have positive effect on the cell walls of our neurons, enabling better transport of the substances needed for them to function effectively. 

Cognitive training is also important in keeping our brains busy, with a study at the University of Southern California showing that it can improve cognitive functions by 10 per cent.   Exercise is also beneficial - possibly because of better oxygen flow to the brain. It also stimulates the release of chemicals that promote the healing of damaged tissue, along with the growth of brain cells and the formation of new connections between them.   

In one study of 120 participants with an average age was 67, those who undertook moderate-intensity exercise for a year saw a growth of two per cent in the hippocampus, the part of the brain which is essential to storing information in the memory. It is normal in people of that age to have shrunk by 1.5 per cent.   Research into large numbers of people who exercise regularly has shown that it reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s by as much as 50 per cent.   

Even people who only began to exercise at the age of 60 can benefit, and the recommendation for people over 55 is half an hour of moderately intensive exercise on at least five days, and preferably every day, of the week.   

Studies have shown that people who have worked their whole lives with their brains have a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Working past retirement age is a good way to remain mentally active.   

Another study involved older people who became volunteer teaching assistants with preschool children who experienced increased activity in the prefrontal cortex, a part of the brain which is key to memory, and their ability to perform various mental tasks improved correspondingly.   

Activities such as using the computer, playing games and engaging in creative activities have also been shown to improve mental functioning. And there is evidence that, rather than just developing the particular skills required for each activity, participants increased their mental capacity across the board. 
Other brain-boosting activities include learning a new language or musical instrument. A study of 70 healthy people between the ages of 60 and 83 showed that those who regularly played an instrument scored better on a variety of neuropsychological tests.

Elderly health report highlights need to remain active
New research which predicts that a growing number of elderly people  will suffer from multiple health conditions over the next 20 years highlights the importance of keeping mentally and physically fit, eating well and sharing meaningful relationships, says the manager of Fernhill House.   

The report, issued by Newcastle University’s Institute for Ageing, says the number of older people who have at least four different medical conditions is set to double by 2035.   

One in three of those diagnosed with four long-term conditions will have dementia, depression or some form of cognitive impairment, say researchers.   They predict a 179.4% increase in the number of people of pension age being diagnosed with cancer and a 118% rise in those who have diabetes.   

All diseases, apart from dementia and depression, will more than double in absolute numbers between 2015 and 2035 in over 85s, says Carol Jagger, professor of epidemiology of ageing at the institute, who led the study.   A large part of the increase in the number of people with four or more medical problems will come from an expected sharp rise in coming years in the number of people living until at least 85.   

“Our model shows that future young-old adults, aged 65 to 74 years, are more likely to have two or three diseases than in the past. This is due to their higher prevalence of obesity and physical inactivity, which are risk factors for multiple diseases,” she explained. 

“We need to shift our focus to helping people to stay as well and independent as possible for as long as possible.  

“As we get older, our health and care needs tend to overlap and become more complex. A more compassionate and intelligent approach to caring for older people must be a priority for us all.” 

Fernhill House manager Mike Dearn says the report adds to the growing weight of evidence that staying mentally, emotionally and physically active in old age is essential in retaining one’s health.   

He added that numerous studies show physical exercise and challenging the brain can slow the progression of dementia by as much as ten years.   

Fernhill House holds a weekly exercise class to keep the brain as well as the body active, alternative therapies such as massage and mental stimulation such as games, music and crafts.   

Studies say the definition of exercise is wide ranging and include activities such as gardening – something which takes place on a regular basis with residents working in the home's specially designed indoor potting shed and its two-acre garden.   
Mike explained: “One study showed that a stress hormone which keeps mental facilities sharp is produced by the brain during exercise.  Another demonstrated that even moderate exercise can boost memory and mental processing speed. Just walking at a moderate pace three times a week can reduce mental decline by up to 10 years in older adults.    

“Keeping your mind active can help slow the effects of dementia by reducing cell damage and supporting the growth of new cells. So, learning a language, doing puzzles, enjoying board games or playing an instrument can all help.”

Project Outstanding
The team here at Fernhill House are committed to providing an outstanding service to our residents which is constantly improving and developing. With this in mind we have today launched our “Project Outstanding” initiative with the aim of making our residents lives fun and meaningful every single day. Outstanding is the rating CQC gives to homes which go beyond what is expected of them and is the rating what we are all working towards. Please visit our page to find out how “Project Outstanding” is coming along.
Spring is in the air with Fernhill’s activities programme
With snowdrops bursting forth and birdsong filling the air, spring is definitely around the corner and activities at Fernhill House continue apace throughout February and March, with music, crafts, fun and unusual therapies on the agenda.    

Residents have a chance to create with clay when Sue brings her pottery accoutrements to Fernhill House on Wednesday February 28 and March 21 from 10.30 until 11.30am, while popular viola player Sarah plays familiar classics on Monday February 26, March 12 and March 26 between 3 and 4pm.    

Ted will be helping beginners grasp the rudiments of bridge at his Beginners Bridge Club on Thursday February 22 from 6.30 til 8pm.   

A number of regular weekly events will also be continuing. These include three hours of holistic therapy every Tuesday with Michelle who offers massage and sound therapy between 2 and 5pm.  Tuesday is also keep fit day, with experienced fitness instructor and former PE teacher Nicky offers two hours of exercise between 2 and 4pm.   

Thursdays between 2 and 3pm offer a chance to listen to Pat the pianist perform familiar singalong tunes in the Elgar room.   And every Sunday is “Keep Calm and Sing Along” day – with everyone invited to join in from 11am.   

There’s a chance for residents, family and friends to discuss ideas for forthcoming events at a meeting at Fernhill House on March 20 from 6 – 7pm. Just drop in. Refreshments will be provided.