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Get Moving at the Memory Cafe with Sir Muir Gray

Wednesday 17th May 2017

A new health initiative from Living Well Oxford, a project supported by Science Oxford, launched this week in Oxford, complete with twiddle muffs, training workshops and a Memory Café.

@CassiopeiaKnits Twiddle Muffs – textures can help restlessness in dementia

‘Ageing: From Birth to Beyond’ is taking place at Templars Square Shopping Centre in Cowley until Sunday, as part of National Dementia Awareness Week.

On day one, health experts and researchers set up stalls and got chatting to locals, with hands-on activities and virtual reality tasks to test health awareness. Dementia Oxfordshire ran a workshop for local shops, and volunteers captured shoppers’ experiences.


A young lad was fascinated with the Morris Motors steering wheel; ‘He told me all about it,’ his mum said.

A highlight was the Memory Café, held at the William Morris JD Wetherspoon pub, where a diverse group of visitors met for the first time and talked about their memories of Cowley over a pint (we were impressed to note that quinoa salad was on the menu!)

The vivacious Helen Fountain from Museum of Oxford shared photos and Morris Motors artefacts from the museum’s archives, prompting memories of the factory bell and workers pouring along the streets of Cowley. Initially the shopping centre didn’t have a roof, and some recalled the whistling wind (whilst moving closer to the cosy radiators!)

We were all blown away by the energy and humour of our star speaker, University of Oxford professor and health advisor to the NHS, Sir Muir Gray. A great Oxford character, the author of ‘Sod 70’ arrived in a flurry, announcing he had to call his wife to ‘check in with the Chief Exec’ – and joined in the trip down Cowley memory lane with aplomb.

Inspiring and entertaining, Muir spoke about how to avoid dementia and age well. The ageing process itself shouldn’t slow us down, he said – using the royals and Richard Attenborough as examples. His most recent book ‘Sod Sitting, Get Moving’ advocates daily activity – at least 3000 extra steps – (or half an hour extra walking) as non-negotiable.

Muir persuaded the Bodleian Library to re-install standing lecterns after 300 years, (mimicking academics hunched over books) – and challenged TV adventurer Bear Grylls to stay fit after commuting and sitting at a desk for 8 hours a day – ‘Now that’s a challenge!

His top tips are:

1 – Choose your parents wisely – preferably rich ones

2 – Look after your blood vessels (stopping smoking at Any age will help)

3 – Don’t sit –get up, stand and walk

Finally, “Keep actively involved!’ he told us. “Go out, socialise, be active in your community, go to the pub, meet up with friends,get into politics – talk to people.” He nods at two young lads; “Even the Digital Generation (and that’s you too’ he smiles and points to me, busy tweeting and taking photos) –turn your phone off and go outside.

Thank you for organising this today, for talking to us” a local told us at the end, “We never really do this anymore these days, get together and talk.

I left feeling part of a special afternoon and walked for an extra twenty minutes on the way home!

By Autumn Neagle, Digital Communications Officer at Science Oxford

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Living Well Oxford is a collaborative public engagement project between the Oxford Academic Health Science Network, Science Oxford and the Oxford Health Experiences Institute to support the exploration and understanding of health and healthcare.

Osteopath Ben Wilkins from Oomph! Wellness Oxford University

Cowley photos from the Museum of Oxford archives

Morris Motor artefacts from the Museum of Oxford archives

Helen Fountain from Museum of Oxford

Talking changing times in Cowley

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