Ensuring that elderly people have access to medical and social support, the use of new technologies to make it easier for them to live independent lives and helping the elderly to stay active within society are issues that will be discussed during the Economic and Social Research Council's Festival of Social Science, taking place in the UK from March 12 through 21 March with over 130 events in over 40 cities across the country. Aimed at a range of different audiences, including policy makers, business, the media, the general public and students of all ages, the events include traditional lectures and exhibitions to theatrical performances, film screenings and topical debates. Among the topics to be addressed are the loneliness and lack of independence for many older people. New technologies have enormous potential to help elderly people live independently. However, many are not aware of the benefits, do not know how to use and engage with digital technologies or simply don't feel confident enough to use it. At “Improving everyday life: getting connected to public services,” older people will talk about their personal experiences with digital technologies and their applications and how these helped them be less isolated and more independent. IT taster sessions will be offered to the elderly to encourage them to explore new technologies, and local service providers will demonstrate how their services can be accessed and requested online. For many older people, quality of life is affected by poor health. Currently there are 800,000 people with dementia in the UK, the most common being Alzheimer's disease. Behind these facts and figures, say event organizers, are individuals and families learning to live with the condition and get on with their lives. Stereotypes about people are however often negative and disabling. At the event “Dementia: don't fear it” two people with dementia who are active campaigners will speak about their experiences and views. Images and interviews from an ongoing research project on how and why some people with dementia become campaigners or change agents will stimulate a debate with a Q & A session. Another issue that will be broached is the media’s role in shaping people's attitudes. The way older people are portrayed in the media influence the way people think about them and the way we think about ourselves. But what do we really think about ageism? The European Social Survey (ESS) database collects and stores information on the social attitudes of thousands of residents across Europe. “What do the British think about…Ageism, Welfare and Political Institutions” is an event aimed at journalists. It will demonstrate the range of data freely accessible through the ESS database and explain how to access and use it. Data on individual states as well as comparative data can be quickly and easily gathered. By better understanding social science data, hopefully stereotypes will be challenged. To find out where these and all festival events are taking place, visit http://www.esrcfestival.ac.uk.
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