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Focus on the Positive



Mobility triumphs with the U3A

By Lizzy Baddeley, on 12 February 2014

The Third Age Trust U3A The University of the Third Age

Focus on the Positive organisers Lizzy Baddeley and Hilary Jackson report back on our most recent event.

At Focus on the Positive, we like to give everyone the chance to take part in our events, and we like trying new things. So, on 23rd January, we invited a group from the University of the Third Age (U3A) along to UCL to have a go at picking a worthwhile impact project to fund.

The U3A is a national organisation that provides opportunities for retired and semi-retired people to come together and learn together. Their membership is drawn from enthusiastic retired individuals who want to keep on learning and exploring the world – so who better to take part in Focus on the Positive?

More than 40 members from all over London came along on a Thursday afternoon to listen to UCL researchers pitch 4 projects, picking their favourite to win £2000.

Right from the start, the U3A participants took their task seriously. They listened avidly and thoroughly quizzed the researchers. After careful deliberation, each cast their vote.

The winner of the event was Roselle Thoreau, a doctoral researcher in the UCL Centre for Transport Studies, taking the £2000 prize to develop her project to get unbiased and helpful information to potential buyers of mobility aids. Roselle researches mobility in older people, and has noticed that many older people buy walking sticks without advice from a professional. These sticks, if incorrect, can actually make mobility worse! The crowd really responded to her enthusiasm and dedication and Roselle promised to keep them updated with her progress.

Second place was tightly fought, and in the end two projects received the same number of votes to take the £1000 runner-up prize.

Gwynneth Lloyd will use her winnings to support the Friends of the London Implant Retrieval Centre. This great project, which Gwynneth runs up at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in Stanmore, supports patients who have had hip replacements removed. The money will be greatly appreciated in getting the Friends together to share their experiences, provide mutual support, and advise researchers and clinicians about what patients need.

The other winner of £1000 was Dr Mohammed Shamsudduha, a Research Associate at UCL’s Institute for Risk & Disaster Reduction. Shams will use the money to complement his research into salt and arsenic poisoning in groundwater wells in Bangladesh. £1000 will allow him to draw on his research and experience to build two safe wells providing reliable, safe drinking water for hundreds of people.

Sadly, not everyone could be a winner. Despite drawing a number of votes, Bethan Wolfenden and Philipp Boeing (UCL Synthetic Biology undergraduate students) didn’t win a prize. None-the-less, the UCL Public Engagement Unit will help them to find other ways to make their DIY Synthetic Biology sessions for the U3A happen.

It was a great, lively event, and the U3A were a really great audience. It was great to see a new group really get to grips with Focus on the Positive and support such worthwhile projects.

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