If this year has taught us anything, it is there are few guarantees in life. Failing to imagine how our older selves will live, however, does guarantee a few surprises when you get there.
If you’ve kept up to date with the AAA’s work this year, you’ll know we've been working to bridge that gap by helping establish a pioneering set of ISO Standards for our neighbourhoods of the future.
But as we cast our eye around the world, what other evidence is there of people or organisations preparing for a world in which many of us can reasonably hope to live to 100, or beyond.
A Sure Thing?
This month’s first article reveals that investors are one group tuning in to the opportunities.
Bloomberg focused on one such enterprise from veteran investor Alan Patricof and entrepreneur Abby Miller Levy - looking beyond ageing stereotypes to find the next big thing.
So far, their company, Primetime, has invested in a social network for baby boomers to connect, financial planning services targeting ‘pre-retirees’, and a service supporting care providers through education on delivering care, and delivering medical supplies and meals.
For Alan, his investments are informed by personal experience after his wife was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
Says Alan; “When you get into that position, you see what the problems are of older people and how to take care of them, and all the services they need—caregiving, nutrition, entertainment, technology, support in the home”.
Interestingly, the article adds, “the firm plans to also focus on finding and funding older entrepreneurs in their 50s and 60s”. "Maybe we’ll make people look more carefully at people around them that are older and think about what they can do to make their lives better," says Abby.
Any young investors today would be well advised to look into this sector, as it will be very mature indeed by the time they reach their own retirement.
One of the challenges Alan and Abby identified with getting more people to invest in the ageing market was a lack of understanding. Not knowing enough about how people feel and what they need.
Bridging the gap between people and data is the focus of our next piece which focuses on a new collaboration between design studio Sennep, King’s College London, landscape architects J&L Gibbons and arts foundation Nomad Projects.
Urban Mind is a new app they developed together to track people's mental health as they move around the city in which they live.
By asking questions about their environment, tracking location (with permission), mood, and even images and sound, they can capture the impact of a person's lived environment.
Says Sennep creative director Matt Rice; “This global study of how different urban environments affect our mental well-being will equip city planners with the data and knowledge they need to inform the design of urban areas that make people happier and more relaxed”.
Technology evolves much faster than humans do. Professor Heinz Wolff (an early inspiration for AAA) may well have enjoyed this approach. At our very first AAA Congress, he insisted that whatever is built, planned, or shared with older adults must always consider who they were as people. You can never forget the human element.
Footing the Bill
What has not evolved very quickly (in the UK at least) is how we fund our older selves. And nowhere is this more evident than social care, which this year has been pushed to breaking point.
Since coming to power, Boris Johnson has pledged to “fix the crisis in social care once and for all”. The plan it seems, according to this piece in the Guardian, is to make people more financially responsible for their retirement, from a younger age.
The article explains; "Under the plan over-40s would have to pay more in tax or national insurance, or be compelled to insure themselves against hefty bills for care when they are older. [It's] a modified version of how Japan and Germany fund social care. Both are widely admired for having created a sustainable way of financing social care to deal with the rising needs an ageing population brings”.
Caroline Abrahams, the charity director at Age UK, thinks it may be our best bet; “...if that’s what our government is considering embracing here than it may be rather a good deal, since that system offers a level of provision and reassurance that we can only dream of here at the moment”.
Forty today may not seem young to a teenager, but for a generation that can still dress like teenagers, hold student debt and own no property, retirement can seem a long way off. We hope this at least marks the beginning of more people taking the cost of their potential longevity seriously.
In Other News
Thinking ahead is the focus of our first piece from this month’s other great stories.
According to the Cambridge Network, broadband provider CityFibre firmly believes connectivity is essential if societies are to meet the 'grand challenges' of the 21st Century, including meeting the needs of an ageing society.
By committing to installing gigabit-speed full fibre broadband across Cambridge, they want to be ready for the predicted "800m connected healthcare devices active across Europe" by 2025. That's switched-on thinking.
Before the care robots are needed though, super-fast broadband will certainly improve your experience working from home.
According to Elizabeth White, author of new book "55, Underemployed, and Faking Normal", older adults should not overlook the gig economy to make up any short falls in their retirement finances.
She writes, “It's definitely not the answer to all of our financial woes. But in this environment, where many of us will have to cobble together multiple income streams to make a living, are we being too quick to dismiss 'side-gigging' as only for millennials?” Can anyone overlook any opportunities right now?
Investors (once again) certainly aren't, shown by our next piece focusing on start-up studio Alive Ventures, which has raised $12m to create better designed products for older adults.
Having brought in famed Apple designer Don Norman to help create these new designs, he asks "Why do we have such ugly stuff, that doesn't really completely fit the need for the elderly — and we have such beautiful stuff for people who are younger?" We look forward to seeing Don’s designs!
And finally, we end on two people it's been impossible to ignore.
An octogenarian laundry-owning couple have shot to Instagram fame after their grandson Reef Chang, hit upon the idea of using abandoned clothes for fashion shoots to alleviate their boredom.
Since they began, they have amassed a following of over 600,000 and have even featured in the Taiwanese edition of Vogue and Marie Claire.
On the response they’ve had, Reef said; “We’re very moved by the messages. Many people are saying that @wantshowasyoung is the first happy news they’ve seen in this dark year marred by the Covid-19 pandemic and problems in many countries”. Thanks Reef, we agree.
That’s it for this month, until the next be sure to follow us on Twitter and #BeAgile!