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AAA™ In the News January 2021 – Hello 2021

Join us this month as we enter the next phase in creating a new gold standard for multigenerational living.

This January 28th, we unite a diverse group of experts and innovators, and the International Organisation for Standardization to share knowledge and ideas addressing the WHO’s recently declared Decade of Healthy Ageing (2021-2030).

The day-long event is free to attend and begins what promises to be a busy year in helping shape better, more enriched lives for older people. Learn about some of the speakers and thought leaders you can meet on the day, and how to register, in Ian Spero’s new article ‘Design-led Innovation can Lighten the Load of Ageing’.

Reading on, you may notice this month’s AAA News is slightly different in that it’s a bumper edition looking ahead to more of the exciting things we can hope for this year. For example, could 2021 see more of us becoming cleaner and greener? Will big tech create the perfect home environment? Will e-bikes power a revolution in staycations for older adults?

Family Time

We begin with this fantastic piece in Wired by Sarah Harper, Clore Professor of Gerontology at the University of Oxford.

In it, Sarah argues that after 2019’s shift to flexible working, left offices empty across the world, 2021 will see those empty spaces inspire the creation of new community-focused residential hubs.

The result, says Sarah, is that “we will increasingly work and socialise in connected local communities. This will be facilitated by the continued rebalancing of individual and communal needs, leading to a growth in intergenerational, socially integrated communities”.

That’s not all though. In addition to reimagining commercial properties, she adds, “we will see the construction of new-style family homes which incorporate an adjacent unit for ageing parents”.

This trend is already gaining pace in the US, which last year saw an accelerated upward trend toward multi-generational living.

According to Realtor.com, “After the stay-at-home orders went into effect… there was a 4 percentage point increase in the number of buyers who purchased a multigenerational home, compared with before the pandemic hit. The actual number of intergenerational households that have formed since the start of the pandemic has actually increased by a staggering 61%”.

It’s gladdening an event that forces us apart has in many ways brought us closer together.

Under One Roof

With our homes more important than ever, it’s no surprise to learn tech’s biggest players have them in their sights.

This year’s Consumer Electronics Show for example, (in addition to smartphones and larger TVs), promises to focus more on products making our homes safer and more dynamic, such as more disinfectant gadgets, next-generation fitness equipment, robots that help you cook dinner, and social and educational robots.

There will even be tech that can influence your dreams. For anyone finding theirs may focus a little too much on the news right now, this may come as welcome relief.

One firm who certainly knows what’s on your mind is Amazon.

As a significant beneficiary of our limited mobility, the tech giant is investing some of that income into tech for our home that doesn’t just react to our commands but is predictive and proactive; determining what you need, and when.

This article reveals some of these innovations revealed at their November annual hardware event.

Their vision for the ‘ambient home’ includes an Alexa that can distinguish between adult and child voices for security, screens that can follow you as you move around the room, indoor security drones, and sounds or lights that automatically kick in if a disturbance like snoring or a child’s crying are detected.

This all sounds great (apart from the drones maybe), until we read the first article about Amazon Prime packages arriving after you muttered something in your sleep about needing new trainers.

Renewed Interest

Beyond buildings and tech, what else can we expect around the home?

Energy will be high on many people’s agendas this year as our domestic bills continue to reflect increased time at home.

And with “retired households having the highest average fuel costs compared to those of other ages”, according to Age UK, older adults will certainly want to hear about successful innovations like this one between the Isles of Scilly and Hitachi.

Says this article, the two established “an island-wide partnership with a bold ambition: to cut electricity bills by 40 per cent, meet 40 per cent of energy demand through renewables and for 40 per cent of vehicles to be low carbon or electric by 2025”.

Uniting several technologies, “from solar panels to smart water heaters and smart batteries for homes and businesses in a bid to tackle fuel poverty and cut carbon emissions”, they also established a successful local Community Venture non-profit company, offering “a blueprint for other small islands and cities across the world”.

Such savings on utility bills will be music to the ears of those welcoming their family (and their chargeable devices) back into the fold.

Great Outdoors

And what about outside? After close to a year of the ‘great indoors’, we are all going to need a little help reducing waistlines and awakening creaky joints.

If there’s one thing we’ve learnt since last year, it’s the importance of green spaces. Whether our own, nearby parks, or more open spaces we could exercise, see friends safely, or simply forget about our neighbours for a while.

According to this piece in The Conversation; “Natural features and diverse urban forests are essential for cities to be more resilient and resistant to future challenges, such as invasive species.

They are also imperative to how cities can prepare for climate change emergencies by helping manage stormwater, heat stress and air quality”.

“To do this properly, cities need to adopt an ecosystem planning approach that incorporates nature-based design to make them more liveable and resilient. It also means managing cities as ecosystems.”

Cities around the world are handing over roads to cyclists and pedestrians, but we are also seeing more efforts by cities to give ground to greenery, such as Paris’ announcement that the famous Champs-Élysées will be turned into an 'extraordinary garden'.

We expect to see even more of this, with greater efforts from councils to engage innovators and investors to rethink how public spaces can better serve public health.

Might we also see more start-ups focusing on what can be done with open spaces?

Last year's London Green Spaces Commission report recommended the development of a Centre of Excellence and Skills Program to identify investment and innovation in the use of public spaces to secure a “strong and vibrant future for these vital spaces”. While innovation foundation, Nesta, is working to rethink green spaces through initiatives like their Future Parks accelerator.

Could gardening become the new rock ‘n roll? With live music but a wonderful dream right now, there’s certainly space for it.

Just Eat Better

One way we predict more older adults may address the impact of their ‘lockdown-diets’, is through a continued observance of this year’s Veganuary promise to eat more plant-based food (500k pledges this year – up 100k from last year). This follows a YouGov survey which found that the most likely age groups to follow a plant-based diet in 2021 are 25–35 and 55+.

After last year’s long warm summer, the spectre of empty shelves every time a new lockdown is announced, and a lengthy vaccination program, we expect to see more people this year using any space they have, to start growing their own food.

If not just for something to do!

Pedal Power

If it is another long warm year, will we be able to go anywhere further than our own back garden? If we can, we expect to see people making the most of government-backed plans to cut the price of the bikes by a third, and explore more of the (nearby) world.

Even in America, where the car is king, they're creating a connected 6,000km coast to coast bike route across 12 states, using old rail lines.

With cycling proven to be good for your health and quality of life, and new cycle routes popping up all the time, we expect to see more older people saddling up and making the most of home.

Vax Nation

Before we can though, the nation must be vaccinated.

One surprising benefit of this huge undertaking, according to this article, is that findings from the new Covid vaccines are expected to teach us more about the potential for tailored vaccines.

Says the article, learnings will “open up a new frontier of science concerning vaccines tailored to benefit different groups of people. In 2021 we will understand that one-size-fits-all is not optimal for anyone”.

“In our later years”, it continues, "our immune system somehow goes awry. Understanding why this occurs will open up the possibilities of vaccines that are especially effective in older people, specifically targeting a part of the human immune system known to work well in old age.

In 2021, we will increase our knowledge of the diversity of human immune responses. This will seed new insights on immunity and generate the data needed for vaccines to be used in a more personalised way.”

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We hope all this leaves you with hope for the year to come. Writing it has certainly helped us.

On that note, this AAA News will be the final one written by myself as we look to refresh our online presence. Thanks for reading and stay safe in 2021.

As always, don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and until next month, #BeAgile!

Adam Hallows (AAA web editor)