A touch of compassion

We started the year by asking our network which areas they thought would see the biggest breakthroughs for healthy ageing in 2022. Half of those who voted put their money behind innovative tech and design.

Afterall, CES, the world’s largest technology fair provides a great insight into what the future holds and this year there was no shortage of smart home technology for ageing in place. Highlights include the Sengled lightbulb which has a variety of sensors to monitor heart rate, sleep and temperature, and the Labrador Systems’ Retriever – a robotic tray designed to help those with limited mobility carry items around the house.

Household brands are also getting in on the action, with LG installing a remote health application on all their TVs and the recent launch of Alexa Together from Amazon, providing 24/7 emergency help via voice command.

Yet in an age where so much more is made possible with advances in technology, we should stop and ask ourselves whether we’re creating more problems in an attempt to innovate for the sake of innovation. Navigating the morals of technology can be quite a minefield – who has access to the data of vulnerable people, for example, and could technology actually reduce human contact as we age?

An interesting study conducted by King’s College London monitored the relationship between city life and loneliness. Across demographics, overcrowded environments were seen to increase loneliness by up to 38%. Given the high population density of cities, this is rather paradoxical. Whenever we are innovating, we need to ask ourselves ‘why’ and ‘how’ are we doing this, without losing sight of the bigger picture.

Innovation doesn’t have to be ‘sexy’, it just needs to put people first. We shouldn’t overlook the need for simple solutions that can be expanded to meet everyday needs. The right to live in warm and damp free homes for example, is one the Connected Places Catapult is tackling with its testbed project in Sunderland, sourcing local businesses to meet the needs of local people.

And when it comes down to it, that’s what we need. A multigenerational neighbourhood where people care for one another and ageing in place is supported with human-centric innovation. On 1st February we’ll be launching our latest report: Cultivating Neighbourhoods that Care: A Manifesto for Change. It’s the result of two years of cross-sector consultation towards development of a game changing international standards framework.