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AAA™: In the news November 2016

It's been a great month for provocative articles rethinking the very idea of ageing in today's fast-paced world. The most recent came from Agile Ageing's very own Ian Spero, who revealed what he learnt at the latest Neighbourhoods of the Future event, in Warsaw (the ninth NotF event in as many months).

Before you read that however, take a look at what else has been happening in the news…

Start me up

That's what middle-aged entrepreneurs around the world are saying to investors apparently, and the answer according to this recent article from the FT is, 'let's go'.

As more of us live longer, and work becomes harder to find as we do, it seems more are using the knowledge gained throughout a career to imagine new products or services.

But it isn't just their ideas that attract investors, it's also their ability to deliver them. Understanding the world of business, using the experience gained from making mistakes and the ability to relate to investors - who they are often close to in age - are all clear advantages over younger competitors.

This, according to Peter Cowley, a business angel in the UK; "helps them pass the "pint of beer" test, where the investor takes the entrepreneur for a drink to find out whether the relationship will work at a personal level".

It's insights like these that inspire us to keep looking for stories exploding myths on ageing. And as we do, we see that even though time won't always be on our side, we can still be hot stuff.

Who cares for an ageing population?

On a slightly more reflective note, this thoughtful piece in the LSE focused on the future for government policy around the age of retirement and pensions.
As authors Jason Powell and Paul Taylor say; "Employment in later life has changed dramatically since the formation of the welfare state some seventy years ago."

Not only are we living longer and seeing the age of retirement extended, they argue, but the perception of how far government will help us, is changing.
The current view is to extend our working lives, introduce means-test state pensions and place greater emphasis on individual and private pensions. This, the authors warn, could move the focus away from oversight to a: "less detailed inspection of mismanagement of resources by employers, pension providers, and even the State."

Whatever that future is, it's clear the challenge for governments to balance budgets in our ageing societies is huge. For a very simple example we look to Japan once again where their government has been forced to scale back the cost of awarding centenarians their traditional 'sterling silver sake cup', replacing it instead with a silver-plated cup.

So what might older age and retirement look like in the future? Will the card from the Queen (or King) on your 100th birthday come as an e-card? We can only guess. But it's clear that unless we start addressing our longer lives today, then we might all be in for a few surprises.

Calculators at the ready

The NHS has an idea of how to get us thinking about longer living – by grabbing headlines with their re-launched 'calculator', which tells us how long we might expect to live, and what we can do about it if we don't like the answer.

According to the article; "It comes as research on 575,000 people using the tool found that four in five had a "heart age" older than their actual age. Nearly nine in 10 men under 40 had a heart older than they were, compared to 4 in 10 women of the same age."

The article also quotes Dr Mike Knapton, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, who says that; "The younger you start making small but significant changes, the greater the return on your in investment in your health."

It seems there's an opportunity – as we become more integrated with mobile technology, social media and wearables – for organisations like the NHS to use those channels to speak direct to us about our lifestyles.

Imagine being buzzed by your GP if you've been sat on the couch for too long, or congratulated by your local hospital via a fitness app for finally doing that half-marathon? The benefit being, the more you respond, the less you need them. Either that or you avoid looking at your phone – a behaviour change which could in turn benefit your mental health.

Look WHO's talking

One organisation we think everyone should listen to is the World Health Organisation. This excellent article we shared recently, looks at the facts of ageing from a global perspective - economically, physically, emotionally, environmentally, and more.

It contains some eye opening stats too: "Research in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in 2011 estimated that, the contributions older people made through taxation, consumer spending and other economically valuable activities were worth nearly GBP 40 billion more than expenditure on them through pensions, welfare and health care combined. This is set to rise to GBP 77 billion by 2030."

In an age where we're continually told what a burden older people are on the state, and in particular the NHS, then the occasional bit of reassurance that every generation has something to offer may help us understand that we all have a part to play.

Golden years

Another way to help this perception, might be to see older people on the TV excelling in physical activities.

Not completely out of the question, as this article in the New York Times suggests, when looking at the world of the National Senior Games. Now 30 years into existence, the games draw around 10,000 participants competing in 19 different sports - the oldest of whom is 102.

There's plenty of individual stories in the article - ones that may even inspire you to start training - but what united them all was the desire to live long and remain active.

And the more people of all ages we see doing just that, the more are likely to believe they can do the same.

Reminder: Innovation Summit - Dec 8th 2016

Don't forget to register for the 'meeting of minds' at the European Summit on Innovation for Active and Healthy Ageing in Brussels. Here we will be presenting insights from the Agile Ageing Roadshow and further exploring the co-creation of a European Reference Framework for age friendly homes.

To register, contact Horst.KRAEMER@ec.europa.eu ASAP as space is strictly limited. Final guest speakers will be announced very soon, but Jacky Marshall-Cyrus is already confirmed ahead of her attendance at the upcoming Giant health innovation event at London's South Bank – Nov 1618th.

Jacky has arranged free attendance to Giant for members of the Agile Ageing Alliance. You can register now by entering the code JACKIEMCGUEST.

BONUS FEATURE: "Meeting of minds", Microsoft Innovation Center Vlaanderen Genk, 19 Oct 2016

On October 19, the Agile Ageing Roadshow arrived in Genk at the Microsoft Innovation Center. 40+ highlevel representatives and entrepreneurs from care, ICT, design, property management and regional and European governments met to take a fresh look at innovating smarter new build and retro-fit home and neighbourhood environments. This was the 8th "meeting of minds" in a series of interconnected Open Innovation Workshops, organized by Utrecht University and Creative Skills for Life in collaboration with the European Commission to inform a European Reference Framework for Age-friendly Housing.

The event took place at the wonderful C-Mine – a refurbished coal mine that now serves as a business and cultural centre for the city of Genk. We were welcomed by the Mayor of Genk Wim Dries. The event started with an introduction by Carine Boonen from the Flemish Government who introduced the Flemish care strategy – an integrated approach to tackle the ongoing shift of care from hospitals and institutions to homes and neighbourhoods. This multi-stakeholder approach for digital innovation in health care provided an excellent framework for the day. During the day, thought leaders presented ongoing initiatives in the region, and participants discussed neighbourhoods of the future in 4 open innovation workshops.

Key insights and recommendations for the Reference Framework for Age-friendly Housing:

  • Flander's care strategy highlighted the relevance organizing innovation as a cross-sectoral process, involving different innovation eco-systems (at least those providing health and care, ICT, and housing) as well as end-users, living labs, government and a number of front-running regional research centres. The Flemish government is strongly involved with industrial policy to facilitate new cooperation models, focusing on lead-customers, entrepreneurship and sustainable business models.
  • An interesting discussion addressed the question whether new technology should be allowed to fail. Yves Rombauts and colleagues from inno.com, an enterprise architecture consultancy, highlighted that most innovations are bound to initially, at least to a degree. While in many sectors this is not a problem, in health care it has interesting ethical implications as to where to accept the possibility of failure, and how to assign responsibilities. For the reference framework this discussion highlights the importance of rethinking evidence about the effectiveness of home bound technological solutions. When we talk about innovation, unexpected effects will occur. The question then is where we can accept risks for failure and open a space for experimentation and co-creation, and where we need to avoid it following a more strictly evidence-based approach.
  • Albertine D'Oultremont and Jean Muysers spoke from their experience as end-users of digital health innovations. "So we go to school again" was Albertine's sharp summary of the situation – highlighting her interactions with the new digital world as both an opportunity for learning and a risk of overburdening. Key insight is that paternalistic approaches towards "smarter" age-friendly homes should be avoided, because we all also benefit from learning how to domesticate innovations. Finally, Jean emphasized that innovation is, first and foremost, a change of social practice entangled with new digital tech. This is not new, but ongoing for several decades already. A discussion of smarter neighbourhoods should not forget that a lot of smarter technology is already present in most European neighbourhoods.
  • This provided a nice segue to Chantal Vanoeteren's presentation about "The Caring Neighbourhood". She also emphasized that neighbourhoods are, most importantly, social systems and that the design of digital innovation should start from understanding neighbourhoods as social systems. She provided many interesting examples of urban design (not necessarily related to ageing or older people) as citizen-driven bottom up initiatives, and then introduced three examples of age-friendly neighbourhoods initiatives in Europe (Le Pouly, Abbeyfield co-housing, Buurtpensioen). Together with previous insights from the morning, her presentation strongly suggested that smarter neighbourhoods can already be studied in real life, as a knowledge base to think more realistically about user needs.
  • To conclude the morning, Lien van Malderen, reminded us that we should not forget that care and nursing homes remain an important element in a healthy mix of neighbourhood housing opportunities. But there is a need to fundamentally rethink the design of nursing homes! "It's not a 'right' of people to stay at home, it's a right of older people to choose where they want to live and decide what is best for them." We need to think about how to make the preferred place a home. "Making the nursing home a community hub" was another key message in Lien's talk – highlighting that we should reinvent institutional housing as a social and intergenerational space where people from different ages can come on a regular basis to meet, have a coffee or shop, as an integral part of the community.
  • During the afternoon, participants discussed the themes of "Alternative Financing, "Ethical Cities", "Retrofitting and Construction" and "Stimulating Entrepreneurship" in 8 Open Innovation Workshops. These were the most important results:
  • The need for flexible/adaptable solutions was highlighted. A life course perspective is crucial to take into account that technological competences are diverse (both within and across cohorts), and that needs change as we get older. The panel suggested an IKEA mode of providing smarter tech solutions, where citizens would have simple access to plug-and-play home modifications. Nota bene, an IKEA mode would also serve as a platform ecology that can allow entrepreneurs to bring their solution to the market. The IKEA mode would also allow for a wider co-creation mode of innovation to emerge, where end-users are in the driving seat of home and neighbourhood adaptions/changes.
  • The retrofitting group elaborated the idea of a label – conceived of as a good practice document. Such a label should provide guides about what counts as age-friendly, and what not. This will also stimulate companies to move into the space, by defining more clearly the emerging market, potential for RoI and directions for innovation. The group elaborated upon the idea in some detail – highlighting that different layers for the label are important, allowing users (citizens and companies) to "acquire" different degrees of age-friendliness. The BREEAM sustainability assessment for infrastructures and buildings was mentioned as a good role model. Age-friendliness is a multi-dimensional concept, and participants suggested a matrix-form for the label with different age-friendliness topics (well-being, accessibility, health, etc.) on one axis, and means to achieve them (program development, infrastructure, flexibility) on the other. Finally, governance of the label is important – decentral vs. central, voluntary vs. obligatory. Participants agreed that the label would finance itself – it will increase the value of properties, and so "the eco-system will invest".
  • Regarding financing, Social Impact Bonds were mentioned as an example (as an aside – health impact bonds are already being discussed in NL). In that scheme, key performance indicators are important for the different dimensions of age-friendliness, so that impact could be monitored. Such indicators would also serve the implementation of a label.
Please join our LinkedIn group to follow the roadshow: http://bit.ly/297aZF9

Until next month's AAA news, keep agile!

Agile Ageing Alliance: Connecting digital and social innovators in an ageing society

www.agileageing.eu / info@agileageing.com / @AgileAgeing / #AgileAgeingRoadshow

Image used with permission.