AAA™: In the News January 2017

Researching our upcoming report on how new technologies and joined up thinking will transform our homes and improve our quality of life - written in partnership with retirement home industry leaders McCarthy & Stone - has given us a great deal of hope for the future. Not only is there a wealth of products making their way onto the market to support our ageing society, but the number of organisations getting behind the issue is increasing too.

The Guardian for example, has just launched an in depth investigation into retirement and ageing, following a call for readers to recount their experiences of ageing. The response, said the paper, revealed the breadth of issues people are facing and so led them to expand their report over several weeks to cover the multitude of issues that came up - work, wellbeing, housing, money, transport and health.

According to its author, journalist Amelia Hill: "Our vastly improved life expectancy, which is growing by five hours a day, was one of the great triumphs of the last century. It is now, however, the source of the greatest challenges – and opportunities – of this era."

We look forward hugely to seeing the series develop. Not only because it confirms the importance of our work with the Agile Ageing Alliance, but also the need for us to continue promoting the programmes and products being created to support us as we age at home.

New for old

Two events we highlighted recently are doing just that - the new Design Museum's exhibition 'New Old: Designing for our Future Selves', and the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

According to Jeremy Myerson, curator of New Old, the innovations on show - which included next-gen scooters for older people, smart furniture that follows you around the room, and power-assisted underwear - reflect that; "The "new old" are tech savvy, mobile, often still in work, and simply won't put up with clumsy plastic loo seats and excessively padded shoes any more. "This is the rock'n'roll generation. They know about design and they're demanding more."

Now in its 30th year, this year's New Old exhibition also took a turn for the philosophical by including some forward thinking extrapolation on technology we use today, such as Apple's Siri or Microsoft's Cortana. According to design and innovation consultancy Ideo, these digital assistants may "become even more sophisticated, entering our bloodstream in the form of nanobots and helping to guide personal decision-making for our entire lives."

Thought provoking stuff for sure, the likes of which we are sure to hear more of as AI becomes more integrated with the new technologies. But what about more day-to-day items? Walking canes for example, they're fairly simple, right? Not so, according to recent reports from this year's CES.

Canes of the near future will use software to learn our walking habits which can then be used to alert carers if something is amiss. What's more, hearing aids will start connecting with our smart smoke alarms and doorbells, stream music and answer phone calls.

This wealth of new tech coming out right now is dizzying. Our work with the AAL Forum has proven that it takes more than just a great idea however, to bring sustainable innovations/ideas to market. Users need to learn about them, feel comfortable with them, and their developers need to understand this interaction. But as we see products like Activ84healthare, winner of AAL's 2016 smart Ageing Prize, using Google Maps to encourage both physical and memory exercises, then it makes us very hopeful this balance can be found.

People power

As we wait for more of these technological marvels to unfold, we shouldn't forget that people themselves offer a great deal of hope for what can be achieved with the possible gift of a longer life. 56 year old US astronaut Peggy Whitson (pictured, along with Expedition 50 Commander Shane Kimbrough) for example, is now the oldest woman to have ever been in space, and this year became the oldest person to ever perform a spacewalk.

The 'unstoppable' Whitson, who will deliver maintenance to the International Space Station, said; "I love being in space. I sleep like a baby. I mean, it is amazing the great sleep. Nothing hurts when you're lying in bed. You can sleep the whole night through."

And then we have the remarkable French cyclist Robert Marchand who in his 105th year set a new record by cycling 14 miles in just one hour, beating the existing record he set himself back in 2012. "I did not see the sign warning me I had 10 minutes left," he said. "Otherwise I would have gone faster, I would have posted a better time. I'm now waiting for a rival."

Having started his cycling career aged a mere 68, his coach Gerard Mistler, said that he would not be surprised to see Marchand continue cycling. "Setting goals for himself is part of his personality," he said. "If he tells me he wants to improve his record, I'll be game. Robert is a great example for all of us."

We couldn't have put it better ourselves. And as more organisations get behind moving ageing up the agenda, and innovators create more products to support us as we age, then we are filled with hope that more of us will be setting records. With or without nanobots.

Until next month, stay agile!

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

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

Image Credit: NASA