AAA™ – In the news March 2017 – Who’s Building a Stronger Society?

What a great start to the year. Agile Ageing has launched its brand new website, released a visionary report on the future of Cognitive Homes in an ageing society (downloadable now for free). And next up the Agile Ageing Alliance (AAA) will be furthering its European agenda towards a Reference Framework for Age-friendly Housing at the European Commission in Brussels April 26th, to be followed by our Neighbourhoods of the Future 2017 launch: The Shape of Things to Come. Taking place on May 10/11 at NatWest HQ London, in partnership with the UK Government Cabinet Office; Departments of: Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy; Health; Communities and Local Government; Science; Innovate UK and Made Possible by Swiss Re. This is the opportunity to hear from leading experts; speak with influential thought leaders and decision makers; and network with peers. Have your say, register here.

Before you do though, have a look through this month's digest of the best stories from around the world on ageing in an ageing society. It features octogenarian entrepreneurs, some startling spending figures and even a little advice for a happier home.

Money Talks

We begin with this fantastic introduction to the huge potential offered by an ageing society. In it, author Eillie Anzilotti argues that if we can break down generational barriers and create new ways for knowledge and experience to be shared then; 'Our Aging Population Can Be An Economic Powerhouse–If We Let It'.

Anzilotti highlights the fact that in the US alone the 106 million people over the age of 50 spend around $4.6 trillion on products and services. She also introduces Paul Irving, the chair of the Center for the Future of Aging at the Milken Institute, who as a boomer working with millennials has seen 'first-hand how people of different ages can collaborate to produce innovative business solutions'.

Of the opportunities this creates, Irving says; "If I were advising a tech entrepreneur today about how to compose her workforce, rather than telling her to go hire two twenty-something Stanford grads with engineering degrees or two 65-year-olds who used to work in the aerospace industry, I'd tell her to hire one of each—one will bring the creativity and risk-taking, and the other will bring the experience and ability to see across sectors".

The benefits of what Anzilotti calls the 'longevity economy' are getting harder to ignore. She cites BMW's recent initiative to address an ageing workforce by trialling ways to incorporate older workers into every aspect of production. The project - which made a number of small changes to their production line management such as working hours or comfort, and with minimal investment - 'brought about a 7% increase in productivity'. And better still it contradicted many of the fears from the younger workforce that productivity would be slowed down.

Greater recognition of the societal, financial and practical benefits of breaking down generational barriers is sure to encourage more initiatives like that of BMW's. And with AI set to radically alter work as we know it, the potential for older, more experienced workers to help shape what comes next is huge.

A Little Application

Perhaps we could nominate leaders of this intergenerational revolution? Older people already using technology and experience to open new doors of possibility. We might start by considering Japan's 81-year-old Masako Wakamiya, an octogenarian proving age or inexperience doesn't always limit innovation.

According to this recent article, Wakamiya, who bought her first computer aged just 60, began talking to others online and found a new purpose in life after being forced to retire after 43 years in banking. From there, she; "used everything she knew about code to produce an iPhone app, and wants to inspire other seniors to do the same". Based on a traditional Japanese holiday, the app allows the player to "arrange a series of dolls in a specific order, guided by 'beeps' of either approval or disapproval". And having already given a TEDxTokyo talk about her experience, she now runs a website for other senior computer users offering Excel art tutorials and other guides.

So, that's one more app than most of us have created. But it does suggest that with just a little application, then we might all have something to offer in this age of innovation.

It's Good to Talk

One place we might focus is on the emerging world of voice control, where devices like Amazon's Echo and Alexa are helping us look beyond the screen and toward domestic devices capable of learning about us and our needs. Read our report for a more detailed review of some of the many new AI-powered products like 'smart' walking sticks or fridges, but this recent article is a good place to start if you're still unsure how voice control will support us as we age at home.

Capable of connecting you to the internet, your media and indeed your home – devices like Amazon's Alexa can learn more about your tastes and scheduled activities the more you use it. And there is even the option to add functionality such as the ability to order an Uber or tell you if there's any delays on public transport. It can even use IFTTT (if this then that), so if for example you make a shopping list, it then emails it to you.

According to the article; "The aim of Alexa is that it will eventually be able to answer any question (within reason) and carry out hundreds of tasks that you currently use your computer, phone or tablet for, all by speaking to it".

As more of us live at home for longer, then technologies like this are going to make it easier to remain independent and connected as we do. But what about those who wish to remain close to their families, what advice is there for families who wish to stay together for longer? Step in Dr Silvia Dillon.

Everybody Needs Good Neighbours

This sensitive, if not provocatively titled article, looked at some of the families addressing our ageing society by sticking together. It revealed that; "Multi-generational living, as it's known, is on the rise. The Office for National Statistics estimates there are now 419,000 multi-generational households, which is up from an estimated 325,000 in 2001. And it's an idea supported by the Government."

To add some context, Dr Dillon states that; "Most older people don't like becoming more dependent. They often go through a grieving process for what they've lost, which could be their health, independence and their home. So it's important to be sensitive and mindful of this when trying to help".

This approach won't be possible for everyone of course, but what it did leave us with is a sense of hope as more people realise that we cannot continue to separate ourselves as we age and that we can support each other as we do. The age of relying on state care is ending, and the sooner we all realise this the sooner we can do something about it.

That's it for now, so until next month stay agile!

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

info@agileageing.org / @AgileAgeing / #AgileAgeingRoadshow

Image used with permission: Copyright Ion Chiosea