Following the publication of the AAA’s white paper ‘Neighbourhoods of the Future: Better Homes for Older Adults – Improving Health, Care, Design and Technology’, we have been talking with public, private and third sector stakeholders about how best to translate our vision into physical and sustainable reality. To this end, last month AAA joined forces with Nesta’s Challenge Prize Centre to co-create a workshop hosted by NatWest at their London HQ.
Neighbourhoods of the Future: Framing the Challenge
AAA invited 40 expert stakeholders including start-ups, policymakers, big corporates and academics who were asked to work together, in a spirit of open innovation, to break down the challenges in developing and delivering the benefits of a ‘cognitive home’ in our smarter connected neighbourhoods of the future.
Before you do however, take a few moments to catch up with this month's most popular stories about ageing.
Revolution in the Air
We kick off with this month's most clicked article - an interview with social anthropologist and author Dave Prendergast by care specialists Elder, exploring the potential for technology to revolutionise later life.
Based at Intel, Dave was approached by Berghan Books to put together what the Huffington Post have called 'one of the two most fascinating books on aging in the 21st Century’.
In the article, Dave discusses what his research for ‘Aging and the Digital Life Course' revealed about the needs of older people, and how emerging tech will change how we age.
Dave’s thinking is completely aligned to the AAA’s mission. Here is a taster:
“I believe that we have to design technologies that unfold, and that grows with the user. If you’re using a piece of technology for the first time, then we should make sure it’s simple and preferably use metaphors, familiar to the age cohort, within the design…Let’s make technology interesting and let’s make it fun for everyone, including those in later life.
“If it is possible to keep people out of hospitals and living independently for as long as possible, then that can only be a good thing...Digital Health technologies focused on things such as chronic disease management, falls prediction and detection, and care coordination can help with that, but we should be aware that homes can also become prisons. There are over a million older people who eat Christmas dinner by themselves in the UK each year – and we need to be thinking about how we design ‘ageing in the community’ not just within the bricks and mortar of the home. In the bigger picture, we have to make sure we are building companionship care into the equation with technology and not just replacing people with robots.”
It’s a shame the book’s priced at a point where many curious readers might not be able to afford it (£75)*, but there’s no doubting the issues it covers are important. We look forward to hearing more from Dave as we believe work like this will help change perceptions about our ability to revolutionise ageing.
*Correction - Since publishing, Dave has kindly pointed out that a paperback version of ‘Aging and the Digital Life Course' is also available direct from Berghahn Books at £24. So if you were looking for your next big read then he's just made it even easier for you!
In the Driving Seat
Tech’s power to support our ageing societies is a discussion taking place globally. This article in the South China Morning Post revealed how biomedical engineering is now seen as a potential driver of the Hong Kong economy - growing in popularity as a means of assisting well-being. In this case to accelerate recovery for stroke survivors.
According to the article; “Professor Raymond Tong Kai-yu, who heads Chinese University’s newly set-up biomedical engineering department, designed an award-winning robotic hand, which is dubbed the ‘Hand of Hope’”.
His ‘hand’ helps stroke survivors regain motor function after they leave hospital. It acts by assisting the user to open and close the hand, and according to Professor Kai-yu the brain learns to perform these actions again without the hand after just 20 sessions.
It’s a lovely story, but more importantly it’s encouraging to see more organisations realising that emerging tech can change how we live for the better and promote this as a driver for economic growth. As Ian said, ageing doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom.
Another positive story we came across this month, was this announcement by Aviva UK. We’re surprised it didn’t get more traction in the press as it surely marks the beginning of a new trend, but it follows their Chief Exec Andy Briggs’ recent appointment as the government’s tsar for older workers.
Having forecast a £25bn boost to the economy by hiring older people, Briggs has put his company at the forefront of the push for better age representation in the UK workforce by promising to increase the number of people aged over 50 by 4000 – equating to 20% of their workforce.
Following his call for a minimum of 12% of people aged over 50 in UK workforces, three other large UK businesses (Co-op, Boots and Barclays) agreed to introduce what is being a called a ‘silver quota’.
According to the article; “Mr Briggs reiterated that he wanted to set an example by exceeding the 12% figure, adding that he also wants his workforce ‘to be reflective of both the communities we work in and of the customers we serve’ as life expectancy in Britain rises”.
We have no doubts we’ll see more such announcements. Not simply because this better represents our society, but also due to the benefits of creating a more even balance of experience across large businesses. What is interesting, is if this same approach can be applied to SMEs. It’s one thing to have a young team responding quickly to constantly evolving tech, but who’s steering the ship as they do?
Companies retaining older workers is becoming an increasingly popular topic. We saw another great story this month in the New York Times, which found a company going that extra mile by helping older workers transfer to warmer climates during the winter to ensure they retain them in the workforce.
Also worth checking out are the outcomes from The Atlantic’s annual ‘The New Old Age’ event. It brings together “top experts on ageing for a frank discussion of age discrimination and to explore relevant issues ranging from ageing in place to longevity and work”. Plenty of food for thought.
And finally, Agile Ageing's Ian Spero has been named number 4 in a list of the world’s top ageing influencers you should know about, by Aging in Place - the USA’s leading source of information, advice and inspiration for ageing in place. AIP founder Patrick Roden PHD says Ian is; “A deep thinker with an analytic perspective…he is one to follow as a thought leader on ageing and the environment".
According to Patrick, Ian's latest blog "...is thought provoking and a call to action”. Be sure to read it then, if you haven't already!
So that’s it for this month. Be sure to follow us on twitter if you don’t already, and keep an eye out for more about the Open Innovation Challenge.
Until then, #BeAgile!
Image used with permission. Copyright.