This month’s AAA review covers a wide spectrum of interesting age-related titbits, from the government’s Industrial Strategy, to AI and Elon Musk’s mom. Read on…
‘Ageing Society’ has been selected as one of four new Industrial Strategy Grand Challenges which will receive a share of £725 million to harness the power of innovation to help meet the needs of an ageing society.
According to the government policy paper; “Ageing populations will create new demands for technologies, products and services, including new care technologies, new housing models and innovative savings products for retirement. We have an obligation to help our older citizens lead independent, fulfilled lives, continuing to contribute to society. If we succeed, we will create an economy which works for everyone, regardless of age”.
There is also a significant pot of European funding to tap into. On December 5th, the Agile Ageing Alliance and Knowledge Transfer Network are organising a creative workshop where we aim to select a group of multi-disciplinary stakeholders who will work together to explore concepts that address a new Horizon 2020 Challenge: “Adaptive smart working and living environments supporting active and healthy ageing”.
Our objective is to help construct the UK component of an ‘A Team’, capable of winning a healthy 3 to 4 million Euro grant.
We are also planning a follow up in Brussels during January where we will bring together European stakeholders to complete the team. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in participating.
Ecology of Ageing
Written by its Chair, Paul Burstow, our first article introduces Transform Ageing - a programme aimed at 'breaking down some of the barriers that obstruct innovation and solutions'.
The programme is a collaboration between the Design Council, UnLtd, the South West Academic Health Science Network and the Centre for Ageing Better - using a £3.65m grant from the Big Lottery Fund.
Led by older adults through Design Council facilitated sessions, it unites “older people, community groups, commissioners and social entrepreneurs to tackle some of the biggest challenges facing us as we age”.
According to Paul; “The way we respond to the human needs of an ageing society needs a new approach. We need to look beyond the medical to understand the ecology of ageing, of the psychosocial, economic and environmental”.
To this end, Pauls continues; “UnLtd has issued the first of four call outs offering awards between £5,000 and £15,000. The aim is to start developing a pipeline of social entrepreneurs who can respond to the design briefs and the wealth of learning from the workshops and community research”.
This is fantastic to see and an approach we wholly endorse. As AAA’s Ian Spero said in his latest blog about setting a roadmap toward creating the cognitive home; “The ageing population is a major socio-economic shift associated with both opportunities and challenges. Opportunities for social innovation to move away from outmoded conceptions of age that will lead to a richer set of possibilities later in life, and challenges most notably relating to an increased demand for health and social care”.
An Intelligent Approach
The fact that all the big tech players are now looking at the opportunities and challenges in our ageing society proves this is an issue few can ignore for much longer. In this article for example, we learnt how IBM are now using artificial intelligence to improve their ability to spot trends and changes in our behaviour to support ageing populations.
To do so, they have teamed up with University of California San Diego as part of their Cognitive Horizons Network, a research collective focused on the emerging fields of Internet of Things, AI and machine learning.
The backbone of the research, says the article, is looking at daily behavioural patterns using discreet sensors in some elder care facilities - allowing them to spot consistent patterns in behaviour and then how they may change as they age, and then if you need support or intervention.
According to Susann Keohane, founder of IBM’s Aging-in-Place Research Lab; “Aging isn’t a disease - we’re all doing it. But it does have impact on health. So, could we surround ourselves with emerging technology in the home, while assuring the privacy and security that comes with health care and design something that will help someone understand how well they’re aging in place?”
The thought of having sensors around your home isn’t for everyone. But knowing you can be alerted if a loved one needs your help - even if it isn't immediate, or that you yourself are starting to display cognitive changes that may affect your decision-making process, is powerful indeed. We’ll be keeping a close eye on their progress.
A Fresh Perspective
On a slightly different note, this piece from author Lynn M. Spreen caught our eye as it argues that companies should be more ambitious with the products or services they offer older adults. And a lot less patronising with their marketing.
Leading with the call to arms that the ‘over 60 consumer wants more than pill reminder systems’, she refers to Joseph Coughlin, Director of the MIT AgeLab who; “In spite of the fact that older people are living longer and better, [he says] his business students are stuck”. Coughlin continues; “I can’t tell you how many pill reminder systems I have seen (pitched to investors)”.
This current approach is clearly wrong for two reasons at least. Firstly, every person’s needs are different no matter their age, and secondly some are now working into their 70s or beyond and can therefore afford - and are likely to be interested in - a much broader range of products.
Lynn contrasts the statistics on the size of the group she is talking about (increasing by the year), the rate of tech adoption in that group (also increasing), and the idiotic headlines in magazines promoting products aimed at older people.
She says; “Corporate America just can’t seem to leave behind the image of people our age as doddering old fools. Besides pill reminder systems, they think we’re stupid about tech”. She continues; “I’d write more, but I need to get outside and do my morning walk while dictating the next chapter of my novel using Google Docs on my smartphone”.
Kicking off a summary of other interesting articles spotted this month is this hugely popular article in Elle UK by presenter, writer and campaigner June Sarpong MBE – who now aged 40 is excited by the wisdom and experience that age brings – a perspective she believes should carry through into every decade that follows. As June says; “…age is not a reason to place limits, but rather a reason to avoid limitations in the first place and, more importantly, to value yourself, whatever your age”.
Then we have this article about Stanford University celebrating 10 years of driving the discussion on longevity, which according to their press release has helped make that discussion ‘both more inclusive and more optimistic’.
And finally, we have this article from The Cut about CoverGirl’s first 69-year-old spokesmodel and ambassador - Maye Musk. With a mother who refused to quit working until she was 96, and a son (Elon) who is changing the world as we know it, Maye believes ageing has only made her wiser. In her own words; “Everyday life is a little better”.
And so, on that note we say don’t forget to follow us on twitter, where every day we share the best stories about ageing.
Until next month, stay agile!
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