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6 Insights For Navigating The WHO'​s Decade Of Healthy Ageing

The World Health Organisation are hoping to unite governments, civil society, international agencies, professionals, academia, the media, and the private sector for ten years of concerted action to improve the lives of older people, their families, and the communities in which they live.

While attempting to foretell the future will always be problematic, there is no risk in predicting that the WHO's Decade of Healthy Ageing (2020-2030) will throw up many challenges. That said, even moderate success could prove to be a genuine game changer, so the AAA will definitely get behind this bold initiative. To get the ball rolling, with the new decade fast approaching, here are 6 expert insights worth thinking about.

1. A System-Wide Response

Wendy Tindale OBE, is AAA’s go-to thought leader in matters relating to innovation in integrated health and care. Winner of the UK Healthcare Scientist of the Year, Wendy is Clinical Director of the national NIHR Devices for Dignity MedTech Co-operative:

“Many individuals are encountering difficulties living in their own home due to the collective effect of ageing, frailty and overlapping complications of long term conditions. This has contributed to year-on-year increases in admissions to hospital. Patients are delayed in being discharged, due to waiting for care packages to be available at home.

The need for a system-wide response and shared responsibility not only means investment and re-allocation of resources in health and care services, but also investment in future homes, wider services, and co-production with the populations we are seeking to support. Technology has the capacity to create efficiencies in the delivery of health and care. We need creative approaches to using assistive technologies, and novel service design to meet the wide variety of circumstances, aspirations and needs of people as they age.”

2. The Current Paradigm is Obsolete

Peter Lloyd-Sherlock, Alex Kalache, Tom Kirkwood, Martin McKee and Martin Prince believe the Decade of Healthy Ageing represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to break down barriers between health services and long-term care.

Writing in the Lancet, the UK and Brazil based researchers claim: “The current paradigm, a binary distinction between health-service provision and social care for frail older people, is obsolete”. They would like to see structural integration to fundamentally change models of training, enhance resource allocation, service coordination, and person-centred care.

3. Combat Loneliness and Improve Mental Health

Manisha Pattel Senior Partner at PRP architects, acts as a Mayor of London Design Advocate and has developed a new typology which facilitates age-friendly housing and multi-generational living.

“Older generations need to be integrated where they can contribute to the diversity and embedded knowledge of a community. Such integration can help combat loneliness and failing mental health among both young and old. There is a "longevity dividend", the socio-economic benefit revolving around those who are retired or semi-retired but who remain fully active. This has untapped potential to yield benefits alongside those of the regeneration premium which estate regeneration promotes.”

4. Time to Reimagine Social Housing

Poor housing creates hazards that cost the NHS an estimated £2.5 billion per year. Future homes will have an even greater effect on health and wellbeing as technologies develop that mean they are increasingly used as places of work and care.

In England alone 670,000 people have a diagnosis of dementia and one in three older adults will die from the disease. Most will die in a care home (63%) or a hospital (30%). Only 6% will die in their own home.

Designing Inclusive Environments  

Paul Quinn, Director of Regeneration, Clarion Housing Group, the UK’s largest social housing organisation and landlord, aims to “push the envelope of what it is possible to achieve in an urban regeneration and community development project.”

“We are thinking about building a technologically enabled community, from the ground up. Where people of all abilities can live alongside one another without it being some sort of social experiment or intervention, but instead just good, thoughtful design with older people and some of society’s most vulnerable individuals and their carers at its heart. Working in partnership with the Agile Ageing Alliance, this is how we at Clarion hope to contribute to the Decade of Healthy Ageing.”

5. Whose Moral Compass will be factored into the Technology?

Sharing ideas, content and co-creating socially responsible solutions raises ethical issues pertaining to fairness, ownership and privacy. Bringing together SMEs, Industry and the public sector adds to these complications. AAA’s legal partner’ A City Law Firm has significant expertise in this space. A word of caution from Founder Karen Holden:

“By their nature, new technologies tend to be invasive. With an overwhelming volume of data already being generated, failure to properly protect data is an ever growing concern, especially in the context of healthcare. This is particularly true for any technology designed for the home, and especially the homes of potentially vulnerable people.

With large conglomerates controlling the advancing technologies, it is important that some form of human element is retained in this process. Technology will continue to shape our society. The process of guiding this development into an ethical path should not be left to a single party, be it the developers and owners of the technology, or the legislators. This debate will affect all of our lives, and we must all have a voice in it.”

6. Responsible Research and Innovation

The concept of ethical and social responsibility should extend to research, according to Jack Stilgoe, a lecturer in social studies of science, at AAA partner’ University College London.

Jack believes Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) will re-orientate research from ‘can this make money?’ to ‘how can this fulfil the needs of society within the market?’
“As a society, we face great challenges, from healthy ageing to sustainability, and from global health to resource security.

Over the last few decades, we have seen many experiments that foster involvement of the public in discussions and policy decisions regarding science, collaboration between scientists, ethicists and social scientists, open source and user-driven innovation, citizen science and more besides. We should encourage such experiments, join them up and demand a response from the institutions that fund, regulate and govern science and innovation.

Scientists and innovators should be encouraged to take responsibility for the futures they help shape. But the responsibility is not individual, nor is it theirs alone. The challenge is to find collective ways to take care of the future.”

And the last word goes to 'EGen', a partnership between the Bartlett Real Estate Institute at UCL, the National Archive of Computerized Data on Aging at the University of Michigan, and the IAFOR Research Centre at Osaka University:

"Growth of the world’s population over 60 has never been a “tidal wave” – merely the expected and predictable result of improved worldwide health. Like any issue, you can transform a process into a crisis by the simple act of ignoring its existence."

All the best for a healthy, happy, prosperous and agile new decade.