Sunday December 3rd, 2017 12:49

In the News December 2017 – Join the Agile Ageing ‘A Team’

InthenewsDec2017

This month’s 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…

Grand Challenges

‘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 info@agileageing.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”.

And Finally

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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Monday October 2nd, 2017 14:16

In the News October 2017 – The tide is turning

InthenewsOct2017

In a month where Australian centenarian and fundraiser Irene O’Shea became the world’s oldest skydiver (aged 101 and 39 days), we take a look in our work as the Agile Ageing Alliance at more inspiring stories about the changing face of ageing.

And if you don’t already, then be sure to follow Creative Skills for Life on twitter, where we continue sharing the best stories from around the world of creative ways to help those living with long-term or life limiting conditions.

Smart thinking

We kick off with this article about Lindera, a German start-up using c to offer older adults more personalised care in their homes.

Building on her experience working with Microsoft, CEO and co-founder Diana Heinrichs wants to use data science to create a greater understanding of how long older adults can live independently at home.

Diana asks, “Imagine if you could know the individual likelihood of why, when and where a person might fall? How many people and how much money could you save?”

Lindera’s solution was to build an app-based mobility test powered by cognitive computing.

She explains, “We designed an integrative model combining proven psychological tests with a mathematical analysis of the gait to calculate the individual likelihood of a fall and to then provide tailored recommendations. Our goal is to provide elders something easy to use themselves at home”.

According to Diana, the app is already showing results with insurance companies licensing the tool to better align their service to individual need while lowering costs, and patients receiving clearer fall prevention plans they can share with family and caregivers.

With many predictions around AI focusing on what we may lose, it’s interesting to see a real-world example of how it can positively impact our lives on an individual basis. And as more of us choose to age in place, the more we know about how we’re doing the better.

Never too young to start

Staying at home for as long as you can isn’t just about your physical capabilities. It’s also about the home in which you live.

This article in the Irish Examiner focused on former electronic engineer and now chief officer at Ireland’s Centre for Excellence in Universal Design, Gerald Craddock.

Unusually, Craddock began his preparations for ageing in place in his 30s, ‘future-proofing’ his home during renovations as he knew he and his wife wouldn’t want to leave their community. An environmental factor that has been found to promote wellbeing.

For him, this meant ensuring accessibility with a ramp and leaving enough space in specific areas for modifications later down the line, such as a downstairs shower or lift.

According to Craddock; “It’s part of our human nature that we don’t think of ourselves getting old or think of ourselves as old, but design can have a significant impact on our environment, so it’s thinking in advance that is the key”.

With their population segment aged over-65 increasing in number faster than any other EU country, and an infrastructure set to be around for another 90 years (according to Craddock), adapting existing homes in Ireland will be key.

AAA is certain that the market for adapting homes to age in place will become huge. And it will be interesting to see if fitting luxury items like entertainment systems while that happens might become the norm. Maybe delivering games to positively impact both body and mind.

Very far away?

Talking of the future of gaming, this absorbing article in Wired explored the challenges faced when making brain training games. It focused on the work of cognitive neuroscientist Adam Gazzaley, creator of Neuroscape – a new research institute at the University of California, San Francisco.

Since their work began, Gazzaley has been addressing the challenge of proving the efficacy of brain games – what psychologists call ‘far transfer’. With much debate in the arena between scientists and companies pertaining to their actual impact, Gazzley is positive the evidence will come.

He says; “I think we will unlock the potential to optimize our cognitive abilities and our emotional regulation in a way that we have never seen before. I do believe that. Is that overselling it? Who knows. I’d rather be proven wrong in 15 years”.

What is certain, the amount of research addressing the challenges faced in ageing societies will continue growing. And if this finds ways to extend our health without the need for medication or surgery, this must be good.

In fact the same can be said for stories about ageing – a point echoed by Paula Span in her latest ‘New Old Age’ blog in the New York Times.

Fresh content

Often focusing on the challenges faced in caregiving, Paula’s blog regularly looks for fresh, personalised perspectives in what can be complex and sensitive issues.

In her own words; “The ranks of caregivers, both familial and professional, keep growing. Researchers and physicians learn more about ageing bodies and minds, what helps and what doesn’t; public policy changes, but not fast enough. There’s always more to talk about.”

What we may see less of however – as reaching the ripe age of 100 become the norm – are wonderful articles like this from Emine Saner in the Guardian – ‘How to live to 100 and be happy (by those who have done it!)’.

As the article states; “According to the Office for National Statistics, the number of people aged 100 or more has quadrupled over the last two decades, and there are now a record number of centenarians in the UK: 14,570 at the last count”.

Which leads us to our final article – a recent interview between Appello UK’s Tim Barclay and Agile Ageing’s Ian Spero asking ‘Are housing providers ready for a revolution in long term care?’

In it, Ian outlines the big challenges and opportunities faced. But also, how small changes like imagining we are talking about ourselves when we talk about ageing can play a part in helping design the future we want to see.

As Ian says; “Let’s face it – we are all ageing and it makes more sense to think about what we as individuals will want and expect in terms of our lifestyle, care and housing provision in later life”.

That’s it for this month. If you enjoyed the stories you saw here then be sure to follow us on twitter, where we share daily the best stories pertaining to agile ageing from around the world.

Until next month, #BeAgile!

Image used with permission: Copyright.

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