Wednesday November 8th, 2017 09:23

In the News November 2017 – Billions of reasons to #BeAgile

In the news_Nov 2017

Following the publication of the Agile Ageing Alliance’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.

You can find out more about the Challenge here, and even more about our work in Ian Spero’s latest and provocative blog – ‘“The Elderly” = Doom, Gloom and Alarm. It’s Time to Press Reset’.

Before you do however, take a few moments to catch up with this month’s most popular stories from our work as the Agile Ageing Alliance. And if you don’t already, then make 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.

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 ageing 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.

Still Working

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?

And Finally

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 AAA 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.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Sections: CSL In The News

Tuesday July 5th, 2016 09:00

Never Underestimate the Power of a Small Group of Committed People


Not a great week to be British. I am in Germany when Nigel Farage proudly takes credit for achieving his lifelong ambition – to march the UK out of the European Union.

My colleagues, a convivial multinational mix of technologists, academics and SMEs want to know why the Brits want a divorce after all these years. I begin by saying we don’t really feel that way. I waffle about giving the establishment a good kicking, about Farage and Johnsons’ empty promises, of second referendums, and of Cameron’s wretched campaign which didn’t even begin to remind voters of what makes being a European so brilliant.

But my heart’s not in it. It’s like trying to undo a particularly embarrassing incident following a heavy night out, whilst simultaneously trying to deal with a raging hangover. To my surprise, I’m not being given a hard time. Everyone is truly empathetic. Whilst they are concerned about the impact on the wider European project and the way society is veering right, a trend not exclusive to the UK or Europe of course, the group wants to talk about how we can make our project more inclusive.

We are meeting near Frankfurt to discuss launch plans for universAAL IoT, an interoperable open source platform which aims to liberate the Internet of Things, by facilitating rapid development of smart IoT enabled solutions that provide greater choice and mobility when we reach later life.

Funded by the European Commission, and lead partners Fraunhofer, Europe’s largest application-oriented research organization, together with Valencia and Madrid Universities, universAAL is geared entirely to people’s needs, especially those in need of a little extra TLC.

Which brings me to the point of this blog: working together towards a brighter future. If we don’t want to become part of Nigel Farage’s little England, Marine Le Pen’s fractured France, or the xenophobic vision of myriad other would-be dictators, we must find new ways of caring and collaborating in the service of the fundamental principles of international cooperation and creative solidarity.

A Joint Social Venture

As regular readers will know, I’m working together with Alexander Peine of Utrecht University, leading a pan-European outreach programme in a concerted effort to realise the potential of our neighbourhoods of the future to serve as a catalyst for social change and economic growth.

Sponsored by the European Commission and national partner organisations our events are focused on building consensus towards a new European reference framework on Age Friendly Homes, identifying market potential and investment opportunities to realize growth and impact in Europe’s health/care, ICT and smart home/construction sectors and inspire a fresh demand-led vision for digital innovation.

Our ambition is to see smart(er) homes and urban environments enhance social engagement and empower an ageing population to live more ‘agile’ lives.

With a view to encouraging ongoing interaction beyond the events we have set up the Agile Ageing Alliance (AAA), which aims to engage like-minded stakeholders in a united drive to boost knowledge and commercialisation of innovative solutions that promote agile ageing at home and in the community.

Since May AAA has staged ‘meetings of minds’ in Brussels, London, Arnhem and Bilbao. Next stop is Barcelona for the Ethical Cities: Urban Innovation Forum in partnership with the European presence of RMIT University Australia and the UN Global Compact – Cities Programme.

What is evident from these events is the Brits tend to be on the front line when it comes to networking and engaging in international alliances. We may have opted out of the European Union, but our entrepreneurs, scientists, technologists, academics, health and care practitioners, together with the wider creative community and many many others are still passionate about cross border collaboration.

Health as a Social Moment

Resonating with the aims and aspirations of AAA, one of my favourite Neighbourhoods of the Future sessions in London was organised by the RSA and Nesta looking at health as a social movement.

Introducing the open innovation workshop, Rowan Conway, Director of Research and Innovation at the RSA said “Never Underestimate the Power of a Small Group of Committed People”, a sentiment which is open to interpretation as we contemplate the future today.

In terms of output we heard about all sorts of clever, inspirational and potentially disruptive concepts. See what you make of these ideas and have your say here.

That’s about it for this momentous month. If you would like to attend one of our events and/or are interested in joining the Agile Ageing Alliance, get involved with our LinkedIn Group.

Collaborating in a spirit of open innovation, our alliance is committed to sharing knowledge and collaboration. We may have lost the referendum but that does not mean we should be retreating into our own shells and silos, the Agile Ageing Alliance is open for business and you are most welcome to join in.

Image by RMIT/istockphoto, with kind permission for use.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Sections: CSL Insights

Sunday June 26th, 2016 20:52

We Can Be Heroes

This morning I woke to learn of the sad death of Muhammad Ali, one of my childhood heroes. As I sat down to write this blog, rich memories of Ali and other larger than life icons recently passed come flooding back. Prince, a musical maverick and pioneer who bridged many genres and struck a powerful chord with black and white artists and audiences alike. And David Bowie, the creative genius who inspired self-expression without constraint.

Our heroes come in myriad flavours; champions, pioneers and visionaries who know no boundaries, inspiring us to venture beyond our respective comfort zones and explore our own potential. Some of our heroes are friends and family, most we know through media. Occasionally you simply come across a brilliant individual who radiates confidence, charisma and charm, someone who captures your imagination.

I was fortunate enough to meet a new hero recently. He is an 88 year old scientist, who became an honorary member of the European Space Agency in 1975, and in 1983 founded the Brunel Institute for Bioengineering, which is involved in biological research during weightless space-flight.

Today Professor Heinz Wolff is focusing on another daunting challenge, how affordable care can be provided in the context of increasing demand due to the ageing population and medical improvements. As you can see from this short video, Heinz is extremely passionate about his subject. When we first spoke Heinz told me that a Victorian old lady (though old was a good deal younger than it is now) would probably have been cared for more humanely than a single frail elderly person is today.

Heinz’s solution’ ‘Give & Take Care’ was awarded £1 million as part of Innovate UK’s ‘Long Term Care Revolution’ National Challenge. He recently spoke about the project at the Neighbourhoods of the Future roadshow which I chaired in collaboration with Professor Alexander Peine of Utrecht University, on behalf of the European Commission.

First and foremost it’s worth pointing out that Heinz believes there is far too much gratuitous use of technology today. He says that care should not be provided by technology, but by human hands, with technology serving an enabler to make the process easier.

Based on the idea of ‘mutual exchange’, people take part in Give & Take Care through supporting or caring for an older person in their community. Heinz believes that caring for each other will ease the pressure on Government social and health services so that they will be able to focus on critical and specialised cases.

The hours of support the care givers provide are recorded and they get credits – or ‘GATs’ – for each hour of care they have undertaken. They can then use their GATs in the future towards their own care or that of a friend or relative. Give & Take Care is effectively a pension scheme – the GAT pension™ supported by the Co-operative Bank, where the contributions and returns are made in time rather than money.

One of the important features of the scheme is that it occupies what is a new space outside government, business and indeed the established third sector. According to Heinz this neutrality is essential to persuading people that Give & Take Care is immune from the vicissitudes of political, commercial and financial change and the hours banked with the scheme are safe and secure for the future.

The Art of Collaboration

Aligning the interests of the private, public, and third sectors was a common theme across the two day “meeting of minds” staged at NatWest HQ in London May 11 and 12. 200 key stakeholders and thought leaders from the digital, construction, health/social care, finance, security, academic and 3rd sectors engaged in a stimulating dialogue about adopting a Europe wide approach to age-friendly homes and Smart Neighbourhoods of the Future.

The objective is to inform a European Reference Framework for Age-friendly Housing which aims to identify the key features that make homes suitable for healthy and active ageing as well as providing recommendations for a set of complementary actions at EU, national and regional level to increase the number of age-friendly (or inclusive) homes – both smart new build and retrofit – and urban environments across Europe.

Three themes transcended many of the keynote presentations and open innovation workshops:


Funding. We have to rethink the way projects are funded. New forms of collaboration involving private and public sectors are necessary to inspire start-ups, SME’s and corporate brands to innovate, drive growth and achieve scale and sustainability.

Technology. We are on the cusp of a new technological revolution with IoT and M2M acting as catalysts which will empower older adults to enjoy more independent lives. However, we cannot and must not lose the human touch.

Inter-generational Knowledge Exchange. There is an appetite to share information, collaborate and co-create. Participants – of all ages – really enjoyed the opportunity to share ideas and strike up conversations that may well lead to collaborations with stakeholders from sectors they would not normally engage or socialise with.


This last point was further explored in a session led by the RSA and Nesta, which looked at health and well-being in an ageing society as a “Social Movement”, a voluntary collective of individuals committed to promoting change through co-ordinated activity, to produce a lasting and self-generating effect and creating, as they do a sense of shared identity.

Working with Innovate UK over the past few years I have engaged with many gifted professionals willing to invest their ideas, knowledge, time and connections, with a view to improving quality of life for ageing friends, family, society and indeed our older selves.

This has informed the creation of what we are calling the Agile Ageing™ Alliance, (AAA) which aims to connect Europe’s brightest creative minds and key stakeholders in a united – informal and independent – effort to boost knowledge and investment and accelerate development of innovative solutions that will foster healthy, active, independent lifestyles and social engagement in later life.

In addition to staging the Neighbourhoods of the Future Roadshow, which you can learn more about via this short video, if you feel you have something you’d like to contribute please join our LinkedIn Group where you can share your thoughts and find out about engaging with new AAA initiatives.

We are looking for tomorrow’s heroes to disrupt a long term care system which is not fit for purpose. Get involved, you don’t know what you might come up with unless you give it a try.

Be sure to keep up with all this great work on the Agile Ageing Twitter feed.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Sections: CSL Insights