Innovating better ways of living in later life: context, examples and opportunities

Published: May 2010 Publication Type: Publication

Authors: Carmel O'Sullivan, Diogo Vasconcelos, Geoff Mulgan

The paper looks at the changing facts of ageing as both a challenge and an opportunity. The focus is in particular on the many ways in which societies are innovating better ways of living longer, better ways of providing support and exploring the role that social innovation can play in ageing societies. No society has yet ‘solved’ the challenges of ageing, and no past societies have provided comprehensive models to copy. Instead we have no choice but to innovate, experiment and learn fast. The paper surveys many dozens of examples of innovation from across the world, including:

  • New ways for older people to remain active, as volunteers or in providing mutual support
  • New models of service delivery and care that contribute to greater independence
  • New environments that can improve everyday life
  • New ways of mobilising trusted networks to provide support of all kinds

There are rich examples of innovation in all of these fields, many combining technologies and service design, new models of housing and models of care, formal support and informal support.

The most interesting innovations for better ageing look not only at how we can provide services for the elderly, but how we can facilitate platforms for collaboration between public, private and civil sectors, enabling the elderly themselves to participate in developing their own solutions. Providing better solutions matters to people of all ages; it matters particularly in regions with rapidly ageing populations, such as Europe and Japan. Yet as a field of innovation it remains relatively underdeveloped. There are many promising but few proven models for innovating on the crucial interface of technology, service design and public engagement. Yet this is the critical field to which attention is likely to turn in the years ahead.

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