Innovative new technologies, systems and approaches to help older people stay well while living independent and fulfilling lives are to be developed through a new £2million programme called Independence Matters. The programme, delivered by the Technology Strategy Board and the Design Council, will see designers, industry, and young people working in partnership with older people to jointly develop and test new systems and services which tackle issues of mobility, healthy eating, staying fit and keeping connected to friends, family and the younger generation.
Independence Matters will support the creation of new design and technology- led solutions developed within the context of older people's lives. Enabling older people to live longer in their own home is a particularly pressing issue. Over 65's will make up almost a quarter (23%) of the UK population by 2034, according to the Office for National Statistics, and by 2025, almost 1.5 million people in the UK will be living with an age-related disability.
"The Government sees enormous value in technologies which reduce social isolation. This project will help to bridge the generation gap - using communication technologies to keep elderly people more connected to family, friends and carers, as well as local communities," said Minister of State for Higher Education and Science David Willetts. "These new solutions promise not only to help people to stay independent for longer, but they also open up new market opportunities for UK business."
Independence Matters involves two projects:
Home and Away will generate innovative solutions to help people to live independently for longer. The Technology Strategy Board will offer SBRI development contracts to enable designers and businesses to work with older adults and third sector organisations.
Keeping Connected aims to design and deliver designs for technology enabled systems and services that improve the quality of life of older people, while working in a new way with young people in schools engaging with older people, designers and industry. The idea is to harness the creativity and information technology ability of young people, along with the life experience and needs of older people, to generate concepts that are then developed into market-ready services and products by industry.
Independence matters will be rolled out over the next two years and draw upon the expertise and skills of business, the talents of top designers, the knowledge and experience of third sector organisations, the wishes and aspirations of older people and the 'know-how' of younger more technologically aware generations.
Independence Matters is one of the largest programmes ever undertaken by the Design Council. "Design excels in finding new ways to solve complex social challenges - and they don't come much more important than helping our current and future ageing population to live healthy, fulfilling and independent lives," commented David Kester, Chief Executive of the Design Council. "This is not just a 'must-do' for our society - it also makes great business sense for designers, service providers and manufacturers to develop new innovations to capitalise on what is a massive and growing global market."