The UK has undergone and continues to experience a fundamental change in its demographic profile and society needs to adapt to support an ageing population. As the average age steadily rises and life expectancy increases by 5 hours a day, due to improved lifestyles and healthcare, a radical review of approach is required. Open Forum Events invite you to join us at the Ageing Population: Meeting Needs Through Innovation conference where the challenges, opportunities and initiatives, which are associated with an older population, will be discussed and shared.
In 2016 18% of the population was aged 65 and over and 2.4% aged over 85. It is estimated that by 2040 one in seven people will be over 75 years old and a third of babies born today are expected to live until they are 100.
To thrive in a society where younger people form the majority is very different to the modern phenomenon where more people are in older age groups. Wholesale adaptations need to be made as to how society operates in many areas, such as: how public services are planned, how we work, how we care and provide health services, where we live and how we fund and meet progressive needs.
As in many aspects of modern life, innovation, technology and digital platforms are viewed as major contributors in overcoming the challenges of an older society. To this end, the government, as part of it’s recently published Industrial Strategy, has made ageing society one of it’s “Grand Challenges” and will receive a share of £725m to harness the power of innovation to meet the evolving needs of an ageing population.
The Ageing Population: Meeting Needs Through Innovation conference offers the opportunity for delegates to further understand the issues and how they can be addressed. An agenda of expert speakers will focus on the key areas affected and discuss how innovative approaches can not only provide solutions but can also provide both societal and economic opportunities.
Globally, the age structure of populations is changing. As more of us live for longer and many people have fewer children, the balance toward more aged societies has started and is set to continue. According to a United Nations Population Fund report “Ageing is a triumph of development: people are living longer because of better nutrition, sanitation, healthcare, education and economic wellbeing”.
Other commentators counter the “triumph” with a degree of trepidation, as they ponder the ‘demographic time bomb’. In the UK, one of the prominent fears is that future generations may struggle to meet the pension commitments of a growing number of retired workers. The old age dependency ratio (OADR) is defined as the number of people of pensionable age for every 1000 people of working age. In mid-2016 this figure was 305 and is expected to rise to 370 by mid-2041. If the state pension age remains the same this could rise further to 442. Increasing the state pensionable age and encouraging greater participation in the workforce by people in older age groups, will not only help meet the pension bill but boost productivity and GDP. There is also evidence to show that for individuals that continue to work on into their later years it is highly beneficial to their health and wellbeing.
Further to financing pensions, there will be an additional burden on the shrinking workforce population to meet greater public-sector spending. An older population creates greater demand for public services, particularly in health and social care. Although people are living longer, there will be many that do not live in good health and will require extra care and support. It may be that the working population will face higher taxes to fund these increasing demands for services.
However, it is all not bad news, especially for the economy. As people live longer the need for age-related products and services increases, leading to new opportunities and a growth in existing markets. The Ageing Society “Grand Challenge” segment of the recently published Industrial Strategy, sets out the government’s desire to ‘harness the power of innovation' to help meet the needs of an ageing society. To support older people live well and independently there will be increasing demand for technologically enriched, forward-thinking products and services. These will include new care models and assistive technology, innovative retirement products, new housing models and smarter homes. It is hoped, with the help of £725m UK government funding and euro grants that form part of a new Horizon 2020 challenge, that UK businesses will be at the forefront of new product development and can capitalise on the emerging consumer markets on a global scale.
At the Ageing Population: Meeting Needs Through Innovation conference the impact of ageing, across society, will be highlighted with a view to help shape the strategies to overcome the challenges and celebrate the contribution an ageing society can bring to society, now and in the future.
Far from a ‘ticking time-bomb’, our longer lives are one of society’s greatest achievements. The potential is there for most of us to live for longer in good health, to have financial security and to be connected with others - however, to do so, we need to innovate. We need a radical shift in how we think about our later lives and how we respond to the opportunities and challenges this brings. But are we addressing the right challenges in the right way?
Transform Ageing is 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, it unites “older people, community groups, commissioners and social entrepreneurs to tackle some of the biggest challenges facing us as we age”.
A progressively ageing and retiring population could present significant issues for national productivity. A general reduction in the national workforce, plus caring duties for those of working age could lower productivity. The Fuller Working Lives Strategy promotes the benefits of remaining in work for longer, which includes encouraging employers to increase the number of older employees within their workforces.
What new technologies and innovations have the most impact on the lives of people living in care homes to help make ‘every day a day well lived’?
WCS Care, a leading provider of residential care homes in Warwickshire, and Coventry University are undertaking an innovative programme of research to explore which innovations provide the most benefit to residents. In a ‘living lab’ environment where companies and researchers can work alongside residents, studies at the WCS ‘innovation hub’ and other WCS homes cover a range of topics including sleep, nutrition, use of robotics, and digital technologies, and will contribute to improving the dignity, choice, and independence for residents living in care homes.
Fact: we are all ageing. Fact: an ageing society is both a challenge and an opportunity. Fact: it is within our gift to transform the way we age.
Suitable and appropriate housing can significantly improve the lives of older people, while inadequate accommodation can be the source of multiple problems and costs. As demands change in line with demographic shift, more adaptable and specialised housing and neighbourhoods will be essential.
In recent years the UK pension system has undergone significant change. What are these changes and what areas may be open to innovation?
The proposals, to be set out in the Green Paper, to reform care and support for older people must consider how care is provided at present and challenge the system to embrace new technology, innovation and workforce models which can deliver better quality and value.
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