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Challenges to Ageing Better Innovation

Content originally on the Ageing Better Innovation exploration site February 2015

During the exploration process for Ageing Better Innovation we first developed a set of provocations, and then distilled some challenges to stimulate development of ideas for action.

We were delighted that we could map the provocations onto discussion at a symposium, organised by the South East of England Forum on Ageing, on ‘Transforming not excluding – the impact of information technology and innovation on later life’. Symposium report from SEEFA here.

Our blog post was republished by the Age Action Alliance - which confirmed our confidence in the content.

The challenges and provocations from the exploration are listed below. Discussion at the symposium provided further insights and confirmed that the barriers to innovation lie in organisational culture as well as difficulty in adopting technology.


Here's an initial set of challenges developed from the provocations, and from insights gained in reviewing resources: see below for those.

The purpose of the challenges is to stimulate the development of ideas here.

  1. Promote greater understanding of ways that technology is changing the world that we all live in
  2. Influence current digital inclusion programmes towards an approach that recognises the importance of familiar technology, mobile devices, and personalised routes towards adoption.
  3. Encourage and support organisations in the ageing field in the use of social technology
  4. Facilitate conversations and stories that make it easier to develop inclusive discussion of digital inclusion and innovation
  5. Make better use of existing assets - research, practical experience and innovative projects that could be scaled.
  6. Promote ways to introduce innovation into the Big Lottery Fund’s Ageing Better programme, and other programmes.

Additional insights from the symposium


  • Organisations operate in a highly competitive funding environment, so they are reluctant to share ideas that might be used by someone else in a bid
  • Funders and sponsors want organisations to demonstrate how their resources produced results. Collaboration could dilute that.
  • Organisations want to promote their work and profile.
  • There is comfort in staying within your professional silo
  • Managers want to control and deliver – not encourage innovation and exploration that might not meet targets
  • Government wants scale and it is easier to do that through one-size rather than personalisation
  • Senior people in London-based organisations are more easily able to go to events and network with policy people and funders than people outside London. There’s not much incentive for the London circle to share.
  • “Networking” is what you do to increase your knowledge and influence … not to help connect others with ideas and opportunities


  • While social technology does not on its own enable cooperation and sharing, it makes it far more possible, and among those who use it engenders a culture for that.
  • Most organisations, and their staff, in this field are trapped in old tech systems designed for a different age. Even if they want to use social tech they may not be able to.
  • Learning has to be done in people’s own time, often with their own devices
  • Where social media is used, it is mainly for broadcast and marketing, rather than sharing useful resources
  • Unless people are using social technology, they don’t know what’s possible


During the exploration we developed a set of provocations, and invited comments. Here's a summary of the result, together with insights from resources we gathered.

The original provocations paper is here.

Further confirmation and expansion of the provocations and challenges from the SEEFA symposium on ageing, tech and innovation

  1. There isn’t an opt-out from technology - but you can choose how much you participate. (Technology has changed the world dramatically, and it will continue to change. What’s important is enabling people to choose how they engage).
  2. Government is concerned that many older people are not online - but there are limits to what government can do. (People will engage with what’s interesting and useful to them, and use devices that most suit their needs).
  3. Everyone needs Internet access … but beyond that, no one size fits all. (Cost is a barrier, and then personalisation is important).
  4. Computer courses and basic skills training don’t meet the needs of many older people. (Tablets are much easier to use than computers for most purposes, and smart phones and smart TVs may also meet many people’s needs).
  5. Simpler interfaces are needed for computers and mobile devices - not just more functions. (Older people should be involved in design).
  6. Relatively few organisations in the ageing field are actively engaged in the online world or using collaborative tools. (Using social technology should help enable greater greater cooperation).
  7. Digital social innovations in services are not scaling. (There’s too much focus on the tech, and not enough on what it does, together with a lot of re-invention).
  8. There is a raft of research, but little knowledge-sharing of that and day-to-day practice. (A lot of research is hidden and not transferred to practice. A culture of competitive tendering reduces people’s inclination to cooperate and use what’s already available).
  9. The energy for change lies with apps, connectors and storytellers. (To which we can add, evolution of trusted technologies such as TVs. Bring the storytellers together).
  10. The digital divide is no longer a useful metaphor. Reality is more complex.

Resources - what we already have and know

Here’s some insights from an initial review of publications, research programmes, funding challenges and online resources. More detail here

  • A wide range of research studies have shown the potential for the personal use of technology for a better later life, enhancement of services, and routes to greater digital inclusion.
  • Innovation funders like Nominet Trust and NESTA have supported development of a wide range of projects, and frameworks to inform further development.
  • However, it is difficult for practitioners to find and/or translate this innovative work into practice.
  • General policy reviews to inform development make little reference to digital innovation. Nor does the Big Lottery Fund’s £82 million Ageing Better programme.
  • While agencies may promote their programmes and research, what’s lacking is good signposting, collaboration between agencies, and conversations to make the most of the assets that we have.
livingwell/challenges.txt · Last modified: 2017/08/08 18:12 by 26u8s

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