Examples of what we know about digital technology and ageing better, and who is sharing resources, originally prepared December 2014 by David Wilcox firstname.lastname@example.org.
Update: reports and blog posts about the Ageing Better exploration are now on the mediablends wiki
As part of my exploration into innovation for ageing better I’ve listed some examples of reports, sites, and blog posts showing there’s plenty of research into digital tech for a better later life - and many devices, systems and apps being developed.
Innovation funders like NESTA and Nominet Trust have identified and supported a host of innovative projects … and sites like MyAgeingParent as well as the larger ageing and digital inclusion organisations offer advice for those seeking personal solutions.
However, these resources are scattered, and finding something useful beyond the basics can be challenging, whether you are researching a topic, aiming to develop a project or just discover an app or device useful for you, or for an older friend or relative.
There is so much potential for digital technology to enable people to make new connections, contribute to person-centred support, develop community networks and new models of care so an obvious question is what is stopping more widespread adoption?
>There is no shortage of innovations in digital technology and millions of pounds are being spent supporting further developments. It is less clear about the application, impact and usage of these innovations. One problem is the limited awareness in the sector and amongst the public about what is available and it’s value. I believe that a big deficit is the lack of a strategic approach to embedding digital technology in the range of options to support people to live more fulfilling lives.
Unfortunately I don’t think much of that has happened, as I’ve discovered in this exploration.
Even substantial official investigations and funding programmes fail to acknowledge the role of technology. The House of Lords Committee on Public Service and Demographic Change had almost nothing on technology despite fairly substantial submissions. That was in March 2013 … but by the end of 2014 the £82 million Big Lottery Fund Ageing Better programme is still not promoting either digital innovation or knowledge sharing. The most hopeful sign of concerted policy action is the Grey Cells initiative from the Department for Communities and Local Government, referenced below. At the personal level, Shirley Ayres does an extraordinarily useful job as a freelance.
At this point I’ve just pulled together resources from my Ageing Better bookmarks and elsewhere, in order to illustrate how much is going on, and how difficult it may be to find stuff.
In general I find that research, guides and project news becomes useful when it enters conversation - whether at a meeting, or in online exchanges. At the moment I think there are relatively limited exchanges; or rather, there may be exchanges between academics and researchers, but they probably aren’t up to date on what’s happening on the ground. Practitioners don’t know what people are doing in different localities. I’ve a hunch that funders don’t know in any detail who is funding what.
The UK innovation agency NESTA has developed a framework for supporting innovation in ageing, a living map of projects, and an ageing well challenge fund. Here’s the NESTA site and a blog post I wrote about the report and NESTA’s approach. The Living Map categorises projects in relation, for example, to care, dementia, health, isolation, and technology.
The Nominet Trust has compiled the Social Tech Guide “to recognise the pioneers who are using digital technology to make a real difference to millions of lives”, including a section on health.
The SUS-IT research project explored in depth how to help older people engage with technology, and developed the equation: a hook of compelling reasons and interests + encouragement and companionship in learning + support = digital engagement. The report led to proposals for a network of local learning centres, and generated a wide range of outputs listed here. For practical support:
The New Dynamics of Ageing Programme is a eight year multidisciplinary research initiative with the ultimate aim of improving quality of life of older people. It is a unique collaboration between five UK research councils. See the projects and findings section for some tech-related initiatives.
An open policy initiative started by the Department for Communities and Local Government, but suspended after the May 2015 election by the new Government.
This publication sets out research into how the internet is, and can be, used to support those over 65 as well as highlighting the mechanisms, themes and social situations that best enable this group to benefit from the internet. By doing so, it sets out a number of ways in which we can look to develop new approaches to supporting people over the age of 65 to get online in a sustained and meaningful way. Nominet Trust 2013
This set of pages reports an open exploration, on behalf of the Nominet Trust, into how we can use digital technology later in life, and also some ideas that flowed from that. During the exploration the team gathered ideas and resources on an open document and ideas platform, ran a workshop, and wrote a series of blog posts. A visual bookmark of discovered resources was created (and still maintained) on Pearltrees.
The Campaign to End Loneliness ran a workshop: Technology: will it ever be a ‘fix’ for loneliness? that yielded advice on helping older people adopt technology that might be helpful, and a report that included a range of tools and activities.
Tony Watts, a writer and chair of the SouthWest Forum on Ageing, explains in his keynote to the Ages 2.0 conference how integrating digital innovation for healthcare, and actions to support digital innovation, could have dual benefits.
In The Silver Economy: Tech sector taps surge of connected boomers the Financial Times reports on growing adoption of the Internet by over-55s, the social networks they use, and the tools that are available.
This earlier set of resources contains links to a wide range of initiatives.
#### Connecting care: advice for organisations and individuals The Connecting Care project, supported by the Department for Health, provides tech advice for social care providers and also a round-up of specialist personal care networks and tools that help people keep connected with family and friends.
Community engagement in health and well-being resources Resource collection by Roz Davies
A quick search on apps and seniors shows how much is available for Android and iOS - something I’ll return to later.