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Note to accompany a presentation by David Wilcox and Drew Mackie at the Age Action Alliance Loneliness and Social Isolation Group on June 2 2015

Living Well in the Digital Age exploration

Over the past eight months we have carried out an exploration with the Age Action Alliance Digital Inclusion Group to show how developments in technology present both challenges and opportunities for older people. It’s not just about “inclusion” - getting people connected and learning how to use technology, although that remains very important. It’s about the way technology is changing our world, for individuals and organisations. The challenge is Living Well in the Digital Age. We’ve developed:

  • Practical ideas for local Living Labs
  • Papers highlighting key topics for policy-makers and funders
  • Proposals for a cross-topic network to take the ideas forward

We brought to the exploration past work on community development, networks, social media and co-design using games and simulations. We have received encouragement from the DCLG Grey Cells Open Policy Innovation team, and ran a workshop with them to validate ideas for local Living Labs that will test and develop innovative approaches to social isolation and wellbeing in the Digital Age. Overall:

  • The good news: We are moving from a world governed by hierarchies to one enabled by networks and new communication methods. That offers opportunities to build stronger communities, develop and extend relationships, use personal technology to help manage our health. People are using their phones, tablets - as well as computers - to do just that.
  • The bad news: our exploration, and a symposium convened by South East England Forum on Ageing, confirmed that many organisations in the ageing industry are culturally and technically ill-equipped to take advantage of the opportunities. There is no leadership in the adoption and application of digital technology.
  • The opportunity: firstly, networked approaches, enabled by digital tech, are particularly relevant to social isolation when linked to asset based community development. Secondly, AAA could release more of its own assets by networking effectively.

Living Labs

The Promising Approaches report from Age UK and the Campaign to End Loneliness suggests identifying and connecting local assets, building relationships, developing a menu of project options, and personalising solutions.

Our Living Labs model provides a practical approach to putting those proposals into practice. The Labs Kit will include methods for:

  • Mapping local assets and networks, who knows who, and who may work with who
  • Using maps to explore how people’s networks and relationships change during their lifetime
  • Mapping the ways in which people can connect with support services and local initiatives
  • Using personas and storyboards to profile people who benefit from projects - and then use this in co-design workshops … together with …
  • Developing a menu of projects
  • Matching assets and opportunities, revealed in mapping, to projects
  • Choosing and using appropriate technology in organisations, local networks, and projects

Asset map of Croydon, under development

We are piloting some of these methods with Voluntary Action Croydon, and have run simulations testing the approach with Age UK London, Southwark Council, Local Government Information Unit and others. We discussed the approach at the workshop hosted by the DCLG Grey Cells team, and have prepared a proposal to Big Lottery Fund to support development of the kit and pilot Living Labs.

Developing the kit - an open source approach

We aim to make the Living Labs model and kit a framework within which people can contribute ideas, use and develop methods for themselves. All content will be licensed Creative Commons, and we will develop a network of collaborators.

The various methods will be usable on their own, as well as in an integrated kit. For example, the network mapping system developed by Drew Mackie can be used to complement geographic asset mapping that local Ageing Better partnerships may have undertaken.

The methods can all be used “for real” or in games and simulations to help people explore the potential for the use of digital technology and networked methods.

Key topics

During the exploration we developed blog posts and brief papers on the importance of digital technology and new ways of working at policy, local and personal levels. We discussed these with the Centre for Ageing Better, which currently has nothing about technology in its development plans, and suggested how the Centre might support a process to remedy that.

An opportunity for Age Action Alliance

Our exploration - and the symposium convened by SEEFA - confirmed that current approaches within the ageing industry are unlikely to offer to older people the full potential of the Digital Age. We found:

  • Substantial cultural barriers in the ageing industry to the adoption of digital technology and innovative approaches
  • Innovative projects demonstrating the potential - but unknown on the front line - with research being duplicated, reports failing to be adopted
  • Low levels of adoption of new communication methods within and across organisations, with the result that organisations and professions work ineffectively and in silos.
  • At the same time, growing adoption of personal technology by older people, often supported by friends and families

All this presents an opportunity for Age Action Alliance. We have proposed to the AAA secretariat an approach that would mirror at national level the asset-based approach that is being developed locally:

  • Setting up a cross-topic Digital Age group that would operate as a virtual learning network
  • Mapping resources within AAA, to see who may offer assets, and who will share
  • Using the network as a way for people to understand and use the technologies, and identifying the potential for projects

We can make a start on this - but we can’t continue on a voluntary basis, so will be looking for sponsorship or funding to support the work of the network.

An offer

We hope interested members of the loneliness and social isolation group will be founder members of the Digital Age network. We’ll also be inviting our collaborators from the Digital Inclusion Group, and the new Age Friendly Environments group - just for starters!


livingwell/lsigroup.txt · Last modified: 2017/06/12 15:20 (external edit)