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Switching focus from Ageing Better to Living Well with tech: it's all personal
The Ageing Better exploration into how innovations, enabled by digital technology, can help support personal well-being, has now reached the point where we can drawn some conclusions and plan the next stage.
- Ageing Better posts on this blog As you'll read in the summary below, the exploration, which I've been leading with Drew Mackie, was triggered by the Big Lottery Fund's £82 million Ageing Better programme, and particularly the initial lack of ways to exchange experience and introduce digital innovation. We've been working with the Digital Inclusion Group of Age Action Alliance. (DIG).
As I reported the other day, BIG has now opened its online community for testing, and there is a space for Ageing Better. We should hear more about local plans - and innovative developments - in a couple of months when the partnerships know how far their business plans have been approved, and receive confirmation of funding.
Meanwhile the main conclusion in our report is that we should switch our focus from programmes, to exploring in more detail what digital technology means to the individual - in different situations, with different interests, needs, capabilities and support. The scope for digital healthcare is likely to be particularly important, as Tony Watts has highlighted.
We'll be playing through what that means in a workshop next month with DIG, and I'll be posting more here about the approach we'll be taking, based on the games and simulations reported here.
Summary from our interim report
The exploration into how to use technology for Ageing Better started in the autumn of 2014 with the idea that it should be possible to map organisations and resources in the field to enable more sharing of experience, reduce constant re-invention, and promote cooperation. The Big Lottery Fund hadn‘t done that centrally in 2014 for their five-year £82 million Ageing Better programme - could we demonstrate an alternative bottom-up approach, building on past work in the field?
This report summarises the journey that is documented more fully on our site - and comes to the conclusion that we should switch our focus from technology in Ageing Better, at a policy and programme level, to technology for Living Well as individuals, together with what is needed to support that in local communities and centrally. The challenge is that every individual has different interests and preferences – so one size of support doesn’t fit all.
Over the four months from September 2014 we moved beyond the basic idea of mapping of resources and organisations to:
- establish a web site and blogs for the exploration, and on that …
- generate some talking-point provocations and challenges
- set up an ideas platform to gather suggestions on how to address the challenges
- show how ideas can be translated into action through workshop games and simulations The rationale was that we needed to know what we were looking for in mapping, before starting a big trawl. It‘s been a voluntary effort so far, and we needed to focus. We decided that if we could generate ideas on tech for Ageing Better, and cluster those, we could then look at which organisations might share experience and perhaps work together.
We were able to test some of our emerging ideas against a wide-ranging discussion at a symposium on technology and innovation, organised by the South East Forum on Ageing. Our blog post linking our exploration to the SEEFA discussion was re-published by Age Action Alliance.
What emerged from that - and our other explorations - was that the idea of promoting cooperation among organisations in the field, to achieve greater benefits and innovation, was somewhat naive. As other commentators confirmed, co-operation is difficult because organisations are competing with each other for funding; innovation is difficult because few organisations actually use social technology. The major challenge is culture. We could map ideas, organisations, and resources - but the likelihood of making any difference is low.
At this stage - in February 2015 - we are considering a change of focus towards the individual. It seems likely that the greatest progress will be made by exploring how older people - and those who help - can choose and use technology for personal well-being.
Tony Watts, chair of the South West Forum for Ageing, has set out how to make progress by linking digital health and digital inclusion. Roz Davies provides a model of citizen-centred care and digital health provision. The Grey Cells initiative from the Department for Communities and Local Government provides a framework for digital engagement that could help connect the individual and programmatic models.
So at this stage we are considering reframing the exploration towards Living Well with Technology - what can be done to enable and support the individual. Although our focus is on older people, the lessons will be more widely applicable.
Mapping, connecting, convening is needed at the programme level, but we don’t have the resources to do that, or any leverage to achieve much change. We do, however, suggest some modest ways forward.
Conclusions from the exploration so far
I think we can conclude:
- There‘s lots of opportunities for innovation and use of tech for ageing better - but it is difficult to move forward on a broad front because of cultural and other barriers in organisations in the ageing and inclusion industries. There‘s great work being done - but also much re-inventing of the wheel. Competition for funding inhibits cooperation. Lack of familiarity with technologies limits development taking account of the consumer adoption of mobile tech. As this blog post summarised, the energy is around people apps and connectors - not organisations.
- We need a shift of metaphor and framework from digital divide. Instead of thinking how to get people to learn about computers, we need to focus on how to help people adopt just enough tech for their needs, and how to support that. The models needed are personal and social ecologies.
- We now need to experiment at several different levels: the individual, the surrounding social network and support system, and in programmes. Overall, the issue is Living Well with Technology - rather than Bridging the Digital Divide.
Here are several ideas for moving forward:
- Use the workshop games and simulations that we have been developing for our Living Lab to help people play through the options at different levels, and then turn the games into kits.
- Test the ideas at a neighbourhood level
- Explore the scope for work with partnerships in the Ageing Better programme, or with towns and cities aiming to create Age Friendly places. Do get in touch if you would like to know more - email@example.com