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Ageing Innovation Accelerator Blog 3: 'Care' (by Estelle Blanks)

Posted by Anja McCarthy (Admin) 2 months ago Posted in Innovation for Ageing Workshops

At the Ageing Innovation Accelerator workshop in December, our aim was to understand better the physical challenges that individuals face as they age. By better understanding the challenges, we will be well placed to come up with novel solutions based on genuine insights at the next workshops in January and February.

The December workshop included 60 people with an interest in ageing. Some currently run small businesses, some are part of larger organisations in the public, private and third sectors and some just want to find out more about opportunities arising from an ageing population. Importantly, the workshop included people from a very wide age range (early twenties to 70+) and with a wide set of experiences. At the SuperNetwork, we strongly argue that intelligent design and effective innovation arises from bringing together different perspectives in looking at a problem.

The workshop introduced the LifeCurve concept (see for background) and outlined four approaches to tackling the challenges identified through the LifeCurve:

  1. Building reserve, so that people have more capacity to deal with issues as they age;
  2. Reactivation, allowing people to regain function that they may have previously lost;
  3. Compensation, using tools and techniques helping people to carry out tasks they couldn’t otherwise do;
  4. Care, where older people require support from others to perform important daily tasks.


I led the discussions on the challenges and opportunities around “care”. As defined by Peter Gore, care is simply doing something for somebody that they can no longer do for themselves. A very important message that resonated with all the groups that discussed care with me was that premature care can be disabling. This allowed the groups to consider the various types of care and not just “health” care. For example, the role of trade specialists (gardeners, cleaning companies) in supporting people with age related conditions. This also encouraged the group to rethink the objectives of care as well as the assessment of care needs in order to improve the ageing trajectory.


The discussion on care was rich with professional insights and personal stories which really added to the definition and description of the current challenges and opportunities. The themes discussed were:


The definition of care: from negative to positive connotations


It is challenging to discuss the concept of care without generating accounts of difficult and often personal stories that affected individuals at one point in their lives whether for themselves or a loved one. Very often, the concept of care is linked to negative beliefs: disability, dependence, end of personal freedom, imposed on somebody, delivered by somebody they don’t trust.

What is the role of the language we use around the communication and delivery of care. What about an “age coach” or something similar to re-define the care giver. How can care be seen as a two-way process, something that is done in conjunction with patients and/or their families?


How might we change the definition and concept of care so that it is associated with something more positive?


The costs and complexity of care systems: changing the business models around care


Issues around the costs of care came up in all the group conversations. These are complex to understand but the costs of care are well publicised and the groups recognised the need to rethink the business models around care at home or in specialist environments such as care homes. There was a feeling that sometimes the system can be perceived as unfair and riddled with unnecessary complexities that better managed would lead to savings and more equality in the distribution of care. Referring back to Peter Gore’s model earlier and more adapted interventions lead to reductions of costs. However, many examples were given of when early needs were not communicated or detected because of the fear of escalating costs from the providers and the users.


How might we change the commercial and financial models of care?



Communication and care: a broken link?


Families/friends are the number one providers of care. Yet, it seems that the information available to care givers is confusing, sometimes not available and complex. How can this be changed? What is the role of education and communication programmes in this context?


How might we provide information to carers that is both easily accessible and easy to understand?


Assessment of care needs: system vs individuals


Linked to the challenge of communication of care, stories shared by the groups seem to indicate that the system is not always geared to focus on multiple needs and that a comprehensive assessment of individual needs is difficult to achieve. This can be exacerbated by the lack of awareness of individuals’ own needs. The LifeCurve findings and tools are adding some significant perspective and predictability to this process.


How might we better use and adopt the LifeCurve model for the prevention and provision of care in order to increase the number of individuals who stay on top of the LifeCurve trajectory?



Sources of care: trust and interaction


Many discussions focused on the issues of trust in care and the need for more social interaction in order to address mental as well as physical needs. Although it is a key problem area at the moment this also seems to be a theme that generated the most opportunities for solutions. If, as suggested earlier, the care giver is redefined, that families/friends are better informed how can care giver address key wellbeing needs such as loneliness? What is the role of the community and the third sector to prevent and provide adapted care?


How might we address social isolation?


Places of care: some insights


A few groups discussed the places of care. The home, care homes and healthcare venues were cited. Some interesting discussions took place on the current government drive to build over 1m houses and the need to rethink the home as “home of all ages”. Some interesting demonstrator sites such as the Future Homes project on Newcastle Helix could be the place where some innovations could be tested.


How might we use innovations in construction, building design and digital technologies to help address some of the key challenges around care, promoting independence and effective communication?



Digital solutions: an opportunity?


The role of digital solutions was the source of much debate in most groups. As Peter Gore suggested technology can be a friend or a foe in the provision of care and this was recognised in the discussions. However, the groups acknowledged that provided that the costs/benefits were clear and provided the digital solutions addressed a genuine and tailored need then digital solutions provided a real opportunity to address some of the challenges identified here.


Identified challenges and next steps

We will now be doing more work around the ‘How might we…?’ questions above, with the aim of identifying two that we really want to focus on. These will be presented at the next workshop on 10th January at the Discovery Museum, Newcastle. The aim of the 10th is to identify solutions to some of these questions, which we can then help interested individuals and organisations to develop into commercial products and services.

The workshop is open to all and registration is via


About the Ageing Innovation Accelerator

The Ageing Innovation Accelerator aims to create new products and services of value to an ageing population and ensure they are successfully commercialised. It is led by the Innovation SuperNetwork and National Innovation Centre for Ageing teams. Northstar Ventures can provide funding for suitable businesses as they progress through the programme and Newcastle City Council are offering space for the businesses to work in. The programme is supported by the Aging2.0 Newcastle Chapter and European Regional Development Fund.

In this first running of the Accelerator, we are focusing on the physical decline experienced by people as they age. However, this is only one small element of the possible challenges and opportunities posed by an ageing population and it is intended to run further versions of the Accelerator in the future.

Estelle Blanks


This post was edited on Jan 8, 2019 by Meera Vijay

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