Written as editor of the New Statesman’s NS Tech and first published here.
We all know we’ll be old one day, but it can feel incredibly far away as you skim over Twitter headlines that regularly point out the crises facing our ageing population.
The two organisations have put up £500,000 of funding for projects that help reach out to the over 65s using digital creative arts.
The Office for National Statistics says that over 65s account for nearly 20 per cent of the population, an almost 50 per cent increase since the mid-1970s.
Age UK, meanwhile, has found that there are more than one million older people who say they are “always” or “very” lonely, which can have damaging effects on health.
And one day soon, that could be you.
The project could be something that brings kids into care homes to creatively help older people with digital skills, like Alive in Bristol, or something that targets the UK’s six million carers, who are getting increasingly old themselves.
Just one in five care homes has wifi access that residents are allowed to use. To address this issue, FACT in Liverpool gets isolated older people skilled up on digital, then they teach care staff how to use it too.
Speaking at the launch of the fund in London last night, Madalaine Starr, director of innovation at Carers UK, said: “I’m here on behalf of the UK’s six million people who work on behalf of a loved one who’s older or living with a debilitating condition.
“That’s just a normal part of our everyday, complex lives, but these people face huge penalties, in terms of health, finances and social inclusion.”
The £500,000 funding pot is certainly not enough to fix the problems that already exist in elderly care.
That’s cuts to local authority funding, the growing profit motive in social services that doesn’t give people the salaries or time they need to truly care, and a distinct ‘out of sight, out of mind’ feeling.
Through this initiative, the organisations also hope to raise awareness of the need for us all to engage with this issue. We’ll all be there one day.
One area that is surely ripe for innovation, although not included in the scope of the project, is easy enterprise IT solutions that free up carers from admin tasks.
Janet Morrison, chairman of the Baring Foundation, said: “Real creativity and real innovation isn’t done to someone, it’s done with them and their capacity. We should be breaking down the walls of the care home.
“There is amazing activity that will blow your mind already going on in some care settings, but, until we are all prepared to wash and care for and feed older people, we have to understand the reasons that innovation might not be happening now.”
Dr Amanda Windle, head of the DigiLab at the London College of Communication, speaking to the Brexit point, added: “This has to be about engaging the whole of the UK in issues of ageing, loneliness and isolation.”
Successful projects are expected to receive around £90,000 each over the two-year scheme. You can apply here.