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.
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.
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:
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.
I think we can conclude:
Here are several ideas for moving forward: