Innovative projects ensure better health and connectivity as we age

Portrait of smiling multi-ethnic senior friends

Five projects will share £23 million in funding from the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) healthy ageing challenge.

Trailblazer projects range from a way to help the estimated 1.6 million older homeowners who live in run-down homes, to the use of technology to map and plug gaps in care provision.

The projects are run by organisations as diverse as:

  • big and small businesses
  • social enterprises
  • charities.

They are designed to ensure that we can all live healthier, more useful and more connected lives as we age. Also, to help narrow the gap between the experiences of the richest and poorest individuals.

Trailblazer projects

Business health matters

A collaboration led by Active Lancashire and the University of Central Lancashire focused on workplace health, enabling people to live healthier working lives. The project will provide people working in gyms and leisure centres with the skills to conduct important health screenings.

Healthy homes, healthy lives

A project to help the estimated 1.6 million older homeowners who live in homes that are in a very poor state of repair. The project will combine innovative funding and a ‘hand-holding’ service to help create warm, safe and energy efficient homes.

This can include space for live-in care or split homes in two, allowing them to rent out part of it, while tackling:

  • structural integrity
  • safety
  • better care
  • loneliness
  • social isolation.

Homes for living

A project that builds on the existing commitment from energy companies to tackle fuel poverty to also address wider physical, social and wellbeing needs that we all face as we age. A trusted professional visiting a home to advise and install energy use and efficiency measures could:

  • advise on and install novel home adaptations such as a new safer bathroom or kitchen
  • signpost beneficiaries to other important health and social care services.

Blackwood neighbourhoods for independent living

A Scottish project, based in three neighbourhoods, built upon engagement and involvement with the community. It combines age-friendly homes, with technology and products that enable people to:

  • live independently
  • stay connected
  • have choice and control in how services are delivered.

It will help people to stay well and physically active as they age, as well as exploring new financial products to support them.

Tribe project, led by Bronze Labs

Using technology to address national care inequality at the local level. This comprises a digital platform that can both map and predict care ‘dark patches’ where home care provision is failing. It will also recruit and upskill people in areas of low economic activity and high public service demand so they can create micro businesses to provide care.

Innovative and scaleable

Healthy Ageing Challenge Director, George MacGinnis, said:

The scale and range of these projects is impressive. Between them they are tackling issues as diverse as whether the built environment works for us as we age, long-term workplace health, financial products for older people and gaps in care.

We have specifically funded projects which are innovative and scaleable, to help deliver our ambition to ensure that we all have to opportunity to live healthier, more connected and more productive lives as we age.

The projects are the ‘trailblazers’ for UKRI’s healthy ageing challenge, launched in September 2019 to:

  • create new jobs
  • stimulate local economies
  • boost UK’s expertise in extending quality of life in older age.

Further information

We originally announced a competition for the best innovations in September 2019. More details about each project are below.

Blackwood neighbourhoods for independent living

This project is led by innovative Scottish based housing and care provider, Blackwood Homes and Care. It builds upon existing award-winning work in developing the highly accessible Blackwood House and CleverCogs™ digital Care and support system.

It will work with citizens and partners across three demonstrator neighbourhoods where it provides service and products which enable people to live independently, including:

  • new homes
  • a design guide to improve retro fit and adaptations of existing homes
  • future home design.

Other aspects of the neighbourhood will include accessible outdoor spaces that will help people sustain physical activity, digital connectivity and infrastructure that allows:

  • interoperability
  • security
  • ethical data control.

Sustainable energy and transport will reduce peoples’ carbon footprint and reduce transport costs. The coaching and support helps people maintain their health and wellbeing.

We will explore new financial products and a value exchange model that encourage and rewards community participation.

Tribe project, led by Bronze Labs

The mission of this project is to address national care inequality at the local level. It includes a digital platform that can both map and predict care ‘dark patches’, where home care provision is either failing or doesn’t currently exist.

It will also recruit and upskill people in areas of low economic activity and high public service demand so they can create micro businesses, structured as community enterprises, to provide care.

Business health matters

This project is a collaboration led by Active Lancashire and the University of Central Lancashire’s School of Medicine, focused on workplace health enabling people to live healthier working lives.

The project will see a training package developed that will provide people working in gyms and leisure centres with the skills to conduct important health screenings. This will allow a service to be delivered which provides health screenings within workplaces, and then supports people to make positive lifestyle choices, such as:

  • exercising more
  • looking after their mental health.

The project is supported by the Chambers of Commerce and wider partners including:

  • Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council
  • Blackpool Council
  • Burnley Leisure
  • Fylde Coast YMCA
  • Hyndburn Leisure
  • Lancashire Mind
  • Lancaster City Council
  • Pendle Leisure
  • Rossendale Leisure Trust
  • South Ribble Borough Council
  • University of Central Lancashire
  • ukactive
  • West Lancashire Borough Council.

Healthy homes, healthy lives

London Rebuilding Society (LRS) is a social enterprise whose project will design fair and affordable, person-centred homes, with novel financial products. It will provide new options and choices to homeowners 55 and over.

Around 1.6 million older homeowners live in a ‘non-decent’ home. They are frequently vulnerable, living on low incomes with physical and mental health conditions, exacerbated by the state of the home. They want to improve their homes but struggle to find the support and finance to do so.

LRS plans to launch new financial products alongside a reassuring hand-holding service to unlock new value and transform lives. Because LRS lend against the future value of an improved property, homeowners are able to afford vital adaptations so that they can live in an age friendly home:

  • for longer
  • independently
  • healthier.

Owners will be involved in designing their home alterations, including:

  • energy retrofit
  • access to renewables
  • smart technologies for energy monitoring
  • assistive technologies.

Homes for living

This project is a collaboration between:

  • E.ON
  • Newcastle University
  • Invisible Creations®
  • ADL Smartcare.

It aims to support people to age well so they can stay in their own homes for longer, helping retain their independence and staying connected with their families.

It builds on the E.ON’s existing activity offering free and partially funded energy efficiency measures as part of the Warm Homes Fund scheme and Energy Company Obligation.

The home solutions on offer include innovative, stylish, and dual-purpose home adaptations, all designed to fit seamlessly into people’s homes and encourage mobility, freedom and support their independence at home. The solutions are tailored using a hierarchy of needs methodology and with social purpose at its heart, the project will start by supporting the most vulnerable people, initially in the Midlands.

Top image: Credit: alvarez / Getty Images

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