The healthy ageing opportunity

  • techUK techUK
    Thursday06Dec 2018
    Event round-ups

    Key insights from techUK’s Healthy Ageing: Industry – Public Sector Innovation Workshop 

There are now over 15.3 million people in the UK aged 60 and above. By 2040, one in 7 people in the UK will be aged over 75. The figures show the UK’s population is getting an older. The challenge an ageing population places on public services is well publicised, but this challenge also brings an opportunity for industry, researchers and the public sector to better work together to support our ageing population live longer, healthier and happier lives. Digital technology is a major contributor to helping achieve these goals by allowing for greater monitoring and earlier diagnosis of health conditions as well as helping to energise behavioural change. 

The Swedish Institute of Public Health describes healthy ageing as “Optimising opportunities for good health, so that older people can take an active part in society and enjoy an independent and high quality of life. Ageing is not necessarily a burden, and it does not necessarily decrease a person's ability to contribute to society: older people can make valuable and important contributions to society and enjoy a high quality of life.” 

As such, techUK was delighted to work with some of the organisations who are in the frontline of the challenges that our ageing society poses - HACT, the Health Innovation Network (South London Academic Health Science Network), the Local Government Association (LGA), Socitm, Suffolk Council and others - to deliver a problem-led workshop with industry and public service leaders. In groups attendees reviewed challenges that cut across social isolation; falls and prevention; physical activity to cultural changes and then together looked at possible innovative solutions. In our workshop we also looked at creating opportunities for the market. 

Before the discussion kicked off, we heard from Hazel Harper, lead for the Industry Strategy Challenge Fund Healthy Ageing Programme at Innovate UK to ensure the discussion from the session were joined up with the Healthy Ageing Challenge. Hazel stressed that this is a big market but we need to reframe our approach – older people are consumers with choice – and we need the positive language that represents this.  


Social Isolation and Loneliness 

The discussion started with the “how” and what different stakeholders can do to stimulate the environment and mobilise community support. That includes families and voluntary sector that encourages people in later life to sustain social connections and engagements.  

Families also need support in the form of education or just mentoring to care for their elderly members until they are physically or financially uncapable. There is an element of cultural change here as well and family mentality of having a responsibility. There is more to be done on awareness of where information of support is, and what are the different support measures a family can utilise.  

What is the right technology as well and how can family members use it. We need to highlight also that training elderly people on new technology is also time and effort intensive and not always successful.  

Furthermore, how do you get people to live independently, safely and happy in their own home for as long as possible? What are the different elements which interact with each other? 

Procurement is also an issue and how different entities need different training and different technology.  

National standards need to be developed and who are the social champions? 

How can elderly contribute to society? People often feel isolated because they don’t see the value they bring to their community. What are the benefits of elderly people’s experiences? 



  • Family swap schemes – the uber of caring for each other 

  • Shared housing – student/elderly/new families – discounts for students to live by elderly people 

  • Charity sponsored community engagement  


  • How do you establish whom to sponsor and help first? 

  • People having issues with confronting end of life – mental barrier  

  • Private sector has a very little return on investment.  


Physical Activity 

Staying active in later life is a vital part of healthy ageing, and helps to support social interactions. Both the Five Year Forward View and Public Health England’s One You campaign highlight the need to encourage healthy lifestyles in people of all ages, to prevent the development of lifestyle related chronic diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and some cancers. 

Before we even looked at stimulating new services and products to enable those in later life to sustain and increase their levels of physical activity, the consensus on the table was that the phrase ‘physical activity’ conjures up a negative image. Instead it should be something we integrate positively into our everyday lives. Furthermore, stimulating mental activity and physiological activity as much as psychological activity. 

The built environment along with transport was identified as something that if designed well could enable the development of activity friendly communities.  Illustrating the point that the healthy ageing opportunity needs an eco-system approach, bringing together teams from across internal public services ([planning to public health to adult social care) to the wider community.  

While the built environment can help create the environment for greater activity, we also looked at what else can stimulate the market. This include driving the adoption of wearables. Employers could play a big role here – unions and business associations. The local community can play a part whether through shared accommodation driving intergenerational engagement – this could be facilitated from an Airbnb like app. Finally make it fun! 



  • Mixed communities 

  • Classes for elderly  

  • Social spin  


  • Pressure around planning and commuting 

  • Rural vs. city issues 

  • How to maximise volunteering base 

  • Hydration and dieting  


Falls, Frailty and Prevention 

Falls and frailty present a huge financial and resourcing challenge for the NHS and social care. The NHS spends more than two billion pounds a year from falls which are also the largest cause of emergency admissions for older people, and the numbers are expected to rise. Prevention programmes have shown to reduce falls resulting in fewer hospital admissions and significant financial savings but the continued pressure on adult social care budgets makes these programmes harder to fund. The key opportunities for the market centre around solving three key questions: how can we better predict people at risk from falls, how can we reduce the risk of these people falling, and how can we help people who have fallen to quickly regain their independence? Delegates agreed that the focus of any interventions needed to keep the experiences of people at the centre. We need to better utilise existing data and raise awareness about existing technology solutions. Questions were also raised about monitoring, data sharing, consent and privacy. 


  • Fall prediction 

  • Fall prevention 

  • Regaining independence quickly after a fall 


  • Data sharing 

  • Lack of tech awareness 

  • How to ethically tackle questions around consent and privacy 


Culture change and sign posting 

The challenge around culture change and sign-posting focused on two problem statements. On culture change, the key challenge was around how to realise the full benefits of digital technology by creating a culture of trust, and making digital solutions appealing to the user and to their families and carers. Delegates noted that user design and experience is key to addressing this challenge. This involves segmenting the market and getting to know the end users. Delegates noted that adoption of technology at scale only happens when that technology makes things easier for the user.  

On sign-posting the key issue was how to more effectively provide clear information, advice and guidance to people on what technology is available and how to use it. There are many technology solutions but as the market is not homogenous, the challenge lies in raising awareness to the right people at the right time. Delegates agreed that there are many opportunities for industry to provide solutions that help prevent people from having to be placed in long-term care in the first place.  

The discussion around culture change and signposting raised more questions than answers but the delegates agreed that mechanisms such as this event where Councils had the opportunity to present some of their biggest challenges to industry were very useful. 


  • User centred design and co-design 

  • Collaboration of industry and care providers 

  • Early prevention to support people before they need to access care in a formal care setting 


  • Difficulties in raising awareness 

  • Accurately segmenting the market 



It is not an easy challenge by any means. Creating environments that are truly age-friendly requires action in many sectors: health, long-term care, transport, housing, labour, social protection, information and communication. As well as many actors: government, service providers, civil society, older people and their organisations, families and friends. 

But this is a new and growing market and technology has the potential to shape this challenge to an opportunity. Healthy ageing will continue to be a key area of focus for techUK and we are committed to bringing together the key players in this eco-system to ensure genuine and meaningful collaboration.  

  • Georgina Maratheftis

    Georgina Maratheftis

    T 020 7331 2029
  • Teodora Kaneva

    Teodora Kaneva

    Programme Manager | SmarterUK
    T 020 7331 2016
Hazel Harper_Healthy Ageing Innovation workshop 200918 (pdf)

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