Happiness is not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort.

Launch of “Designing for the Future” 2012 at University of Brighton

Posted: February 28th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Designing for the Future Competition - University of Brighton, Inclusive design | No Comments »

Supermarket padYesterday was the launch of the “Designing for the Future” Competition at the University of Brighton. This is the third year of this Competition which follows hot on the heels of the successful student design competition at Collyers’ sixth form college. All part of our mission to encourage designers to consider the challenges of getting older.

Nick Gant (Principal Lecturer) and Gareth Neal(Senior Lecturer) are leading the project at  the University which is open to students from the BA (Hons) 3D Design/MDes 3D Design courses at the Faculty of Art.

We are delighted that Age UK  consumer policy advisor Gretel Jones has agreed to be a judge again. And this year we are also joined by Richard Child from Hymid R&D. Richard recently graduated from University College Falmouth with a first class honours degree in 3D design and has since set up Hymid R&D as an ideas hub for the independent living sector.

Anne Boddington, Dean of the Faculty of Arts at University of Brighton and Philippa Aldrich from The Future Perfect Company complete the judging panel.

This year the prizes will include product development advice and social media and business mentoring – which hopefully will help the students to take their ideas one stage further as well as help them market themselves. 

Last year’s Competition provoked a lot of discussion, interest and press coverage. We had showcases at the Mobility Roadshow, The BSRA Science of Ageing conference and also a public expo. With the launching of initiatives such as the Technology Strategy Board’s Tomorrow Together and with an invitation to talk about the Competition at this year’s Age UK annual policy conference, this year looks set to be even more exciting for inclusive design.

We return to Brighton in March for a “Dragons Den” to assess progress and give feedback. The judging will take place in May with the results announced in June.

Image : Supermarket navigator by Jessica Hung, Designing for the Future 2011

The Future Perfect Company featured on Hugmail blog

Posted: February 27th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Press coverage | Comments Off on The Future Perfect Company featured on Hugmail blog

hugmailNice write up here from our friends at Hugmail

Towards a better future with The Future Perfect Company

Monday, February 27, 2012 – 09:55
Posted in  

A few weeks back Hugmail had the pleasure of meeting Philippa Aldrich of The Future Perfect Company.

 Having first discovered The Future Perfect Company through Twitter, Hugmail was quick to offer its support to this proactive,innovative company. Such is our show of support that we felt the need to spread the word.

 For those of you who haven’t heard of them before, The Future Perfect Company is a website that specialises in the sourcing of innovative, beautifully designed products for the older generation. From golf gloves designed by orthopaedic surgeons,  to ergonomic saucepans designed to help make lifting easier – though the range is broad, it is unified by a focused commitment to bring good quality, well designed products to the senior market.

 Created in response to seeing older family members struggle in their everyday life, Philippa has built a great network of passionate, hugely talented designers. Not only has this enabled her to create a successful business addressing a big need, it has also been influential in raising awareness of the need to innovate in this space. Philippa is part of the Technology Strategy Board’s new initiative ‘Tomorrow Together’.  An initiative which aims to engage the creative community in innovation for later life.

 So if you’re looking for a product to better meet the needs of an elderly relative or a skilled designer, passionate about improving products in the space, do get in touch.  

To read the full post, go to http://www.hugmail.com/info/node/481

Wanted! Over 50’s Foster Carers in the UK

Posted: February 27th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Care, Retirement | No Comments »

simply fosteringI came across Simply Fostering last week on Twitter. I had always assumed that foster carers had to be under a certain age but in fact over 50’s are now recognised as some of the most skilled childcare workers in the UK. Annette Webb of Simply Fostering got in touch to explain further. Here is what she told me.

Over 50’s foster carers  or ‘empty nesters’ are now seen and recognised as some of the most skilled childcare workers in the UK. This is because of the childcare experiences they have gained over the years. They have often dealt with and coped with numerous difficulties and challenges. The over 50’s still have plenty to offer in caring for vulnerable children, including stability, energy, commitment and in our experience  plenty of time on their hands to use when working with vulnerable children and young people. 

Their own children have left home or are soon to be leaving home, leaving a void in their once busy lives. In fact, numerous over 50’s foster carers have actually said to Simply Fostering that they are bored without having children around the home and would like to do a worthwhile job.

Some Fostering Agencies and Local Authorities are actively seeking to recruit foster carers who are over 50, as they generally don’t have younger children living at home, they are financially secure and they have comfortable and stable family lives from which foster children can benefit.

 At any one time there are approximately 80,000 children in care in the UK. It is generally accepted that there is a shortfall of 10,000 new foster carers every year which compounds the growing problem of foster children being separated from their brothers and sisters, having to live a long way from their family and friends and being denied placement stability which impacts on their education, self esteem and as a consequence causes further disruption in children’s lives.

Along with placement breakdowns, one of the potential outcomes of the lack of placement choice are the 50% of care-leavers who do not enter education, employment or training and end up drifting. Very significant proportions are leaving care on their 16 birthday through their own choice, with very few options available to them.

The more people approved as foster carers, the more likely it is that a good match can be found for a child in terms of location, culture, lifestyle, language and interests. More foster carers means reducing the damage that instability causes to the most vulnerable children in our society.

 A published research document produced by Professor Bob Broad of London South Bank University analyses the views and experiences of children and foster carers as part of a ten year longitudinal study. 

Professor Broad says: ‘It is especially important that children in foster care feel valued within a safe, stable, loving family situation. Their health and well-being are connected to their participation in family life, and decisions about their foster placement’.

This research study evidences the high value children in foster care place on their current foster carer whilst also wanting further contact with their birth family. The study points to the positive yet often difficult journeys they make as they seek to sustain friendships, achieve a good education, and in some cases, improve their mental health and behaviour.

Simply Fostering is a response to the shortfall of foster carers. It is a unique, not for profit web based service designed by fostering social workers to encourage interested people to apply to become foster carers who might feel confused and/or uncertain about their suitability or which Agency to contact.

Simply Fostering help by providing easy to understand, impartial, comprehensive information about fostering and how to become a foster carer. General enquiries are answered and if the enquirer completes the registration form, recruiting fostering agencies are identified who will then contact the enquirers.

Simply Fostering is not an Agency therefore the free service is able to provide people with choices to find the right Agency for them and their family as recommended by government and Fostering Network.


Whilst almost anyone can apply to be a foster carer, people need to have or to be able to demonstrate potential parenting skills which are adaptable to the fostering role. Foster carers are optimistic, good listeners, flexible and with a good sense of humour, which also helps.

In our experience one of the most difficult issues for people has been discussing finance. Looking after children and receiving a fee is a difficult concept at first and many foster carers have told Simply Fostering that they found it embarrassing to talk about payments.

Times have changed and fostering is no longer seen as a voluntary service. In order to recruit and retain foster carers it is now accepted that foster carers need to be financially rewarded as are any other workers in social care. Local Authorities and Independent Fostering Agencies provide fees and allowances to enable foster carers to care for children and young people on a full-time basis. Foster carers are now paid allowances of between £350-420 tax free, per week, per child.

Many people are choosing fostering as a career choice and committing to fostering on a full time basis. Generally, the more available you are the more placements you will be offered.

Anyone interested in fostering and becoming a foster carer should go to www.simplyfostering.co.uk  where all information, practical support and choice is just a registration form away or contact Annette Webb at info@simplyfostering.co.uk

Scandal of scams against older people and how to avoid them

Posted: February 22nd, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Care, Grandparents, Miscellaneous | No Comments »

iStock_000008959096XSmallI wrote a few weeks ago about a rather nasty incident of pressure selling experienced by my friend Eve.

Another of my friends, Liz who is an advice worker, has just got in touch asking me to draw attention to several scams currently being perpetrated against older people – particularly concerning to anyone caring for someone at a distance.

As Liz says : “Having seen people in distress, it’s an issue I’d like to see publicised as much as possible”.

One example is a scam targeting elderly and vulnerable residents across Surrey obtaining their bank details by calling and claiming to be from their bank. In previous cases the caller has told the victim there is a problem with their bank card and it will need replacing, also asking for their bank details, PIN number and balance, and that a courier will be round to pick up the faulty card and replace it with a new one. A person dressed as a courier then arrives at their front door to take the card.

Another tactic has been to leave a “we have missed you” notice claiming to be from the bank asking the victim to ring the number.

Warwick District Council has recently reported that Trading Standards are also currently dealing with more than 200 complaints about people claiming to be their energy supplier or working in partnership with them, offering a plug-in device which they say can save them 40 per cent off their energy bills.

Trading Standards have had a number of the items tested which not only failed to satisfy electrical safety standards but do not deliver any tangible energy savings.

Ron Gainsford from the Trading Standards Institute said: “Consumers are warned not to use the product as they pose a risk of fire and electrocution and a safety recall has been issued for the items traced so far. Unscrupulous criminals are using the rising energy prices as an opportunity to lure in cash strapped consumers – elderly people seem to have been deliberately targeted.”

Action Fraud reports that UK citizens lose around £2.4 billion every year as a result of scam mail. Sent by professional fraudsters, scam letters are designed to con recipients into investing in bogus schemes such as fake lotteries, share frauds and inheritance scams. They depend on persuading victims to hand over money based on promises of valuable goods, services, or benefits that are never delivered. After replying to a ‘tempter’ letter, victims’ names can be put on a ‘suckers list’ which is then sold to other fraudsters. Chronic victims include some of the most vulnerable people in society, some of whom end up being hounded with terrible consequences

This is all very alarming but there is some good advice about how to protect yourself and those you care for against scams on the Directgov website. This includes how to recognise scams, how to deal with them and how to reduce the risk of being involved. It is a worthwhile read for everyone – the reason why scammers are so successful is that they are both persuasive and credible and it’s not just older people who can find themselves on the “suckers list”.

For more information, go to http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Governmentcitizensandrights/Consumerrights/Protectyourselffromscams/DG_195960 or http://www.actionfraud.org.uk/

Introducing our gorgeous new yellow and black double handled mug!

Posted: February 20th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Care, Inclusive design, New products! | No Comments »

new yellowHot out of its Forest of Dean kiln, I am delighted to introduce you to the latest addition to our range of popular handmade double handled teapots and mugs!  A lovely daffodil yellow with black handles and edging, it is the perfect mug for brightening up your kitchen in time for Spring.

Like all our double handled mugs, these mugs have been handmade for us by Reckless Designs so every one is different.  

The unusual two handled design makes this mug easy to hold even for those with weak wrists or arthritis  and it is particularly comforting when you are feeling under the weather or just wanting to relax.   Great for soups or a good old fashioned cup of tea. Makes an unusual Mothers Day present or housewarming gift but is also handy for the younger grandchildren.  Perfect for young and old alike, this is inclusive design at its best.

As it is handmade, supply is limited so you will need to be quick. For more information, including how to buy, CLICK HERE

As safe as houses? The consequences of private debt entering the social housing sector

Posted: February 19th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Care, Housing, Retirement | No Comments »

iStock_000017068165XSmall[1]Security of housing is fundamental to our wellbeing as we get older.  Many older people living in social housing expect to be able to remain in their homes as long as they wish. However, the current tough financial climate has resulted in two challenges to this assumption. The first is the new cap on housing benefits and the second, less reported, is the change to the way housing associations are funded.

The Sunday Times reports today that since the financial crisis the subsidy for new social housing has been cut by 63% under the government’s comprehensive spending review two years ago. Bank funding has been harder to get. The welfare reform bill is likely to end the direct payment of rents from the government to landlords making rent payment the responsibility of tenants and thereby less secure (which itself makes Bank funding more difficult to obtain).

The results are that rents for new affordable housing are likely to rise – today’s Sunday Times thinks by as much as 80% of the market rate in some areas – and housing associations will have to take on more private debt. Some are thinking of considering radical ways to raise cash such as sale and leaseback  or floating parts of their portfolios on the stock exchange.  Other possibilities are partnerships with private equity investors or insurance companies.

It is at this point that the spectre of Southern Cross raises its ugly head in most people’s minds. There there was a catastrophic collide between the commercial expectations of the property investors with the care provision – resulting in the collapse of the group. 

However, a quick scan through last year’s report by PWC and London & Quadrant, Hard Times, New Choices leaves you in no doubt as to the scale of the challenge currently being faced by the housing associations, tasked to deliver 150,000 new homes by 2015 with ever dwindling government subsidies. 

Raising private finance is not new territory for housing associations who over the past 30 years have raised £60 billion of private investment on top of the £34 billion received from the government, making the sector almost as big as the private finance initiative, the controversial scheme that uses private money to build social infrastructure such as schools and hospitals. Housing associations have become increasingly sophisticated players in the property market, courted by the big City legal firms.

This is definitely a new chapter for the housing associations and shows what a long way we have come in social policy terms since the notion of “council houses”. David Montague, chief executive of London & Quadrant says that housing associations would need to be run on a higher debt, higher risk basis in future. He dismisses the idea that the industry is torn between its social purpose and the need to be commercial: “it’s our responsibility to choose not one but both”.

That balancing act is going to be very difficult to pull off and at stake is people’s homes. Risk to the housing associations will translate at some level into risk for their tenants. But without further government money, there are few choices, As Keith Exford, chairman of G15 which represents the 15 biggest London housing associations puts it : ” There’s an inconvenient truth in all this – if you want a subsidised housing product, you have to subsidise it”

To read the Housing & Quadrant and PWC report, go to http://www.lqgroup.org.uk/_assets/files/Hard-times-more-choices.pdf

Good Care Guide launches – A “TripAdvisor” for care homes

Posted: February 18th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Care, Health | 2 Comments »

Good care GuideMany of us caring for older parents will have at some stage to contemplate finding them a care home.  Unless you can rely on some local knowledge or better still, a friend’s recommendation, this is not an easy task. Whilst the Care Quality Commission can provide a list of homes registered in your area and copies of their inspection reports, it is then up to you to visit and decide whether the home is appropriate to your parents’ needs.

Today’s launch of  the “Good Care Guide” website aims to help this process. Developed by two social enterprises, My Family Care and United for All AgesGood Care Guide will list several thousand care homes (as well as child care agencies)  and includes an online facility for users to give a rating out of five and post comments – rather like “TripAdvisor”.

Stephen Burke, Director of  Good Care Guide, (whom I met at the recent launch of Tomorrow Together) says: “Good Care Guide will make it much easier for consumers of care to find out what other people really think about care providers.  It’s unique by covering childcare and eldercare, and will provide families with a tool that will enable them to judge the quality of a provider from the honest feedback of other users and enable care users to share their experiences, good or bad.  We hope that Good Care Guide becomes a deciding factor in choosing care after someone has read the official inspection report as well as visited the provider.”

However, some care providers have expressed concerns, particularly after TripAdvisor came under fire recently from hoteliers claiming that malicious comments were being posted by competitors trying to damage their businesses. 

Good Care Guide has taken these concerns on board, putting in place checks to help make sure this does not happen. For instance, anyone leaving a comment will be emailed by staff to check their identity.

Good Care Guide clearly has the potential to be an important resource for families considering care. How useful it will prove to be will depend on how ready people are to get involved and take time to report their experiences. But it is a model that has been used successfully elsewhere, not just in the holiday and restaurant industries but also with home maintenance sites like Rated People and CheckaTrade and other more niche community websites such as Enabled by Design. It is also a model being considered for independent living aids (See Raising the Standard).

Good Care Guideis undoubtedly challenging to care providers who will need to monitor and respond to customer opinion. But with more and more care likely to be funded privately, it will also provide care homes with invaluable customer feedback which will enable them to improve their offering and grow their businesses.

One of the thing’s the Internet does well is to allow us to share information with each other. If it is to take off, Good Care Guide needs to inspire our steadily growing community of carers to share their experiences, good and bad, for the benefit of those who follow behind them. I hope it does.

For more information, visit http://www.goodcareguide.co.uk/

Is Lloyds Pharmacy’s “Health Village” a game-changer for the 50+ retail market?

Posted: February 16th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Care, Health | No Comments »

health villageThis week I found out about a new retail concept being trialled by Lloyds Pharmacy the Health Village.

Currently being tested at Brent South Retail Park and Lakeside, the Health Village aims to give customers access to pharmacy services alongside an opticians, online doctor and physiotherapists all under one roof.

At Brent South, Lloyds Pharmacy has partnered with opticians (Vision Express), chiropodists (Shuropody), beauty experts (Sk:n), audiologists (Hidden Hearing) and physiotherapists (Connect Physical Health) and in the true spirit of destination shopping there is a coffee shop and accessible toilets. Lloyds Pharmacy‘s own Betterlife Healthcare brand is also there selling a range of “independent living and mobility aids“.

It is not hard to see how the Health Village concept could be expanded to include other services such as life coaching, counselling and psychotherapy. Maybe even other non-health related services such as legal, financial services and travel.

Of course the idea of combining different health services together is not new. It is at the heart and of the NHS and the combination of different services under one roof is like a retail version of the GP-led health clinics (or polyclinics) currently springing up around the country. 

But this is a consumer-focussed retail offering and unlike say, Boots’ health services, is a partnering model with other brands.

Whilst not overtly aimed at older people, the Health Village concept has baby boomer written all over it and in retail terms, particularly with the inclusion of “independent living aids”, could be game-changing for this market.  Far from being hidden in a secondary shopping location,  the “mobility shop” has come centre stage and if the publicity material is anything to go by, the layouts are smart and the products well presented. (The products themselves could do with a design overhaul but that’s another issue).

So, the big question is  – will people proactively manage their health and independence  in this way and is a specialist retail, rather than medical, environment the place to encourage them to do so? What do you think?

For more information about the Health Village visit http://www.healthvillage.co.uk/

A Beginners Guide to looking after your ageing loved ones

Posted: February 11th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Care | No Comments »

Action for AgeingA couple of weeks ago, Chris Minett contacted me on Twitter asking whether I would like to see a copy of a new book : Action for Ageing; 297 Tips to Improve the Health, Safety and Wellbeing of your ageing loved ones.”

The idea behind this book was conceived during a family holiday in Spain in 2010. After years of listening to his mother, Robin Minett sharing her experience of caring for older people gleaned from a lifetime of caring, eldest son Mike suggested she might want to capture all that valuable expertise in a book. At the same time, younger son Chris starting researching into the world of ageing and care of older people.

The result of all this family enterprise is Action for Ageing” which was published last year.

At its core, the book gives simple and practical advice as to how to look after the older people in your care. In that respect it is not unlike Penelope Leach’s “Baby and Child” which became my bible when my children were born.

However, what the Minett family recognise and tackle with great empathy is that looking after older people is not always as straightforward as looking after children and that there are many frustrations and complexities along the way, not least because the older person is an adult with their own opinions and a right to make their own choices. 

I think “Action for Ageing” works well as a Beginners Guide particularly for those of us who become carers by degrees. The Minetts’ key message is that “prevention is better than cure”. Act now before you receive that awful telephone call “It’s your Mum. She’s had a fall”.  By thinking ahead, caring can be made much easier both for the cared for and the carer. 

“Action for Ageing” is easy to read and to dip in and out of and written with a good deal of humour.  And there are useful Action Steps at the end of each chapter.

For more information and to buy a copy of the book, visit http://www.actionforageing.com/

Inclusive design – luxury or “must have”? Guest blog for Age UK

Posted: February 11th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Inclusive design, Press coverage | Comments Off on Inclusive design – luxury or “must have”? Guest blog for Age UK

Age Uk blog postI have just written a post for the Age UK blog, “Inclusive Design – luxury or “must have”“, ahead of the Agenda for Later Life 2012 conference where I will be speaking about inclusive design.

In these times of austerity, I think it is easy to dismiss design as a luxury. However, if we pause and think for a moment about what good and, in particular inclusive, design, can deliver for us, very quickly it becomes a “must have”.

To read the blog in full, go to http://ageukblog.org.uk/2012/02/11/inclusive-design-luxury-or-must-have/

For details about the Agenda for Later Life 2012 conference including how to book , visit http://www.ageuk.org.uk/professional-resources-home/conferences/agenda-for-later-life/