On Thursday, I was delighted to be asked to speak at the Age UK national policy conference, Agenda for Later Life 2012.
This annual policy conference looks at how public policy is meeting the challenges of later life and the accompanying report (see below) is a useful stocktake of where things stand now, as well as a recognition that the issues involved require not just action from Government but also third sector bodies, businesses and older people themselves. Age UK are focussed on a a vision of “active ageing” which allows people to participate in society and realise their potential for physical, social and mental wellbeing while providing adequate care and security.
I was part of the panel talking about inclusive design, together with Professor Jeremy Myerson from the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design and Tony Noakes, the Operations Director for the BBC’s Switchover Help Scheme – which has evidently been doing a fantastic job in making sure older and disabled people are ready for the digital switchover.
Professor Jeremy Myerson (who featured in last’s week’s The Culture Show) opened proceedings with the 10 myths about inclusive design including that it is boring and expensive to implement. I talked about my experiences of setting up The Future Perfect Company and running the Designing for the Future competition with the University of Brighton.
I am pleased to report that we had a capacity audience and there seemed to be a good deal of interest in inclusive design and design for older people. It was also a good opportunity to share information about what was happening in this field.
Two new initiatives are in the off-ing. Age UK are about to launch their Trusted by Engage accreditation scheme designed to raise awareness of Engage, its business network which, it is fair to say, has had a quiet couple of years but has now apparently been reinvigorated. Also last week saw the UK launch of the European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations.
Mary Sinfield from the New Dynamics of Ageing told me about a fashion research project which is looking at how our bodies change as we get older – something I am definitely going to follow up.
The stand out presentation of this year’s Conference for me was given by Professor Alan Walker, Professor of Social Policy and Social Gerentology at the University of Sheffield who had an unusually upbeat approach to our ageing demographic. He made the observation that the people who we are predicting will be inhabiting costly care homes in 2030/40 are alive now and if they were to take action to reduce environmental risk factors, for example by eating well and taking exercise, they would be more likely to be able to maintain their independence longer and less likely to need substantial care. Ageing, he said should be looked at from a life course perspective and we should all aim to “live longer healthier and die faster”. Food for thought.
You can download HERE Age UK’s Agenda for Later Life 2012 policy report