Sunday, 25 November 2012

Our take on Aging2.0 London (22/11)

Aging2.0 held their second London event this week. Stephen Johnston, founder, opened the capacity crowd gathering with his view on the barriers to innovation when designing products for the 50+ population. What stops the innovation?

The evening's overarching message was this; the ageing narrative is negative and the challenge is to change society’s mindset which sees physical ageing as a failure and a natural process as a disease. The fallacy is that ageing is homogeneous. Because it is not, the involvement of the people intended to be served is crucial. There is also enormous untapped potential in their inclusion because ageing involves vastly complex interactions between the body and society. If we aim to create, design, interpret and successfully change the mindset, then people must accept and embrace the opportunities and challenges that accompany this unexplored life stage.

The first panel of speakers focused on design issues. Meeting the innovation challenge requires an acknowledgment that the experiences people have throughout their lives influences their later life. This necessitates a new design approach because ageing is broader than the purely physical and extends to the psycho-social sphere. Therefore, designing for older populations must be driven by a goal to replicate normality while simultaneously satisfying the enhanced capability requirements of increasing age.

The second panel pitched their start-ups by explaining existing and prototype products. There was general acknowledgment of the relative lack of funding for ventures in this sector. Obviously, this is an enormous space and the demand for thoughtfully designed products will only increase as the baby boomer cohort ages. We are only in the first part of this phase of the demographic transition.

Our takeaway was that any radical rethink of ageing must reach beyond the more privileged parts of society and our own bias as gerontologists. Ageing is so clearly not a fringe issue. That said, this collective voice is already big and will only get louder. We need to make it OK for everybody to “catch old”.

Deborah Gale


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