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UK Research and Innovation funds seven life-changing projects to trailblaze the way to better lives for older people

A new living lab village which will support people with dementia, flexible options to help older people to improve their homes, and a project that will create local ‘tribes’ of small providers of adult social care where there are gaps, are just three of the projects being backed by UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.

In total seven projects, run by organisations as diverse as small business, corporates, charities and local authorities, have attracted initial funding from the healthy ageing challenge to develop ways of making people’s lives healthier, more socially connected and more independent as they age.

The projects are:

  • New type of housing to be built in the grounds of University of Northampton, as part of a new community and living lab.
  • Inspired by Japan’s Sekisui House, new homes will enable people with dementia to live well for longer, by design, in high-quality modular housing, alongside homes for families and younger people.
  • A digital platform that will identify, upskill and check very local providers, or potential providers, of care and match them with those needing it.
  • Artificial intelligence, which is part of the project, can then start to predict what care needs exist in any community and how those needs are best met.
  • A project to target the estimated 1.6 million older homeowners who live in homes that are in a very poor state of disrepair.
  • This project will help create warm, safe and energy efficient homes, with a 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 and social isolation.
  • 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 on energy use and efficiency measures could advise on a new safer bathroom, novel home adaptations or even social connections, for example.
  • A Lancashire-based project that will upskill people working at gyms and leisure centres, so they can visit workplaces to conduct health screenings.
    • This will help to better identify ways in which employees and employers can start to address conditions like back pain, poor mental health or diabetes before they impact people’s ability to live healthy lives as they age.
  • A Scottish project, based in three neighborhoods, 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 and 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.
  • A Greater Manchester-based project to develop an age-friendly design agency to provide design, market research and capacity-building services.
    • In parallel it will explore the case for a technology enabled care marketplace for healthy ageing technology products and services, creating ways for products to be designed around the needs of older people, that they can easily access and trust.

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

If successful they could attract up to £40m of funding from UKRI, create new jobs, stimulate local economies and boost UK’s expertise in extending quality of life in older age.

Further Information

Originally announced on September 2019 as a competition for the best innovations.

Blackwood Neighbourhoods for Independent Living, led by innovative Scottish based housing and care provider, Blackwood Homes and Care, builds upon existing award winning work in developing the highly accessible Blackwood House and CleverCogs digital Care and support system.

Their aim now is to work with citizens and partners across three demonstrator neighbourhoods where we can bring together a menu of service and products which enable people to live independently, including new homes, a design guide to improve retro fit and adaptations of existing homes as well as future home design.

Unique aspects of the neighbourhood will include accessible outdoor spaces that will help people sustain physical activity, digital connectivity and infrastructure that allows interoperability, security, and ethical data control.

  • Sustainable energy and transport will reduce peoples’ carbon footprint and reduce transport costs.
  • The coaching and support offer helps people maintain their health and wellbeing.
  • They are always exploring new financial products and value exchange model that encourage and rewards community involvement and participation.

The mission of the Tribe project, led by Bronze Labs, 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 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 is a collaboration between Active Lancashire and UCLan focussed on workplace health and 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 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 and looking after their mental health. The project is supported by wider partners including Lancashire Mind, the NW Coast Innovation Agency, the Chambers of Commerce and UK Active.

Greater Manchester will develop and create places for the healthy ageing population to live, combining age-friendly homes with the need for social connections and living with long term conditions. It will develop an age-friendly design agency to provide design, market research and capacity-building services for customers. In parallel it will explore the use of technology enabled care by creating a testbed and marketplace for healthy ageing technology products and services. Led by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority the project includes Manchester City Council, Manchester Local Care Organisation, Health Innovation Manchester, Microsoft, Cisco, Philips, Pozzoni Architecture, Design Council, Inventya Ltd, Manchester Metropolitan University and The University of Manchester

House by Urban Splash and the University of Northampton is exploring the possible use of innovative tech not yet in use in the UK and new approaches to the design of modular homes through House’s sector-leading ‘configurator’ , enabling people to live well for longer, by design. The specific focus for this project is people with early onset dementia, but the innovation should be applicable for multiple issues of ageing and ill-health. This is inspired by Platform House from Sekisui House – one of the world’s leading tech and data led collaborative homes. Sekisui House is a partner in House by Urban Splash and is Japan’s biggest housebuilder. Northampton is a test to see what can work in a UK context, how the company make it affordable and crucially, how we deliver a better, longer, happier life for those living with dementia while delivering a more affordable model for all stakeholders.

London Rebuilding Society’s Healthy Homes, Healthy Lives will design fair and affordable, person-centred financial products providing new options and choices to homeowners 55 and over.

Approximately 1.6m 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 lives but cannot access support and finance to do so. With this finance they will be able to unlock their asset wealth and transform their lives so that they can live in an age friendly, adaptable home, for longer independently, healthier, and happier. They will be involved in designing their new home, including energy retrofit, access to renewables, smart technologies for energy monitoring and assistive technologies.

Project Maslow is a collaboration between E.ON, Newcastle University, Invisible Creations and ADL Smartcare to support people to age well so they can stay in their own homes for longer, helping retain their independence and stay connected with their families. It builds on the work of E.ON’s Warm Homes Fund, supplemented by products and services, like safe kitchens and bathrooms, that support active healthy ageing. The project puts aspiration, dignity, safety and inclusivity at the heart of desirable and smart inter-generational homes. With social purpose at its heart, it will start by supporting the most vulnerable people, initially in the Midlands.

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