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Innovation in ageing: a co-creation project

10 March 2021 | 3 minutes

Working with schools to design a better tomorrow.

We have been working with Dame Allan’s Schools in Newcastle to co-create a course to promote innovation in ageing.   The course helped students to explore the daily challenges of ageing and to develop ideas for innovative solutions. 

The schools already have an impressive community service curriculum which is embedded in local primary schools and residential care homes.   As part of this programme, the schools have created an innovative intergenerational website.  

The website -  Dame Allan's Schools Virtual Intergenerational Project - VIP for VIPs -  has plenty of interesting and entertaining content which is suitable for any age group and is well worth a look.

The recent COVID pandemic restrictions created significant challenges for the community service students who would usually visit care home residents, but The Carents Room was able to help by supporting this new project.

The project involved Year 12 students with widespread subject interests including Science, Healthcare, Humanities and Design. It aimed to help them explore how the changing age structure of the UK population might affect their future career, employment and personal life by helping them to understand: 

  • How the UK population is ageing 
  • How ageing can affect the ability to undertake instrumental activities of daily living 
  • How future industries and business can address the needs of an older population 

As part of the project, the students spoke to older people in their social bubbles to find out about the challenges they face. Most students spoke to grandparents who explained their various day to day challenges such as:

  • Failing vision causing all sorts of reading and communication difficulties 
  • Memory problems making it more difficult to remember medicines or essential groceries
  • Feeling low as a consequence of the COVID restrictions. For some, shielding, lockdown and social distancing had led to negative feelings including boredom, loss of purpose or daily structure, and social isolation.
  • Problems sourcing comfortable clothing or footwear to accommodate swollen limbs or sensitive skin
  • Lack of WIFI and/or the necessary technical skills or equipment to access entertainment, communication and other opportunities available via the internet eg NETFLIX, Zoom calls etc
  • Living in rural areas made it even harder to access essential support services such as transport to medical appointments.  

The students used their findings, supplemented by other research, to invent solutions which they then pitched (virtually) to a judging panel.   Their ideas were very impressive -  creative, practical and affordable and likely to improve the day to day lives of older people in the community.   

Reflecting on what they had learnt from the project, the students described how they had become more aware of the needs of older people.  Some had found it “eye opening” to realise what lockdown life might be like in a home without WIFI, others had developed new insights into the practical difficulties of undertaking simple day to day tasks in the face of failing health. 

The students also realised that their ideas could deliver practical benefits by promoting independence as well as psychological benefits arising from improved control and autonomy.  They also recognised just how much their digital expertise could benefit older generations and were keen to help however they could. 

Mrs Whitehouse, Head of Careers at the Schools, said:  

The Carents Room  has enlightened Dame Allan's students about carers and our ageing population as well as helping them to research and consider innovative ways to support the elderly. 

The Innovation Project has developed students' healthcare, science, design, creativity and business skills and we would be keen to roll this out to even more students for our virtual Work Experience and Community Service programmes. This project allows students to be the designers of their own better tomorrow by helping family, friends and others today and this has been a real positive in these challenging times.”

The innovation in ageing project clearly demonstrated that by engaging with the topic, by seeking to understand, and by thinking creatively, we can readily find affordable ways to improve the lives of older people.  It also showed that a focus on innovation in ageing can achieve additional benefits in terms of attitudinal change, intergenerational communication and action. 

If you would like to learn more about the project and/or the students’ solutions, then please contact us by emailing [email protected].