So it turns out we're never too old for a bit of sex, drugs and rock n roll, and furthermore it can actually do us the world of good. That's according to Professor Wlodzislaw Duch, who heads up the Neurocognitive Laboratory in the Center of Modern Interdisciplinary Technologies, and the Department of Informatics (both at Nicolaus Copernicus University).
Speaking at the Polish Ministry of Economic Affairs in Warsaw, at our ninth Neighbourhoods of the Future roadshow in as many months, Professor Duch revealed that - even if their drugs are now of the legal kind - the men and women who began the sexual revolution as twentysomethings are now finding new passions and partners in retirement, and this can be attributed to improvements in wellbeing. The summer of love isn't quite over for everyone yet, it seems.
And the rock n' roll? Well, keep on reading.
The past nine months have been something of a whirlwind voyage of discovery for the Agile Ageing Alliance. Working with Utrecht University and local partners we have taken soundings from world capitals to city halls and rural communities; employing design thinking, storytelling and creative visioning to explore new paradigms for 'Agile Ageing' in our Neighbourhoods of the Future.
Whist we are still taking stock, what strikes me is just how much we have in common. Our populations are expanding, with advancing age and long-term conditions being defining features of a far from stable international healthcare landscape. Indeed, we share similar desires when it comes to wellbeing and quality of life. And one thing is certain, INNOVATION is capable of disrupting the status quo. It can transform health and care systems, thereby enabling our older selves to enjoy healthier more active, meaningful and 'connected' lives; with as much independence and autonomy as our individual circumstances allow.
So, where are the road blocks? Although we have come across notable exceptions, led by organisations which are re-imagining care homes as valuable community assets, for the most part institutional care is not fit for purpose and much too expensive. Furthermore, according to our research there is no doubt that we want to enjoy later life in the comfort of our own homes.
Which is a real problem, as it is estimated that around 75 per cent of the EU's current housing stock is not suitable for independent living. Conversely, this constitutes a huge opportunity for the development of smarter new build and retrofit solutions. The European Commission has taken the initiative to drive this agenda through Neighbourhoods of the Future, a European roadshow of interconnected Innovation Workshops.
To have any chance of boosting a market for age inclusive homes, stakeholders will have to invest more time talking with each other, developing ideas together, and testing and implementing the ideas together.
This is the first step towards a common reference framework. Of course we will need a competitive marketplace, but we'll be thinking about improving user experience and interoperability, instead of focusing on imposing our own exclusive standards. In fact, we'll find new ways of collaborating together in a spirit of open innovation.
It's truer than ever before that life begins at 60, or 65 or whatever, with years of healthy living and exciting life events ahead for many of us. We will be grandparents. We will be centres of social activity for family and friends. We will be running our own micro businesses. We will expect our houses to deliver much more. Our connected home can become a partner in our lives, not just a place to live, and - using modern technology - it will welcome us, warn us, help us survive and enjoy life, not just be a passive receptacle for our ageing bodies.
When we enter our smarter houses and apartments, we'll expect an update on what's going on, in and around the home. As we get older, we'll expect those who help us to get the same updates, if we so chose. When problems are imminent, whether in the home or outside, we'll expect to be alerted, in a way which goes far beyond the warning about frost, open doors, seat belts undone, lights left on or service required that modern cars give us. In short, we'll expect our homes to be - dare we say it - almost human.
Say It Loud
If you would like to get involved with our project, now is your chance. We will be staging a 'meeting of minds' December 8th 2016 at the European Summit on Innovation for Active and Healthy Ageing in Brussels, where we will present insights from the roadshow and further explore the co-creation of a European Reference Framework for smarter age friendly, connected homes and communities. To register contact Horst.KRAEMER@ec.europa.eu as soon as possible, as space is strictly limited, and by invitation only.
If you can't make the Brussels event, we are about to launch a new phase of research. To find out about contributing please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org tell us something about yourself and why you would like to get involved and we will be in touch.
It's Only Rock N' Roll but...
And now to the rock n' roll. The day after the Warsaw roadshow, I attended Bill Wyman's 80th birthday bash in London. The former Rolling Stone was joined on stage by an exotic collection of baby-boomers including Bob Geldof, Joe Brown, Van Morrison, Mark Knopfler, Robert Plant and through video the other Stones. Once upon a time, our parents warned against following such role models. Well, they looked pretty good to me, so maybe rock n' roll really is the elixir for a long, rich and creative life.
Shine on you crazy diamonds!
Image by Andrzej Saniewski, used with permission.