THE BLOG
01/05/2014 13:09 BST | Updated 01/07/2014 06:59 BST

Who Cares About the Care Crisis? Entrepreneurs, Techies and Impact Investors Do

So, have you put much thought into what care you'll need when you are 80? What about when you're 90 - do you think you will be in a care home? Getting older and how we'll cope is not an easy thing to think about at the best of times and after last night's Panorama we might all be worrying about what could happen to us in old age.

Life expectancy in the UK has increased from 77 to 85 in just the last thirty years. But living longer doesn't necessarily mean living with a good quality of life. As we age our ability to look after ourselves declines, our need for help from others increases - be that for full-on residential care, paid for help at home to get washed and dressed, or simple "informal care" from friends and relatives who do the shopping and pop-in regularly to check we are ok.

Last week think tank IPPR predicted that by 2017 the number of older people in need of care will outstrip the number of family members able to help. In 2011 the Government's Dilnot Commission proposed changes to the way social care is funded, recognising the hard economic tension of increasing demand for care from older people versus constrained public finances. Last year my Nesta colleague Halima Khan wrote persuasively about the need for a systemic response to the challenges of an ageing population encompassing policy, product, behaviour and technological innovation.

So, what now? The bottom line is we need innovation in the way we deliver social care for older people that can tackle the increasing demand while being cost effective.

Today, Nesta Impact Investments, is publishing Who cares? The report predicts that in ten years' time over 9 million people will be in need of informal care. It highlights the significant role of new technology and social entrepreneurs in providing the networks to support older people in the future, and analyses 25 early stage tech ventures. Ventures like Patients Know Best, HomeTouch and Casserole Club.

Most people want to remain in their own homes and the report argues that informal care should be seen as a preventative measure, delaying the need for costly residential or professional home care. This challenges the pessimistic argument that having to rely upon this sort of care is a fallback response to failure when the individual can't, or the state won't, pay for care. Informal care can deliver significant social and well-being benefits to older people and should also save money (for individuals and the state) as it can enable people to live independently for longer.

New innovations being developed by social entrepreneurs could:

• increase the scale of informal care

• make informal caring more efficient and easily managed

• make the transition between informal and professional care as smooth as possible.

For example, Jointly, an app developed by Carers UK, is designed to make caring less stressful and more co-ordinated. Jointly connects people caring for a family member or friend and enables multiple carers to share a calendar, task and medication lists and group messaging. Casserole Club is an online service that links up cooks in a local community with older people who are isolated. That cook makes an extra hot meal and shares it with the older person, providing company and friendship as well as a meal.

I'm an impact investor and I see the informal care sector as the epitome of an impact investment opportunity - there is a significant social need; Government has recognised the issue and is seeking innovations; there is a supply of promising ventures and talented entrepreneurs developing them, and investment funding is needed to build evidence of impact and scale up delivery.

So who cares? In the future, we all will need to - right now, its social entrepreneurs and the impact investors who back them that do.