28/04/2009 "The rise in our ageing population is one of the most significant social challenges we face."
"The rise in our ageing population is one of the most significant social challenges we face."
NESTA has undertaken research which leads it to believe the UK is unprepared for ageing. Just under a third of all pensioners live on or close to the poverty line and twelve million people - half the UK workforce - are putting nothing aside for old age. Demographic patterns mean these trends are getting worse and the UK is failing to find new solutions, focusing instead on existing services and initiatives.
NESTA's Public services innovation Lab is responding by launching a programme that will design innovative new approaches to create sustained personal well-being for an ageing society. The aim is to get people in their 50's to plan earlier for old age, when they are in a position to make informed choices about the type of lifestyle they want to lead.
'Age Unlimited' will call on policy makers and this new generation of Third-Agers - people aged 50-70 - to shift the focus from retirement to being prepared for ageing. It will experiment with ways of extending working age and social participation and strike a better balance between the contribution and costs of an ageing society in the UK.
The imperative for change is strong: it is estimated that the cost of an ageing society on the public purse will reach £300 billion by 2025, around three times what we currently spend on the NHS, as a result of rising costs in areas such as social care, long-term health conditions, pensions and benefits. Today there are around four people of working age for every person aged over 65. The old age dependency ratio is expected to worsen to only two to one by 2050.
In 2008 the number of people above state pension age exceeded those under 16 for the first time. By 2025, half the UK adult population will be aged 50 or over (27 million people). NESTA argues that this profound demographic shift will increase the numbers of people affected by poverty, ill-health, unemployment and social isolation. By the 2020s the number of older people relying on community care services will rise by nearly 40 per cent to more than two million.
Rowena Young, director of NESTA's Lab comments: "The rise in our ageing population is one of the most significant social challenges we face. It requires radical new approaches to avert an unprecedented drain on already depleted public finances. This programme will look to deal with prevention, rather than cure by putting forward the ideas of people with the best insights into solving some of the challenges we face in this area."
Helen Gresty, head of NESTA's Innovation Programmes, says, "Individuals in their fifties can be helped to age well and exercise choice before these become too constrained. Whether it's employees negotiating with their employers to continue to work, or creating more stimulating alternatives to traditional employment, we will test the best ideas on a small scale before taking what works to the market. It's an exciting approach which will empower people reaching old age."
The government launches a new ageing strategy next month, but despite recognising the challenges NESTA highlights, has found it difficult to promote progress for want of practical models which can be replicated across the nation.
Closing date for applications to the call is 12 noon (UK) Friday 19th June 2009.
Notes to editors:
NESTA is the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts, a unique and independent body with a mission to make the UK more innovative.
With the largest portfolio of early-stage businesses in the country, it is a leading authority on how to grow new ideas. It also stimulates imaginative solutions to pressing social issues and shapes policy to help the UK meet its national innovation challenges.
About NESTA's Public Services Innovation Lab
The Lab is a trailblazing response to the increasing and complex challenges that society is facing. Economic turbulence, environmental threats and our rapidly ageing population are triggering profound changes to the way we all live and work. But our public services - from health to transport and education - are simply not set up to cope with the scale of the challenge or the pace of change. Fresh thinking is urgently needed.
Our ability to innovate will determine our ability to deliver better services for less money and build a more sustainable society. Government alone can't provide the answers. So NESTA has created the Lab to meet this need for bold new ideas that work. By bringing together experience and ingenuity from across the public, private and third sectors, and drawing on the insights of citizens and consumers, the Lab plays a vital role in making public services fit for the 21st century.
The Lab is not a physical space or an institution - it's a series of practical projects, informed by research and delivered in partnership with those that run and use our public services. It shares lessons about what works - and what doesn't - and creates opportunities for people to solve these together. It provides the freedom, flexible capital and expertise to undertake radical experiments. It tests out new ways of finding and spreading the best ideas - this might be by running a challenge prize, building a social ventures incubator, or creating powerful new teams of users, front-line staff and decision-makers.
About Age Unlimited:
Age Unlimited targets people in their fifties and sixties experimenting with ways to extend working lives and find better ways to help people make the transition to retirement. We will work with employers, policy makers and private, third and public sector organisations to find practical ways of affecting systemic change. It will place people facing these issues directly at the heart of finding solutions and inviting them to come forward with the best ideas with a total of up to £650k of support. Ideas are sought which incentivise more flexible working conditions, develop new products for older people, and ensure that policies and regulation support a new culture and behaviour that gives choice to people planning for old age.