The ageing heroes
The House of Lord's Select Committee today declared the UK is "woefully underprepared for an ageing society" and that the NHS will need "radical reform" to cope with the demands of an ageing population in the future. They're not wrong.
Today's report is the boldest statement to date from official channels of the need to change not just our institutions and systems, but how we all view later life.
Much of what the Lords recommend chimes with our own thoughts, published two weeks ago in Five Hours a Day: Systemic Innovation for an Ageing Population. We need new technologies, pills and devices, but we also need new institutions and significantly different service models fit for the future, not the past.
And there's some evidence of this happening on the ground already. Buried deep on pg.81 of the Lord's report is a reference to the "heroic professionals" of Torbay and the North West London Care Pilots, who are striving to innovate in a "poor system". These are the sort of people we back at Nesta - innovators who are taking risks to change the system from the inside out. Ageing heroes.
Our heroes aren't caped crusaders. They are entrepreneurs, service managers and commissioners daring to do things differently. Like Alex Fox, CEO of Shared Lives Plus (pictured), who is championing a family model of care, so that older people who can no longer live in their own home go to live with a local family rather than in residential care. And the team behind social prescribing in Newcastle, where GPs prescribe volunteering or exercise instead of, or alongside, medication (a project supported by our People Powered Health programme).
"Innovative experiences need to be learned from, shared and copied," say the authors of today's report. We couldn't agree more. We're gathering the stories of these ageing heroes on our Living Map of Ageing Innovators. Already there are 100 good ideas for how to do things differently and we're looking for more so that we can find the next wave of ageing heroes to champion "radical reform" and help us all age well.
Vicki Sellick is a Senior Programme Manager leading Nesta's practical ageing work