Why did we do this?
Our research shows life expectancies are increasing by an average of five hours a day, but innovation hasn’t kept up with this change. There’s a big gap between what really matters to older people’s health and wellbeing (things like having meaningful connections with others, remaining independent for as long as possible, and having a sense of purpose through work, volunteering or other pursuits) and the priorities of existing services.
While there are some great innovations in this space – several of which Nesta has supported through the Innovation in Giving Fund – the speed at which our society is ageing means a lot more needs to be done. We need radical new approaches to cater for our ageing population, which make better use of the resources within communities, to help us all age better.
In September 2012, Nesta launched the Ageing Well Challenge Prize to unearth fresh ideas to reduce social isolation and/or help people stay mobile and active for longer. We chose 24 semi-finalists, and supported them to develop detailed plans. In January 2013, we selected five finalists to test their ideas over a six-month period, from April - September 2013.
Each finalist was awarded funding of up to £10,000, as well as non-financial support, to set up and test their projects. Here’s a closer look at the five initiatives:
- Radio Club – a weekly live radio show where up to 15 older people are the weekly contributors. The ‘call-in’ format has been developed to support older members of the community by allowing them to socialise live on air from the comfort of their home – chatting and sharing stories. As members, they talk about anything and everything, giving them a chance to chat, while creating great content for the listeners.
- NANA – A comfort food and community café run by older ladies from the local area. For older ladies it’s a chance to get out of the house, meet new people, and put their skills to good use, and for everyone else it’s a place to enjoy proper hearty home cooked food at a reasonable price.
- The After Work Club – A network to engage, inspire and connect men, to help redefine their retirement. They are building a task force of retired men who use their skills to make positive changes in the wider community and by doing so reclaim a sense of personal value and purpose, reduce their risk of social isolation and equip themselves to face the challenges of ageing.
- Stonewall Housing, One Small Step – aims to make it easier for volunteers in London to help isolated, older LGBT people with small day-to-day tasks such as changing a light bulb or walking the dog. They plan to create an app to help facilitate volunteering and connect people with those in their local area.
- Age UK Exeter, Tools Company – Part of Men in Sheds, Tools Company enables men to repair broken and old garden and trade tools to send to local UK charities and to Africa for business start-up schemes. Using donated tools and volunteer buddies they give older men with complex needs a chance to reconnect with meaningful, practical activity.
The winner was eventually announced as NANA, which won £50,000. Tools Company and Radio Club were also awarded £25,000 each as runners-up.
We produced an Ageing Well Challenge Prize report outlining what we’ve learned, to:
- Share insights about the value of, and principles for the giving of time, skills and resource at community level to reduce isolation and increase the mobility of older people
- Encourage the development of more impactful and cost effective approaches
- Share lessons about the effectiveness of using challenge prizes to stimulate social innovation
The Ageing Well Challenge Prize was one of two Giving Challenges, designed and delivered by Nesta’s Centre for Challenge Prizes to stimulate social innovation in the giving of time, skills and resources to tackle two distinct social issues: reducing isolation of older people and reducing waste.