Background: An ageing population

The UK is undergoing a demographic shift with potentially far-reaching consequences for society, the economy and public service provision. A vastly improved life expectancy – one of the great triumphs of the previous century – looks set to be one of the great challenges of this one. 

Today, for the first time in history, Britain’s over-65s outnumber people under the age of 16. By 2020, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) predicts that people aged over 50 will make up almost one third (32%) of the workforce and nearly half (47%) the adult population, with 15.5 million people aged 65 and over.

As a consequence, there will be a huge increase in demand for already stretched health and social care services, while the number of people of working age will stagnate or shrink, causing gaps in the job market and further pressure on public finances.

What is needed?

New innovations and solutions are required. These must support the delivery of effective services that meet people’s needs, foster preventative approaches that tackle causes rather than symptoms and help people to be better prepared for the challenges and opportunities of later life.

We need to create a system that is more personalised, more connected and above all more preventative. In order to achieve this, there needs to be wider collaboration between individuals and carers, family and friends, neighbours, volunteers and professionals. 

Helping people in later life have an improved experience of ageing

The Transform Ageing programme, which is supported by £3.65m in National Lottery funding from the Big Lottery Fund, is taking a community and design-led approach to enhancing people’s experience of ageing. Initially based in south-west England, the programme is helping local people to identify, develop and scale effective innovations for a healthy, active and prosperous later life.

Working with experienced designers, the Design Council’s 'Framework for Innovation' will be applied to ensure the best solutions available reach people in later life as quickly as possible. The aim of this approach is to think differently and be more innovative to solve problems.

What’s new about this approach?

It brings together people in later life with social entrepreneurs and health and social care leaders. We want to put people at the centre of decisions and see them as the experts working alongside design professionals to achieve the best outcome.

By placing people in later life at the heart of the design process, we can actively engage their insight, thereby increasing their influence and support to deliver solutions which will better meet their needs. In turn, Transform Ageing will support commissioners to feel more confident in incorporating new services and interventions into mainstream care supply chains, and social entrepreneurs to scale their effective solutions more sustainably.

What will the programme achieve?

The programme aims to ensure that the best innovations reach people in later life as quickly as possible and positively transform their experience of ageing.

The programme will identify effective, replicable and sustainable solutions to improve the experience of ageing. Through thinking differently and aiming to be more innovative the programme will help transform the experience of ageing for people in later life, reduce the strain on public spending, and transform products and services to ensure effective and efficient later-life care for the UK’s population.

The programme will:

  • Enable people in later life and their support network to feel more able to contribute to how and what services are commissioned in their community
  • Support social entrepreneurs to develop new ventures and scale or replicate existing ones that meet the needs of people in later life
  • Develop local products and services that better meet the needs of people in later life and their support network
  • Support social entrepreneurs to  enable their enterprise to flourish
  • Provide health and social care leaders with clear intelligence on how to foster closer relationships with people in later life and their network and how to effectively commission social entrepreneurs
  • Convene a national network of supporters to contribute to and learn from our work

How will it work?

The programme is initially convening people in later life and their friends and families, with health and social care leaders and social entrepreneurs in Cornwall, Somerset and Devon to collaboratively explore challenges associated with ageing that resonate in each of these communities. We will then gather insight and then collectively shape the innovation briefs for social entrepreneurs. Social entrepreneurs will be responding with innovative product and service solutions to the identified challenges.

The programme will then:

  • Provide a range of dedicated support to the selected social entrepreneurs to develop and scale their ideas, including financial awards of between £1,000 and £50,000 based upon the size, stage and scale of social venture
  • Drive the adoption of these ideas, supporting successful social entrepreneurs to engage with consumers and commissioners to improve services and drive adoption
  • Develop a National Knowledge and Learning Network, allowing partners to both inform our approach and share our journey
  • Create a self-sustaining legacy in the local community and enable locally based supporters to pass on learning and experience to each other through a peer-to-peer support network

Why the south-west?

The programme is currently based in Cornwall, Devon and Somerset as this is an area of the country that has a higher proportion of people in later life than many other parts of the UK as well as the challenges faced by very rural areas. We have also found a seedbed of people and organisations that were keen to make a difference and a set of unique skills within the South West Academic Health Science Network to help support social entrepreneurs to produce evidence of impact.

Will Transform Ageing happen elsewhere?

Once Transform Ageing has been successfully rolled out in the south-west programme will aim to be replicated in other areas of the country.

Latest news

In the last week of April local communities across Somerset, Devon and Cornwall were invited to a series of Transform Ageing events. The events, which were fully subscribed, were attended by an audience of people in later life, social entrepreneurs, voluntary sector organisations and health and care professionals. We were fortunate to hear from some inspiring speakers including Libby Price of the Filo Project; Patrick Abrahams of Men’s Shed; the Rt Hon Paul Burstow, Chair of Transform Ageing National Advisory Board; John Coulthard of BriteLives and father and daughter, Trevor and Anna George from Paignton, who entertained us with stories from their many years of show business and how they embrace a good later life.

The aim of these events was to introduce the programme which will support fresh thinking and new approaches leading to the development of innovative products and services that will transform people's experience of later life. We explored the challenges people in later life are experiencing, provided information about our partners and encouraged people to participate in the programme. 

Following these launch events, a series of workshops are taking place in May, June, July and August. Each set of workshops will bring together people from later life, their friends, families and carers, health and social care professionals, commissioners and social entrepreneurs. The outcome from these sessions will be the creation of  ‘Innovation Briefs’ – call outs to social entrepreneurs (or people with great ideas) to develop or expand the availability of products and services that can positively impact on the challenges of ageing in the south-west. Funding and expertise will be available to support these ideas to flourish. We will also share our learning and learn from others through setting up a National Knowledge and Learning Network.

Get involved

By sharing your life experiences and insight you can inspire new solutions, products and services that better meet the needs of our ageing communities. Together we can help more people live fulfilling later lives.

We need people like you to work with us

You are over 50 and living or working in the south-west. Devoted and dedicated to making the place you live even better. You may be a volunteer or participant of a community group or:

  • family members, friends and neighbours caring for people over 50
  • GP, nurses and community health or care professionals
  • carers for people over 50

You want to improve the experience of ageing in your community.

You want to help create solutions that make people’s lives better.

You’re prepared to share your own experiences of what is and isn’t working in your community. You have ideas about how to change things.

You’re prepared to find out the opinions and experiences of others in your community. You’re prepared to do a small amount of community research with our support.

If you would like to find out more and get involved, please contact us.


Who is involved in the programme and why?

The Transform Ageing programme is being delivered through a partnership to encourage new ways of thinking, working and new behaviours led by Design Council, alongside UnLtd – the Foundation for Social Entrepreneurs, the South West Academic Health Science Network (SW AHSN) and the Centre for Ageing Better. It is also being supported locally on the ground in the south-west by Volunteer Cornwall, Devon Communities Together, Community Council for Somerset and Torbay Community Development Trust.