Saturday 1 October is the United Nation’s International Day of Older People 2016. As the UK’s population grows consistently older, it faces new health and societal challenges. Design Council discusses how design could be the key to unlocking potential health and social care answers.

Today, for the first time in history, Britain’s over-65s outnumber people under the age of 16. By 2020, people aged over 50 will make up almost one third of the workforce and almost half the adult population – with 15.5 million people aged 65 or over. This means a huge increase in demand for health and social care services while the number of people at working age will stagnate or shrink, causing pressure on public finances.

Design Council has been demonstrating how great design improves lives for more than 70 years.

Some of our most inspiring work has been tackling conditions which come about or worsen with age. These have included dementia and arthritis, and social issues such as loneliness, solutions to which we’ve shown can be handled in innovative, humane and cost-effective ways.

One such programme, Living Well with Dementia, generated new services and products and helped to raise the profile of design-sourced solutions for societal challenges. These included the now famous Dementia Dogs, the aroma-based appetite stimulant Ode and the community-based Casserole Club.

Design Council’s forthcoming work is a pioneering programme that takes a design-led approach to improving people’s experience of ageing. It has been developed over the last two years, co-created with UnLtd, the South West Academic Health Science Network and the Centre for Ageing Better – and with £3.65m funding awarded by the Big Lottery Fund early this year – is set to launch in the coming weeks.

This new cross-sector partnership will bring together people in later life, social entrepreneurs and commissioners of health and care services to define, develop and deliver new people-centred solutions that better support the needs and aspirations of our ageing communities.

Initially based in the south-west of England, the programme will help local people of all ages to identify, develop and scale effective innovations for a healthy and active later life.

By being design-led, collaborative and entrepreneurial, communities can develop services to improve people’s quality of life.

As a consequence, this can reduce preventable hospital admissions and other healthcare costs in a sustainable way, reducing the burden on the public purse and transforming services to ensure effective, efficient and sustainable later-life care.

In order for this to be achieved, the programme needs to engage a wide network of stakeholders from different backgrounds, access currently untapped community resources, help social entrepreneurs take great ideas to market and build awareness of alternative health and social care commissioning processes.

As we celebrate International Day of Older People 2016, this partnership looks forward to ensuring that older people enjoy a healthy and fulfilling later life, not just a longer life.

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