Launched in May 2012, Independence Matters was a Design Challenge run in partnership with Innovate UK (formerly Technology Strategy Board) to develop services that promote independence in later life. One of seven inspiring start-ups funded through the challenge, The Amazings allowed passionate older adults the opportunity to capitalise on their life experience and offer their skills as short and long courses.
The Amazings originated from the founding team's initial research. They were struck by how many vibrant, interesting and interested older adults they met and how little opportunity there was for them to share their skills and experience or socialise outside of their peer group.
On a visit to a care home, it was a designer who noted that the residents were amazing. How could it be that the care industry was focusing so much on compensating for deficits but not making the most of assets?
Determined to come up with an innovative response, she took to the streets, wearing a sandwich board – advertising a fictitious service named The Amazings – to see if it resonated with people. It is this ability of designers to create rapid prototypes and test them with people that enables radical ideas to be developed quickly or discarded. Following these initial tests, hundreds of variations of website features and service designs were tested to discover what works.
It really feels like this is a new chapter in my life.
Judith Paris, an ‘Amazing’
The Amazings enabled any retired person with any skill, talent or knowledge — like dancing, knitting, laying the perfect brick wall, local history, astronomy... not necessarily underwater ukulele playing — to turn it into a short or long course. Amazings kept 70% of the course fees; the rest paid for staff who helped create the classes and a website used to market them and take bookings.
The Amazings believed that everyone has a bit of amazingness in them, and wanted to help them share it. Older people (‘Amazings’) were able to pass on their life experience in a way that helped them stay connected to others in their community.
During the Challenge the prototype service helped 28 older adults teach classes. It gave them extra income, boosted self-esteem and pride and allowed them to mix with younger people. In May 2012, The Amazings service was up and running with over 400 ‘Amazings’ registered. In the first three months of 2013, over 120 classes took place.
In December 2013, The Amazings changed its name to Mastered. Focused on delivering educational courses in fashion, Mastered opened up The Amazings' platform to teachers of all ages.
So far, over £800,000 has been generated for elders through course fees, over 13,000 people have enrolled on classes and courses and an incredible 25,000 hours of skill sharing have taken place.
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