I’ve got to the point in my exploration of innovation in Ageing Better when it feels like to good time to pull together some talking points, and then use any discussion to refocus on the challenges, ideas for action, and some mapping of who might do what. I never quite understand where I’ve got to until I’ve written it down, and I’ve been invited to a symposium in early January on ‘Transforming not excluding – the impact of information technology and innovation on later life’ organised by Age UKs in the South East and SEEFA, the South East England Forum on Ageing.
The symposium is being hosted by Lord Filkin, who is chair of the Big Lottery Fund’s Centre for Ageing Better, so I need a script in case there’s a chance to contribute. Or just pitch online, of course. All my Ageing Better posts here, including quite a bit on the challenges of BIG’s Ageing Better programme.
I’ll return to these provocations – and the follow-through process – in later posts, and pull together some of the references I have that back them up. Meanwhile, what do you think? There’s an open document here, for comments or additions.
1. There isn’t an opt-out from technology – but you can choose how much you participate. The world is being changed by the Internet and digital technology: work, entertainment, public services, learning, social connections are all being transformed. What’s important is help people choose what works for them.
2. Government is concerned that many older people are not online – but there are limits to what government can do. Government wants to save money by moving information and transactions online. Many older people don’t see the point, and no-one can force them. People need to see what’s useful to them personally – not to government.
3. Everyone needs Internet access … but beyond that, no one size fits all. Unless you work in an office, you will want devices and apps that meet your needs, not those of an organisation.
4. Computer courses and basic skills training don’t meet the needs of many older people. These days people are just as likely to learn by using a tablet, with help from a friend, volunteer, or younger member of their family.
5. Simpler interfaces are needed for computers and mobile devices – not just more functions. The wider range of tools can be provided at a second level, where they are less bewildering to new users.
6. Relatively few organisations in the ageing field are actively engaged in the online world or using collaborative tools. That’s a problem in developing policy or practice – because you can’t really understand the way that social media and the online economy and culture are changing the world, if you are only using office systems. Nor can you share experience readily.
7. Digital social innovations in services are not scaling. There are lots of innovative projects, but people on the front line may not have the tech skills, support or incentive to adopt them. Or they may not know about them.
8. There is a raft of research, but little knowledge-sharing of that and day-to-day practice. Organisations are competing for funding, and this works against a cooperative culture.
9. The energy for change lies with apps, connectors and storytellers: those developing useful personal devices and apps; those trying to connect ideas, innovators and investors; and those telling stories about what’s working in terms everyone can understand.
10. The digital divide is no longer a useful metaphor. Reality is more complex.
As I’ve said on the open document here, the exploration has given me quite a few ideas on how to move things forward, for example:
- Generating ideas for action around key issues: e.g. access, support, personalisation, simpler devices.
- Mapping who is doing what, and who might collaborate if better connections were made.
- Focusing on small-scale innovations that might scale.
- Starting from austerity zero: what might we do if existing programme were not around, and funding were very limited.
I’ll come back to those ideas in later posts. Thanks to members of the Action Action Alliance Digital Inclusion Group for their encouragement and input. I should emphasise they bear no responsibility for the provocations at this stage, although I’ll be checking out what they think.