Ten pillars of wisdom: a manifesto for a better later life

There’s lots of research, programmes and even innovation funding to address the challenges of later life, as our team of socialreporters detailed in a recent exploration for Nominet Trust **. However, most of this is about doing things FOR older people. What would it be like to switch the professional emphasis towards doing things WITH older people?

I spent yesterday in Bristol at the SW Seniors Assembly getting some ideas, and I’m quite sure I’ll pick up more from a NESTA event with Vickie Cammack this evening. I’m nearby and so can attend, but it is also being live streamed from 6pm.

Meanwhile I can’t resist sharing some thoughts I developed from the assembly discussions, and then bounced off Tony Watts, who is chair of the SW forum on ageing, and Bryan Manning, visiting professor of compunetics at the University of Westminster. We turned my 10 provocations into a draft manifesto, and Tony suggested Ten pillars of wisdom, which I like, since it reflects a lot of the discussion around the wisdom held by older people, but perhaps not sufficiently valued by the “ageing industry”.  Point 4. The manifesto reflects some of the 10 propositions generated by the Nominet Trust work, but this time without so much of an emphasis on technology.

Ten pillars of wisdom: a manifesto for a better later life

  1. Enable older people to do as much as possible for themselves. We can’t afford to do otherwise.
  2. De-professionalise the communication of ideas, options and policies around ageing so that everyone can engage in the conversation.
  3. Apply good design to simplify technology that will benefit everyone. Codesign with users.
  4. Respect and use the wisdom of older people. They are the only people who know what it is like to be old.
  5. Develop communities and networks with older people for influence and learning.
  6. Recognise that ageing affects people differently, and that only by understanding the diversity of barriers faced can we develop the choices needed to enable people to live the lives they want.
  7. Switch the digital inclusion framework from “how do we get more people online” to “how do we encourage and enable people to use whatever technology meets their needs and preferences”.
  8. Question whether it is really useful to teach older people how to use traditional computers. Tablets, smartphones or smart TVs may be easier and offer what’s needed.
  9. Switch funding from research and “good practice” about ageing into supporting action led by older people, and sharing knowledge through social learning.
  10. Recognise that a connected society is a healthier and more harmonious society, and that ageing is a challenge suffered individually, but best addressed socially.

Here’s an interview with Tony and Bryan.  It is also available on Audioboo here with a couple more from the assembly.

What do you think of the manifesto? I’ll be developing a more rigorous framework with Tony, Bryan and others, and also developing ideas on how to put some of this into practice, building on the work we did for Nominet Trust on technology in later life. Now off to NESTA.

Update: There’s a very relevant new item on NESTA’s excellent list of projects – the Living map of ageing innovators: it is the Wisdom Bank which “provides a platform for people approaching retirement to share their skills and insights with those that need their advice”

** Update: All content from the Nominet Trust exploration is now available on this site – Digital technology for a better later life.

One comment

  • June 10, 2013 - 9:28 am | Permalink

    Hi David,

    very much like the 10 pillars of wisdom. I recognise the amount of consultative work that went into developing this. One of the key benefits of this Manifesto is that it can be carried around in one’s head. You don’t need to read voluminous reports or abstract data from statistical studies to realise it all makes sense. It needs some widespread promotion!

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