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We are exploring online and off how to use a mix of media to Live Well in the Digital Age. David Wilcox and Drew Mackie

David Wilcox

The @ageofnoretirement announces 4-day festival to celebrate Age Doesn't Matter. Why not build your Personal Brand says @johnpopham

4 min read

I'm a big fan of The Age of No Retirement, which is about rather more than keeping on working. As they say in an invite to network members for their Age Does Not Matter Festival:

Imagine a world where age does not matter. A world where we all live longer, better lives. A world where you can make the most of our potential, however old or young you are. We are building this world today, and we want you to take part.

The four-day event in London from September 28 to October 1 will "disrupt the narrative around ageing through an inspirational series of co-design labs, talks, installations, photography, stories, sound and film."

However, you don't have to wait until then because you can contribute now to the online Ideas Lab which is currently focused on Building Confidence:

A lack of confidence holds us back more than having a poor CV or limited skills. How can we develop more self-confidence? What new products, services or ideas do we need to develop for us to have greater confidence in ourselves?

I like the contribution from my friend and digital ageing enthusiast John Popham - Never to old to have a Personal Brand:

It's a digital world, with more than 30 million messages per minute being posted to Facebook and nearly 350,000 tweets reaching the world in the same time. But for those who didn't grow up with access to such tools, and who haven't yet joined in, this can make the modern world seem confusing and bewildering. Many people appear welded to their digital devices and live their lives online on a daily basis. One of the key outcomes of this is increased confidence, ability to communicate beyond the wildest dreams of their predecessors, and minute-by-minute knowledge of news, trends, and information. The way people live their lives publicly, broadcasting their every thought and action to the world, has been dubbed "Personal Branding". When people with a strong personal brand approach the employment market, they are very often already known to their employer, or, if not, it can be relatively easy to research them. This can give them a headstart in getting a job, and aid their progress through the ranks.

Personal Branding is rare among older people. So we need a campaign and practical work to assist older people to develop the digital skills necessary to establish a personal brand and then to channel and hone those skills into creating and maintaining a strong, robust, and positive Personal Brand.

Personal Branding should not be the exclusive preserve of the young. Leaving this field open to them alone contributes to society's stereotypical image of older people as being out-of-touch and "not with it". This deficit must be addressed if older people are to have the same kind of confidence as their younger peers.

For those attending the Festival a little online branding will help with connections ... and for those who don't go along it will make it easier to join in.

Give me a deadline to brush up my profiles and do some more blogging.

Congratulations to Dr Jonathan Collie and Georgina Lee for countering the too-prevant decline and dismay narrative around ageing with an approach that brends online and face-to-face activity, and Big Lottery Fund, Barclays and Spigit for backing.

David Wilcox

The #joinedupdigital project recruiting for later life digital co-design workshop led by @npcthinks

2 min read

The Joined Up Digital project that I wrote about earlier is starting its second phase development with an event in Birmingham on August 18. Details here:

This workshop will give you a chance to influence and shape our thinking as we work towards ambitious goals of helping older people get the greatest possible benefit through technology, helping them access and navigate a world of opportunities that can help them life the life they want to. We aim for the day to be both fun and useful for participants. Lunch and refreshments will be provided.

Places are limited, so please confirm your attendance by 8th August at the latest by email to

The JUD project, which I worked on until last month, was initially funded by the Centre for Ageing Better, and is now seeking further support from the Big Lottery Foundation and other funders. The event post explains the move to a more broadly-based network:

We are Joined Up Digital – a network of charities and social purpose organisations aiming to see more people enjoy the opportunities and benefits of digital technology. We have a common goal of improving later life, and our members include Centre for Ageing Better, New Philanthropy Capital, Reason Digital, Big Lottery Fund and the Age Action Alliance.

New Philanthropy Capital has been a key partner in first phase development of JUD, and it may complement their larger digital transformation programme focused on charities. Key people are on holiday at the moment, but I'll check in later on how things are going, and whether the Centre for Ageing Better will be actively involved. Either way, it's good to see continuing progress with a person-focused approach.

David Wilcox

Update on the Centre for Ageing Better and Joined Up Digital

4 min read

I've spent the last few few months working for the Centre for Ageing Better on the digital technology initiative that I mentioned last year. Here's a brief report, with more to follow in later posts.

The Centre initially advertised for a digital manager, but plans changed and instead Paddy Hanrahan took me on as adviser to work with him on two phases. The first was research and internal briefing on the importance of digital tech for older people, drawing on previous work I've done with Drew Mackie and others - archived on this wiki.

The second phase was the more independent Joined Up Digital project outlined here by Paddy, where I was joined by Drew and John Popham working respectively on the importance of networks, and digital storytelling.

The main output from the project has been a one-day event, held in May, with 45 people from over 30 organisations taking part. The morning session was a game that simulated the whole ageing-digital ecosystem from national organisations down to local communities and individuals, including role play. The game design drew on these earlier games.

Robert Pye provides an account from a participant's perspective, which captures better than I could the type of exchanges and deals made on the day between different players.

In the afternoon session groups pulled together insights from the game, and developed ideas around what works; local pilots; network development; big tech; and business models.

Phil Richards worked with Drew on the game materials - no small task - Centre staff provided support and joined in enthusiastically on the day, Paddy facilitated and carried everything forward on a wave of enthusiasm, and John captured presentations in short videos.

Paddy has done a terrific job of reporting the event in the posts I've referenced, and also written a piece on What next for Joined Up Digital?.

Our aim is to develop JUD as a social platform to better connect people using digital technology

  • Designed around and co-run by the people it serves
  • Powered by a network of organisations bringing together the social and tech sectors
  • Pooling funding, skills and resources to more effectively bring about digitally-enabled change ​ We believe JUD can provide a catalyst for digital transformation of the social sector, starting with ageing. We will develop solutions with people to bridge the digital divide, and will share digital leadership and expertise across organisations to help the third sector ‘catch up’ and to better exploit the digital age for social good.

Paddy goes on to describe three components: ways to help people connect locally with each other and with community activities and local services; support for organisations and leaders in digital transformation; and a network to share ideas, learning and to develop these ideas.

Paddy and others including Tris Lumley at New Philanthropy Capital are now taking things forward in discussion with funders including Big Lottery. Paddy's post has more on the timetable.

I'll expand later on some elements of the programme, and report any developments. Meanwhile I strongly recommend the video interviews John Popham has been doing with older people on how they use digital technology.

My thanks to Paddy, and the Centre's CEO Dr Anna Dixon, for the opportunity to contribute. I hope Paddy and his new team can secure support, and that now the Centre has such a great team in place there will be further reflection on how digital tech can help enhance their programmes.

Main links:

David Wilcox

Good life for older people - and success for Centre for @Ageing_Better - depends on social connections and networks

6 min read

The £50 million Centre for Ageing Better launches officially today with two substantial foundations: a fascinating study by IpsosMORI of six 50+ social clusters including typical life stories, together with details of the Centre's initial topic areas for research and development.

The challenge for the Centre, during its 10 year life, will be to connect their broad topic-based programmes around major life changes, health, supportive neighbourhoods, work and other activities with the complex needs and interests of individuals revealed by IpsosMORI.

That will require a deep understanding of the importance of networks both for individuals, and organisations. The first for people’s social connections - highlighted by IpsosMORI “as important as money and health to a good later life”; the second because the success of the Centre will depend on integrating topic-based findings and action in ways that are both meaningful and useful to individuals, and likely to be implemented by organisations often working in silos. That involves joining up people, ideas and action. Digital technology may help - but it isn’t a magic bullet for social connections, networking and cooperation. (Disclaimer below on my work with the Centre)**

The IpsosMORI research led them to identify six clusters among the over 50s:

  • thriving boomers who are doing well on most fronts
  • downbeat boomers who are doing well but feel they have missed opportunities or could have done things differently
  • can do and connected who are less well off, face challenges, but have a positive attitude and good connections
  • worried and disconnected who face health and other challenges and don’t have connections to support them
  • squeezed middle aged who are typically in good health, and in work, but squeezed for time through caring for children and ageing parents
  • struggling and alone who are the worst off, with poor health and low incomes

The researchers could, no doubt, have come up with different names for the clusters, but that’s not important, because there is a wealth of data to allow you to form your own view, and also typical personal stories developed from interviews. Details in a report and this section of the site - click on segment images, or see drop down menu.

The Centre’s news release says:

The study, Later Life in 2015 was conducted with Ipsos MORI and reveals that social connections are as important as money and health. It reveals the strong links between health, financial security and social connections in determining whether we enjoy our later life. It is possible to enjoy a happy and fulfilled later life despite having some health and money problems.

There’s enough detail in the analysis, and the life stories, to see scope for a range of methods to help people connect with others, and with activities in their communities. Digital technologies could be part of the mix - depending on people’s preferences - but as recent research for the Centre’s funder, the Big Lottery Fund, showed, older people do not generally favour social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

Communication and connecting solutions will have to be co-designed with a blend of face-to-face, print, email, web and other methods. I’ve got some ideas on how Drew Mackie and I could develop our persona-based workshops to take that forward, for example.

Just as challenging for the Centre will be using networks to translate research into key topic areas around major life changes, being active and connected, feeling in control, into practical action. The centre is going to do that through a programme of innovation and change that will involve collaboration, funding and support, network building, and influencing other.

The impact that the Centre has will depend substantially on the extent to which organisations in the field will cooperate with each other and the Centre, and blend different topic insights and actions into support on the ground. A SEEFA symposium earlier this year highlighted some of the cultural and organisational challenges. Again I think that co-design of programmes with those who are going to take action will be crucial, together with a creative blend of engagement and communication methods. New staff are still being appointed, so more detail is likely in a few months.

I’ll be going along to the launch event later today, and will follow up with any further insights. Follow @Ageing_Better for tweets from the Centre, and the hashtag . I really recommend reading the research report and other content on the Centre’s site, and tweeting your questions and ideas. The Centre have been very responsive today.

The IpsosMORI research

The work of the Centre

The Centre’s Digital Initiative, and earlier posts

Design workshops

** Disclaimer: I did some early work on an issues paper for the Centre, as part of their Digital Initiative. All opinions here are my own, based on the launch material.

David Wilcox

Centre for @Ageing_Better starts digital technology initiative with job opportunity - if you are quick

4 min read

The Centre for Ageing Better - initially slow to recognise the importance of digital technology - has now caught up with the welcome announcement on Twitter of a Digital Initiative and recruitment of a digital manager. If you are interested, apply fast - closing date is in a week.

As part of our new Digital Initiative, @Ageing_Better are looking for expertise to manage the project

The Centre is part of the What Works Network, with a £50 million endowment from the Big Lottery Fund, and a strong Board chaired by Lord Filkin. The Centre is currently recruiting senior staff to work with its new Chief Executive Anna Dixon, who joined at the start of the month.

The Centre's early consultation papers lacked any mention of digital - backstory here. I think that the new initiative opens the way for the Centre to take a lead in a field that lacks strategic thinking on Living Well in the Digital Age, if it follows through from initial scoping.

The ‘Digital Initiative’ will run over the next few months, with a possible extension, and aims to:

  • Research – what digital innovations are out there that are helping older people, or can help Ageing Better with delivering its mission
  • Connect – with other organisations that are working on the topic of Technology and Ageing, see how we can collaborate
  • Define – what Ageing Better’s role will be with regards to Technology and Ageing, and how Digital may impact our positioning and our candidate programmes
  • Specify – the role digital will play within our system blueprint, i.e. the IT systems we will need to support business processes and communicate & collaborate with the external world

The responsibilities of the manager are:

  • Help define the Centre’s position, role and remit in relation to “Technology & Ageing”
  • Network with other organisations within the sector to collaborate and represent Ageing Better on the topic of digital / technology in ageing.
  • Research existing and ‘horizon’ digital technologies in the Ageing sector – what really works for older people on this front.
  • Research what digital technologies will help Ageing Better support its working processes, and work closely with our external partners & stakeholders

It looks like a job for a consultant, on £300-£400 a day, closing date for applications October 1, starting asap. The emphasis in the job description is on technical and project management expertise, so I'm hoping there may be scope for other contributions on digital and ageing. There's a lot to mine from our exploration into Living Well in the Digital Age, and the work of others in the field.

OK, I'm self-interested, but this could a great opportunity to commission some supporting pieces of work from people like Shirley Ayres, John Popham and Paul Webster - to name just a few - who share their experience and insights generously. My suggestion, after reviewing existing work in the field, would be some mapping of who's who, and who may offer what, on the lines Drew Mackie and I have been developing.

The initiative is a chance for the Centre to demonstrate an open and cooperative approach, building on knowledge of "what really works" and developing a sharing network, rather than just starting another round of research leading to yet more reports. From helpful exchanges with Centre staff after earlier posts, I'm hopeful about the direction that's emerging.

David Wilcox

Promise from @BigLotteryFund of a wider conversation about digital inclusion and Accelerating Ideas

8 min read

My earlier post Digital Champions Consortium supported by Big Lottery Fund promises wider collaboration on digital inclusion went down well with BIG, and others, as you can see from the tweet/comments below it. Here's BIG's response ...

@dgmcgillivray @davidwilcox Hello, good to read your post and thanks for your interest. We'll be sharing learning from the consortium ...1/2

@dgmcgillivray @davidwilcox 2/ the upcoming months. Conversation not open in community yet, but v happy to get in touch when it does.

... so I tweeted a link to another post which I drafted a few weeks back, and shared with the Accelerating Ideas team. We agreed at the time that it would be best to wait until they announced the Digital Champions programme, and use that to generate some wider discussion. So today I suggested that as well as blogging, it would be a good time to open up discussion on BIG's new community platform. I tweeted:

@BigLotteryFund thanks. Here’s draft post I’ve shared with the AI team, and held until now @dgmcgillivray 1/2

@BigLotteryFund 2/2 … keen to share the ideas on the platform. But cd just blog it for now if that’s easiest @dgmcgillivray

BIG responded:

@davidwilcox Blog would be great, but really looking forward to seeing you on the community; it will soon be perfect for this discussion!

I've been a bit obsessive about the previous lack of digital technology in BIG's programme's and the need for online discussion and knowledge sharing as you can see here from a summary of previous posts, so I'm delighted that things are now really taking off. The post I drafted a few weeks back - below - shows that there are now quite a few strands that could join up.

I think that the challenge will be to connect discussion on the community platform with twitter, blog posts and other activity. These days I find that it is quite difficult to get people to contribute to online communities, or even to post comments on blogs, so you have to do a lot of manual curating and connecting to capture and make sense of the conversations ... as I'm trying to do here.

It's a lot easier to get some cooperation if people have met face-to-face, so I'll go back to one of my earlier ideas that didn't click at the time: Deep conversation needed on BIG’s Ageing Better community platform. How about asking people in for a coffee?

A bigger idea for @BigLotteryFund Accelerating Ideas

It looks as if the team at Big Lottery Fund Accelerating Ideas programme have three interesting opportunities: a range of innovative projects; the desire to foster co-operation between them; and a recent recommendation that digital tech should, where possible, be part of all BIG projects.

The team are asking for feedback and ideas, so here's one. Why not accelerate a bigger idea by joining up the opportunities? Here's the three strands:

First strand: BIG's explanation of the programme and an invitation to contribute:

We’ve talked to lots of different people over the past year about what they would like to see in a new approach to funding. The Accelerating Ideas pilot is the result of these conversations – testing out a completely new way of doing things. We hope that it will be an exciting way to help grow great ideas and projects to help people and communities. The theme for the initial pilot is an ageing society – so we’re calling on ideas and projects focusing on the opportunities and challenges presented by an ageing population in the UK. You can read more about what we are looking for and how to apply on the UK Accelerating Ideas Pilot page on our website. This group is the place where you can get involved in discussions about how the pilot is going and about the projects that are applying – we want to hear what you think.

... and you can find projects on the programme wiki here. There's a really interesting spread around care, housing, choirs, museums, farming, learning through landscapes and more.

I've been in discussion with the AI team about the Maps, apps and storytelling idea, and can confirm they are indeed taking a refreshing and innovative approach. There's no initial application form - you send in a couple of pages, and may then be offered a chat with an adviser to guide development. A more formal proposal may then go to a panel, and if approved be developed in more detail. There's feedback from panel discussions on the programme blog.

Second strand: the team and panel members confirm in a blog post that they are keen to see more connection between projects, openness in project development, and alignment with BIG's recent strategy.

The strategy - as I wrote here - is admirably brief, with some key principles. Chief executive Dawn Austwick wrote:

We also want to be more of a catalyst and a facilitator – recognising the feedback we got about our place in the funding ecology and civil society more broadly. It’s not our job to prescribe but it can be our job to link, to share, and to encourage. To be a network, or a central nervous system that people navigate around, finding fellow travellers, being surprised and intrigued by the work of others, sharing evaluation and impact stories, and so much more.

The strategy outlines three specific steps: the Accelerating Ideas programme, Awards for All, and the new online community.

Third strand: as I reported here, is a foresight report to BIG about Ageing in the UK which recommended:

The Big Lottery Fund should take advantage, wherever possible, to integrate technology into projects that support older people, as use of the internet and mobile communication devices can help to alleviate loneliness and reduce the impact of depression and lower subjective wellbeing – as well as helping connect individuals with essential services.

... and that proposal ends up with the AI team, as explained in this interview with Pete Bailey, head of knowledge at Big Lottery Fund.

So here's the big idea: look at ways in which the projects in the Accelerating Ideas programme can bring technology into their proposals, and make that common challenge something that helps integration and knowledge sharing:

  • looking at integration of tech into a project pushes you to create a framework with elements likely to be common to any project: understanding the needs of users and their pathways to services and other resources; mapping resources; looking at information and cooperation and the tools and support needed. Tech provides a common ground.
  • learning to use communication tools to share ideas between projects can be part of the process
  • sharing that process of discovery more widely again helps find common ground and understanding

I'll check in with the AI team to see if this make sense, and if so I'll follow up their invitation to get involved and post the idea on their online group.

It's still a bit difficult to find one's way around the online community, but it is a credit to BIG that programmes are becoming more transparent and engaging, and online community staff are very responsive to ideas for improvement.

David Wilcox

Digital Champions Consortium supported by @BigLotteryFund promises wider collaboration on digital inclusion

11 min read

The announcement this week of a £2 million investment by Big Lottery Fund to create hundreds of digital champions is an achievement for the organisations involved, and for BIG staff. It's been a long road, as Programme Director Emma Weston confirms below.

I believe the formation of the consortium to deliver the programme could be as significant as the training and support it offers ... if promises of continuing collaboration are fullfilled. Here's the story, with some additions teased out by sharing a draft of this post.

The aim is to help more than 9,500 people develop basic digital skills by recruiting more than 1,400 digital champions within disability, youth and support organisations who will engage with people who are not online and provide them with personal long-term support.

The idea of digital champions has been around for some time, but I particularly remember Emma Weston, chief executive of Digital Unite, producing a lengthy document for the Age Action Alliance Digital Inclusion Group back in 2012 that pulled everything together and provided a development plan.

Digital Unite went on to create a Digital Champions Network, with a core group of housing associations among its 20 members. DU will now lead the One Digital Consortium of Age UK, Citizens Online and the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, with Emma as Programme Director. DU's partners Affinity Sutton and Abilitynet are also involved. The DU blog says:

One Digital will also facilitate extensive partnership collaboration on all aspects of digital inclusion so that significant learnings can be shared and best practice models can be delivered for the benefit of all Digital Champions and end-learners.

All of the programme’s Digital Champions will be trained and supported via Digital Unite’s existing Digital Champions Network ( which is currently used by over 900 Digital Champions across the UK. The Digital Champions will have access to the Network’s existing assets and new learning content will also be specifically developed for each Partner organisation that all members of the One Digital programme can utilise.

The platform will also use its established metrics and develop new ones to measure each partner’s specific outcomes and data aspirations, and those of One Digital as a whole, reflecting the impact and benefits for both Digital Champions and learners.

The latest £2 million investment follows an award to Tinder Foundation of £329,958 to support three groups – homeless people, families in poverty and people with mental health problems, and £5.8 million to the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) to engage with a million people and raise their awareness of the range of equipment and programmes that can help to make technology accessible to people with sight or hearing loss.

The digital inclusion and ageing fields are inevitably pretty competitive, and organisations are frequently pitching against each other. I'm sure there must have been a lot of time and effort involved in bringing everyone together to create the consortium, and get behind the vision.

The press release and blog posts have all been rather formal, but I hope we'll now hear more from champions and learners about their experiences. That's what will really convince people of the value of the online world, and support from champions. BIG have made a start on their blog, with the story of digital champions Brian and Linda Dove in Burgess Hill. Brian says:

One lady aged 92 had taken on a voluntary project to print some greeting cards. This involved printing hundreds of identical copies and she achieved this by pressing the print button hundreds of times not realising you could change the print quantity setting.

On a regular basis we help people understand how to use all aspects of the internet including shopping online, sending emails, taking and attaching photos, setting up contact lists, Skype/FaceTime, iPlayer and general computer tasks.

We have found that those who are not computer literate tend to take advice from others who are not always knowledgeable. Often a grandparent will seek help from a grandchild, which is fine, but every so often the grandchild will not explain clearly what they have done. This especially applies to their passwords and accounts. We had one gentleman in his mid-seventies who was advised by a friend to restore his computer factory settings but had not done a backup so lost everything.

More and more organisations expect everyone to have a computer and know how to use it. Unfortunately this is not the case and it is causing quite a lot of stress and problems among the older generation."

More please ... maybe with a sideways look at the value of Social Media Surgeries, that provide similar opportunities with less funding.

Hmm ... what might be achieved by helping that informal movement, and other small-scale initiative to scale up? My original headline was "Digital Champions Consortium boosted by @BigLotteryFund - but don't forget the small stuff".

Update 1: I shared a draft of this post with some friends in the field, and the key point they made was that support is also needed for front-line workers, and for small organisations. That confirms my insights from the exploration into Living in the Digital World - that we need action on three levels: personal, organisational and policy. If we are concerned about how digital tech can support personal wellbeing, that's partly about our individual capacity, but also about the groups and services we interact with. Digital capability there is often lacking.

A recent report published by Big Lottery Fund recommended - as I reported here - that:

The Big Lottery Fund should take advantage, wherever possible, to integrate technology into projects that support older people, as use of the internet and mobile communication devices can help to alleviate loneliness and reduce the impact of depression and lower subjective wellbeing – as well as helping connect individuals with essential services.

So - another opportunity for some joining up.

Update 2

I also sent the draft to Emma, inviting her to add a comment in non-PR-speak (because she isn't that sort of person), and she responded with this more human version. If the consortium can really establish "a framework and a way of working and sharing and collaborating that organisations big and small, national and local, charitable, voluntary, public and private can join down the line", then this will be a new chapter for digital inclusion and community technology.

Making One Digital a reality is something we can all celebrate in DI land I think. You reference that 2012 paper about the digital champion model David, yes only three years later then! I have spent nearly 20 years in the DI environment and proper collaboration, by which I mean when different organisations really put aside their personalities and penchants and work together on something without ego but for impact, is something we don’t see often. If we are honest. That’s as much to do with how funding works as anything, but that’s a whole big discussion we can come back to.

So, for me, that One Digital even exists and is operational is a small triumph. Although the news made the public domain this week, we have actually spent the last six months or so pulling this partnership together, working out the ground rules, articulating the shared goals, how we will deliver them and measure them, the language we will use the behaviours we aspire to see, and so on. It has been a mind boggling process as times, because we are all so very different in size, constitution, our processes and our procedures occupy a broad spectrum. It has also been so invigorating and really quite celebratory in style, even though there were times when we all wondered if it would see the light of day and we had to draw deep from the well of stamina. We achieved something significant by committing to the process in a very open way and we have remained very buoyant about that even during the long nights of the never ending redrafting of documentation. You will know how that feels.

While the core - founding I suppose - members of One Digital are we six, our vision is that our model establishes a framework and a way of working and sharing and collaborating that organisations big and small, national and local, charitable, voluntary, public and private can join down the line. Our common focus is the capacity building of people to support other people where the end result is not just the accrual of better digital skills for individuals, but a myriad of benefits associated with the act of skilling and supporting someone else too; that capital of exchange, and across its social, emotional and economic guises. The landscape is teeming with people doing things that play into or contribute to this already, and as you point out David the ‘good connecting’ between and amongst them is I think an everyday imperative. We will be working very very hard to make One Digital a ‘good vessel’ or conduit, conductor, exchange, recycler of this expertise, energy and capacity.

For the moment, at the end of week 2 (our official launch date was 1st September) it’s good to be official, to have had our first ‘in action’ rather than ‘in proposal building mode’ meeting, which was on Tuesday in London. We will keep progress updates coming including real, tangible linkages with others outside the current core One Digital membership. Looking forward to working with you and yours down the line. And thank you for your support and interest as ever – next round of tea and cake on me.

Update 3 and reflection. Recently I've been in discussion with BIG, together with Drew Mackie, Paul Webster and Miles Maier, about the Maps, Apps and Storytelling model we developed from our exploration into Living Well in the Digital Age, supported by Age Action Alliance.

Our aim is to develop a set of practical processes that will put digital technology at the heart of community-based initiatives to support living well, at whatever age. We will do that by developing a model and open source package of methods that builds on investment in digital inclusion and skills training programmes.

These inclusion programmes are creating widespread capacity to access and use the Internet. What's now needed is further action on three fronts: firstly ways to tailor personal digital offerings to meet individual needs - because everyone's situation and requirements are different; secondly ways to build the capacity of organisations in the community that can provide new opportunities to digitally-capable older people; thirdly ensure the personal and organisational capacity-building is designed to make the best of local whole-system approaches to wellbeing driven by digital by default policies.

BIG staff on the Accelerating Ideas programme have been really helpful in shaping our proposal ... and recently pointed us to the One Digital Consortium because that potentially provides first stage development of personal capacity that's needed for the wider community vision. I hope Emma and others will be interested in extending their collaborative framework to us and others. Maybe BIG will convene a get-together to take this forward, and the objective of integrating technology into projects that support older people, mentioned above.

This post has turned into a bit of a ramble, but I'm pleased that sharing a draft produced a better story, and wanted to show how that emerged. Tidier versions of what might be possible will follow.

David Wilcox

New CEO of Centre for @Ageing_Better @DrAnnaDixon promises collaboration and innovation

2 min read

The new chief executive of the Centre for Ageing Better, Anna Dixon, makes a promising commitment in a first press release:

Collaboration is going to be fundamental to achieving change. We will work with existing experts, service providers and innovators to incubate new ideas and encourage the spread of those that work to improve later life.

There's no detail yet beyond background on the appointment and early research:

Anna joins from the Department of Health, where she was Chief Analyst and Director of Strategy. Her new role will see her leading the work of the Centre for Ageing Better to fulfil its mission of promoting evidence-based change that transforms how we experience and think about growing older.

The Centre for Ageing Better is supported by funding which includes a £50 million endowment from the Big Lottery Fund. Forming part of the What Works Centres network in England, it will work across the country to strengthen and apply evidence around how people can age better. Working in partnership with older people and collaborating with a diverse range of frontline groups and organisations, Ageing Better aims to create real and measureable change.

Over the past few months the organisation has been consulting stakeholders. It is currently working with Ipsos Mori to identify what older people believe are the key qualities of a good later life, and the barriers and opportunities to achieving these. Insights will be used to inform Ageing Better’s initial programmes of activity, details of which will be announced later this year.

... but there is an invitation to "join the conversation on Twitter @ageing_better"

I've written previously about the lack of any mention of technology for ageing better in the Centre's initial consultation documents, and as a result had some useful discussions with the Centre's interim staff. Now the CEO is in place I'm hopeful we'll see development on that front. Anna's promise of collaboration and innovation looks like a good start. Maybe we'll be able to tease out more on Twitter.

David Wilcox

Digital inclusion can help address loneliness and #AgeingBetter - if co-designed with older people @BigLotteryFund

6 min read

Summary: the Big Lottery Fund report on Ageing in the UK suggests that any use of digital technology to help combat loneliness should be developed in the context of older people's preferences for traditional media, phones, and email. That throws up a challenge for BIG policy teams that might best be addressed through simulations and co-design, as well as a review of "what works".

The Digital Inclusion section of the report on Ageing in the UK, which I wrote about yesterday, is particularly useful because it goes beyond people's use of computers and other devices, and puts that in the context of other media and methods that people use to get information and communicate.

Since the focus of concern is loneliness, it is important to find from the report that phone calls are most important, and television is seen as a main means of company. Overall, traditional media like TV, radio and print remain enormously important for older people.

Add-in that for people online, email is rated as far more important than social media, and you can build up a picture that's rather different from the UK as a smartphone society.

Here's slides about the report, which I've clipped from the pdf:

Traditional media Phone call Weekly reach Time per day

The report, by Trajectory for Big Lottery Foundation, does emphasise that digital inclusion is hugely important when analysing loneliness among older people. As digital literacy increases, and people adopt tablets and smartphones, the scope for easily using online methods beyond email increases. That's evident from projects that BIG has funded and, for example, the work of my friend John Popham.

The challenge for the BIG policy team is now - I hope - how to take forward the recommendation in the report:

The Big Lottery Fund should take advantage, wherever possible, to integrate technology into projects that support older people, as use of the internet and mobile communication devices can help to alleviate loneliness and reduce the impact of depression and lower subjective wellbeing – as well as helping connect individuals with essential services.

The work of John, and others in the digital inclusion field, shows that people will quickly get the potential of digital technology - particularly in the form of tablets - to inform, connect, entertain, and that it doesn't necessarily involve taking a course to learn computer-based office skills. It also shows that everyone's digital preference is different.

So not only do you have to think about how to design a digital solution for an individual - as we played through in this simulation for Age UK London - but also how digital will fit into the mix of other media that people use during their day.

The BIG blogger Baba A, wrote:

Our ‘Ageing in the UK’ report summarised that people in later life have more or less the same access to digital as everyone else, but just use it differently; and that they see social media as the least important. It could be suggested that the social media tool developers themselves may need to develop a platform that is more later life user-friendly?

I think it is more an issue - as I said yesterday - of "how to help people build the blend of newspapers, magazines, phone calls, visits, relationships and maybe online activities that is right for them". Original reference here

It's also about how to develop the digital tech capacity of community and voluntary organisations that support older people. Volunteering is the other main route to combat loneliness that the report recommends - so digitally-enabling volunteers could have double benefits as they might act as mentors. Again, there's plenty of projects showing how this may be done.

If I can be a little self-serving in proposing ways forward for BIG policy and programmes, I would suggest using something like the simple co-design approaches Drew Mackie and I have developed, as well as reviewing past projects. The simulations allow you to develop a scenario reflecting the personal or organisational situation, and then within that create personas for the people you wish to benefit and those supporting them. Cards provide a range of tech and other options.

A "what works" review of projects supporting digital inclusion, older people and organisational development would provide the content for any simulation. Older people could help develop the personas, and then play through what would really work for each organisation or individual. We did very well in a couple of hours with Age UK London - so I'm sure a better-researched programme would yield a lot of insights.

In addition I do hope that BIG will provide an opportunity to bring together people who have worked in this field to share their experience ... and to discuss what really works. There's plenty of other people with ideas to contribute. Blog posts are fine, but there's nothing like getting together for a chat.

Update: A new BIG post Some words of knowledge helpfully explains the role to the foresight research programme in an interview Pete Bailey, Head of Knowledge at the Big Lottery Fund. Finding will go to the innovative Accelerating Ideas programme, which is promising.

David Wilcox

The @BigLotteryFund highlights role of digital technology in #AgeingBetter

5 min read

The Big Lottery Fund has started a welcome discussion about how it can integrate technology into projects that it funds in order to help combat loneliness and promote wellbeing.

Earlier this week BIG published a comprehensive foresight report on Ageing in the UK that highlighted, among other things, the challenge of loneliness among older people. It concluded:

Volunteering and digital technology are two of the key tools to help combat isolation and its resulting impacts. Volunteering is a powerful way to build strong social ties and alleviate loneliness. While there are strong number of women over 80 volunteering, men are under represented. Older people are also accessing the internet as much as young people, but more like to use it mainly for emailing and banking. Almost eight out of 10 over-65s use a computer once a week. As with volunteering, using computers and access to the internet helps alleviate loneliness amongst older people and reduces the impact of depression.

The slides that accompany the report include the recommendation:

The Big Lottery Fund should take advantage, wherever possible, to integrate technology into projects that support older people, as use of the internet and mobile communication devices can help to alleviate loneliness and reduce the impact of depression and lower subjective wellbeing – as well as helping connect individuals with essential services.

I've previously highlighted the fact that BIG's £82 million Ageing Better programme, and the £50 million Centre for Ageing Better funded by BIG, have lacked any explicit recognition of the importance of digital technology, or specialist support - summary of blog posts here.

BIG has, however, funded many projects that use digital technology, and it looks as if their importance is now receiving more recognition, starting with a series of blog posts. The first today - Never too old! - refers to the foresight report and says:

The digital inclusion summary included the following: “Only a small proportion of those over 65 are what Age Concern call ‘refuseniks’, those who want nothing to do with these digital technologies.” Instead, reasons for lack of social media participation revolve around lack of understanding and fear of the unknown.

The blog post goes on to tell the story of how Betty Holden, 83, engaged with technology through a Rochdale-based project run by Pride Media Association. Betty then went on to help others - and both Betty and the report confirm the main barriers to digital inclusion are lack of understanding and confidence with 'how it works'; fear and anxiety about 'doing something wrong', and concern about security online.

The post author, Baba A, adds some really interesting insights, based on the digital inclusion section of the report, about the need to recognise the communication preferences of older people - including a major bias towards email rather than social media.

Our ‘Ageing in the UK’ report summarised that people in later life have more or less the same access to digital as everyone else, but just use it differently; and that they see social media as the least important. It could be suggested that the social media tool developers themselves may need to develop a platform that is more later life user-friendly?

It cannot be assumed that people are not interested in the new or the different just because of their age, we need to take more time to find out why. There can be many practical or psychological barriers to interacting with new technologies, which we experienced users (and developers?) take for granted.

After going through the report I feel that in a world of numerous and varied digital platforms, we all need to remember that to even start reaching out to the digitally excluded that we might need to have an outreach plan that is mainly using telephones, Terrestrial TV, email and… word of mouth!

That chimes with an earlier post - My idea for digital inclusion - the minimum technology assessment kit - where I suggest that "the challenge is how to help people build the blend of newspapers, magazines, phone calls, visits, relationships and maybe online activities that is right for them." I'll follow up in a further post, and hope that the BIG report and posts get the attention they deserve.