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 #ageingbetter. 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
- Major new insight into later life in 2015 - news release
- Later Life in 2015 - research summary
- Later life in 2015: An analysis of people aged 50 and over - report download
- Details of research
The work of the Centre
- About the Centre for Ageing Better
- Big Lottery Fund £50 million 10 year endowment to the Centre
- Topics areas for development by the Centre
- Innovation and change - from research to action
The Centre’s Digital Initiative, and earlier posts
- The potential of digital to support ageing better
- Earlier blog post on the Centre's Digital Initiative
- Digital inclusion can help address loneliness and AgeingBetter - if co-designed with older people
- SEEFA symposium identifies challenges to innovation in Ageing Better - it's culture as much as tech
- Living Well in the Digital Age, and Networks, on Mediablends
** 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.