What would you do if you suddenly found out that you will live 30 years longer? Would you get excited and start planning activities or would you feel disheartened because of all the issues that age and elderly life are associated with?
The growing population is one of the grand challenges of the 21st Century. Combined with the growth of cities, it will change how we build homes, how we work and the products we use, opening opportunities for new services and enterprises. The gap between old and young will blur beyond recognition as retirement and pension ages increase.
Wazoku, inspired by Future Shaper, Richard Copland’s series of thought pieces, including Innovation and entrepreneurship in the age of the 100 year life and The New Old, recently ran a challenge for design thinking leaders from across the world to submit ideas for products and services that will be relevant and demanded. The challenge was run at the Design Thinking for Business Innovation Summit in Barcelona.
In the spirit of full disclosure and reference our design thinkers, it needs to be noted that none of the contributors fell into the designated category. So, you could argue that the real empathy and engagement necessary was missing and the resulting ideas were aspirational in how others see the challenge ahead.
The big three takeaways came as no real surprise with loneliness, degrading health and lack of mobility being identified as the main challenges of elderly life. Proposed solutions aimed to leverage the potential of digital technology and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to make the life of elderly people more social, more enjoyable, more meaningful and generally, make seniors feel young again.
Here are some of the suggested ideas, grouped in three main categories: Entertainment, Health and Expertise:
The never-ending pleasure
Eating is one of the biggest pleasures in life, but taste buds degrade with age. A fictional company called Never-Ending Pleasure creates a food product which, thanks to its mouth-watering flavour, brings food pleasure back to seniors’ lives… In addition, this product will enable them to eat healthy by reducing the amount of salt and sugar they normally add to compensate for lack of food taste.
Are you an athlete who is no longer physically able to compete but is missing the adrenaline of competing? Or do you simply miss the gym? Don’t worry! A simulator could trick your brain and simulate sports exercise without you having to engage your muscles. Seniors (and not only them) would feel the benefits of doing physical exercise even when they have disabilities or reduced mobility or like some of us – are simply feeling lazy.
Digital pets for immobile pensioners
Too old to look after a real pet? A digital pet could be a great companion too! Get all the benefits of companionship and loyalty without the hassle of cold rainy winter walks when Freddie the Scottish Terrier needs his exercise.
Travel multi-service agency for golden age
Imagine a travel agency that offers an exciting experience in a completely safe, stress-free environment. That would be new! The vision is a whole lot more than Saga, where everything from the food to the guidebooks would be age conscious so that you’ll no longer have to suffer with the guidebook in tiny text, or a million and one steps on guided tours in hot, crowded city plazas.
A protein layer added to your medication, built on the Blockchain, could track the entire lifecycle of your pill from the lab to your home and send you updates.
High-tech sensor house
Most of us have that parent or grandparent who usually misses our call because they haven’t heard it ring or because they can’t locate it quick enough. This of course immediately gets you worried. Imagine a house full of hidden intelligent sensors that detect abnormal situations (such as a human body lying on the floor), or a house that notifies you every time there is an issue and takes away all your concerns. Wouldn’t that be great?
Pre-aid: Medical assistance before you know you need it
Why wait for an ambulance when an ambulance can wait for you even before you need it? AI could track seniors’ health remotely and send medical assistance to their homes when a potential health issue is predicted.
Mobility reduces, technology advances. You could wear a suit that links to brain control and allows your motions to be supported and enhanced. A suit that acts as a stand-up wheel chair? How amazing would that be and perhaps not too far off reality – after all, we are already printing 3D prosthetic arms to help the physically impaired!
Exaggerated anything & everything
Need bigger glasses? Why not just make everything that humans use larger and brighter? Who says that the elderly don’t want things to be fun, colourful, nice and bright.
It seems silly not to take advantage of the wealth of knowledge seniors possess. So why not create a network of experts whose knowledge we can all benefit from?
Tap into the expertise and wisdom of seniors by connecting them to young students for mentoring and coaching. Young people face a lot of essential questions to which they have no answer while seniors can use their wisdom to mentor students and enable them to shine. So why not sit down with an expert who might be a bit grey around the ears but has some great ideas?
Let’s create an experts-for-hire virtual community network with a series of specific skills. Companies can benefit from this network by tapping into deep expertise that helps them solve a range of challenges.
Brain fitness for seniors
Lastly, let’s not let this expertise go to waste because of age! The latter has a massive impact on cognitive abilities. With lifespans increasing, brain training will play a key part in maintaining healthy mental function. Think luminocity for seniors. The content will target specifically memory and mind function and will be relevant to the age group.
In conclusion, let’s change our perspective on aging and see all the positives rather than all the negatives it brings. A longer life means ongoing learning, maturity, a growing expertise, a growing network, perhaps more than one career, more travels, way more opportunities and way more fun. So why associate it with the boredom of simply getting old?
Richard Copland, an entrepreneur, Investor, Strategist, Thinker, Writer and Commentator. The former Innovation and emerging technology director for CGI UK, he now operates at the CxO level advising, leading and commercialising multi-million technology service business new ventures.
If you’re interested in similar content, why not download our Design Thinking report ?