By Sarah Wray, Editor, Cities Today
Councils in Leeds, Brighton, and Essex are looking to trial solutions to improve the health and well-being of older people and enable independent living for longer.
They are inviting proposals from UK small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to reduce social isolation in older residents and improve access to support and services.
The councils are participating in Connected Places Catapult’s Homes for Healthy Ageing Programme (HfHA), which already has testbeds in Sunderland and Northern Ireland.
Applications are open until August 23 and the programme is offering 13 selected SMEs a share of GBP 200,000 (US$ 242,220) in funding, support to design and run pilots, and guidance from the Information Commissioner’s Office on data management and regulatory compliance, as well as a showcase event.
A quarter of the UK population is expected to be over the age of 65 by 2050.
“This is immensely positive [that we’re] living for longer, but we also need to think about how [we put] the right support and infrastructure in place to enable us to live healthily and independently as part of that longevity,” said Built Environment Director at UK innovation accelerator Connected Places Catapult Erin Walsh on a recent webinar about the programme.
In Leeds, over 110,000 people are aged 65 and over, with an almost 14 percent increase between 2009 and 2019, and over 40,000 older people are isolated or lonely, said Project Delivery Manager in the Services Transformation Team at Leeds City Council, Ben Feely.
Research shows links between loneliness and increased risks of poor health outcomes, and responding to this is a growing focus for local authorities.
“What we’re looking for from this project is basically something that we’ve not thought of before, something that can sit alongside the work that’s already taking place, which will ultimately contribute to the reduction in social isolation and increase support for people to stay independent for as long as possible,” said Feely.
Priorities include ways to help older adults connect to their communities, take part in physical activity, and access public transport.
Brighton and Hove’s project is a collaboration between the University of Brighton and Brighton and Hove City Council.
Around nine percent of residents in Brighton and Hove are carers, with almost a third of the over-50s having caring responsibilities, and this is expected to grow.
Based on interviews, Brighton and Hove is looking for ways to support unpaid carers with challenges such as navigating complex support systems, having little free time for themselves, and accessing psychological support.
A Reader at the University of Brighton, Theo Fotis said:
“Our invitation to the SMEs [is to] raise awareness of the support that is available out there for our unpaid carers. Try to develop simple solutions, take this complex environment of support that is out there and make it into a pathway that is simpler and easier to navigate.”
Essex County Council’s trial will be in the rural Dengie area alongside an existing pilot to help older people and carers access information and support services, reduce paperwork burdens, and better connect those who can no longer drive.
The Council also wants to improve care co-ordination so that people have greater clarity over appointment and visit times.
The selected SMEs will be announced in September and the programme will run until the end of March 2023.
This article first appeared on Cities Today.