Healthy Ageing PrizeUK Research and Innovation (UKRI) has announced that it is providing £20 million funding for over 25 projects to develop products and services that meet the needs of us all as we age.

The Designed for Ageing awards are the latest to be made by the UKRI healthy ageing challenge, which is funded by UKRI and delivered by Innovate UK and the Economic and Social Research Council..

Winning teams are from the private and public sector, including academia, across the UK and the successful projects have committed to co-design with future users and to demonstrate progress at a ‘design stage gate’ after six months. This commitment to co-design gives the projects the greatest possible chance of success in meeting the needs of older people.

The awards aim to create more and better services which support people as they age to remain active, independent, and socially connected. It is also hoped that they will encourage collaboration between academia and business and help support an evidence-based approach to innovation.

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Science Minister George Freeman said: “Today’s winning projects, backed by £20 million government funding and co-designed with older people, will pioneer the use of the latest technologies, from power-assisted exercise machines to smart navigation systems for the visually impaired, to meet the needs of Britain’s older generations.

“It is our firm ambition to ensure that the success of these projects also encourages businesses and academics across the country to develop ideas and technologies fit for our ageing population, improving our health and quality of life while building on the UK’s reputation as an innovation nation.”

Among the successful bidders for first stage funding a Yorkshire company, Shapemaster Ltd, which is making power assisted exercise machines more user friendly for older people and the machines more readily available throughout the community.

A Belfast-based firm, Connected Health, is aiming improve dignity for incontinence sufferers by alerting carers to issues in real time, using a remote monitor, preventing associated complications and personal discomfort.

FitBees, a woman-led service, is working on integrating monitors embedded in ‘smart’ garments. This is linked to a programme of community fitness for older adults, including those living with carers,.

Meanwhile, Scottish firm Smplicare Ltd is looking at integrating market leading wearables and digital health devices to help people track the information and insights they need to proactively manage their health.

George MacGinnis, Healthy Ageing Challenge Director at UKRI, said: “Many of us are living for longer and want to make the most of the opportunities in later life, which can include continuing to work and volunteer. Despite this, the market for products and services which genuinely meet the needs of older people is underdeveloped.

“Innovators need a better understanding of the rich and varied lives people lead as they age, moving away from a utilitarian view of providing only what they think older people need. That is why a commitment to inclusive design is so important; it provides an understanding of how people want to live their lives and what they would most like to do to make the most of their time.”

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