The Healthy Ageing Conference 2023 at The Oval was a landmark event, with two action-packed days filled with insightful discussions, innovative projects, and forward-looking research. The SBDRP is proud to have been at the heart of this gathering, highlighting the crucial work being done across various facets of healthy ageing.
Day One: State of Ageing Research Forum
The State of Ageing Research Forum was a highlight of the Healthy Ageing 2023, providing attendees with an enlightening view of the past, present, and future of ageing research.
Healthy Ageing Challenge Research Director, Professor Judith Phillips opened the forum, setting a collaborative tone for the sessions that followed, emphasising the interdisciplinary nature of current ageing research.
Professor Alan Walker traced the four-decade evolution of ageing research in the UK, noting the shift from individual efforts to comprehensive, collaborative research, and the influential roles of the UK’s Research Councils and EU funding.
Christina Rosemberg provided a data-centric view, utilising REF data to offer a snapshot of the state of UK ageing research, including its volume, quality, and the extent of interdisciplinary collaboration.
Professor Carol Holland highlighted the growing presence and influence of ageing research in the Research Excellence Framework 2021, detailing the impact of ageing studies across a wide array of disciplines and its increased societal relevance.
Professor Janet Lord discussed advances in geroscience aimed at extending healthspan and the potential for translating this research into human studies.
Professor Judith Phillips then illuminated the overarching goals and the strategic vision of the Healthy Ageing Challenge, highlighting the importance of the SBDRP research-led initiatives to develop services and products that support people as they age.
The forum concluded with a ‘Question Time’ style panel discussion that ventured into the future of ageing research.
Overall, the forum encapsulated a comprehensive perspective of ageing research, from its historical roots to the innovative frontiers, setting a clear direction for future work in the field.
Day Two: A Gathering of Visionaries
Day Two of Healthy Ageing 2023 was a highlight reel of expert insights, headlined by Prof. Chris Whitty, who shared profound knowledge following the publication of his report on ‘Health in an Ageing Society’. The day’s sessions were rich with thought-provoking discussions, encouraging a deeper understanding and inspiring action on how to support an ageing population. The talks sparked engaging dialogue, setting the stage for innovative approaches to healthy ageing that we anticipate will guide future projects and research in 2024 and beyond.
DesHCA Leading the Way in Age-Friendly Housing
A highlight of Day Two was the insightful contribution of Professor Alison Bowes from the Designing Homes for Healthy Cognitive Ageing (DesHCA) project. Prof. Bowes detailed the project’s mission to develop homes that support cognitive health and overall well-being as people age. The focus on adaptable, inclusive designs underscores the crucial role of the living environment in maintaining independence and quality of life for older people. DesHCA’s pioneering work is paving the way for the development of housing solutions that are not only practical but also supportive, marking a significant step forward in designing for healthy ageing.
SBDRP Stalls At Healthy Ageing 2023
The conference was buzzing with activity as various SBDRP projects set up stalls, each providing a window into their unique contributions to healthy ageing. Delegates had the chance to engage with:
The ILC Retail Project
The Retail Project is an initiative that addresses the evolving demographic landscape, highlighting the significant spending power of older adults. ILC’s Retail Impact Fellow, Ailsa Forbes produced ‘Healthy Retail Guides’, which aim to revolutionise the retail sector to become more inclusive, encouraging businesses to adapt to the needs of older consumers. Ailsa’s presence at the conference showcased a roadmap for revitalising high streets and local economies, illustrating how businesses can flourish by embracing inclusivity.
OPTIC: Understanding Older people’s PerspecTives and Imaginaries of Climate change
OPTIC brought a fresh perspective on environmental sustainability, bridging the generational gap in climate change perceptions through creative engagement. Their Climate Comic uses artistic expression, capturing the imagination and encouraging a dialogue between older and younger generations, fostering an environment that supports both healthy ageing and sustainable living.
SHAW: Supporting Healthy Ageing at Work
SHAW’s research on workplace support for older workers provided actionable insights, emphasising the importance of understanding and addressing health at work. They championed the idea that with the right workplace adaptations, older adults with long-term health issues can continue to be active, valuable members of the workforce, enriching the economy and the workplace with their experience and knowledge.
Hospitality Connect showcased the important task of combating loneliness among older adults by transforming local hospitality venues into hubs of social connection. Their ‘Welcome ALL’ toolkit, launched at the conference, serves as a guide for creating welcoming, age-friendly spaces in cafes and pubs, fostering social interaction and community spirit.
Connecting Through Culture As We Age
Connecting through Culture aims to enhance the participation of older adults, especially those with disabilities or from minoritised groups, in the cultural tapestry of society. They showcased their co-design approach which is about creating new, inclusive artistic experiences and supporting the growth of creative industries to better understand and cater to diverse older adults.
HeLP: HEaring Loss & Place
HeLP was shedding light on the often-overlooked issue of hearing loss in older adults, highlighting the social and cognitive challenges that arise in noisy environments. Their research is not just about amplifying sound but enhancing the social fabric and cognitive well-being of those affected by hearing loss, thereby contributing to a more understanding and accessible society.
Healthier Working Lives for the Care Workforce
The Healthier Working Lives project’s stall highlighted the programme’s mission to improve recruitment, retention, and overall well-being in the care sector. Through engaging research and their ‘Care Trailblazers’ initiative, they are innovating in ways that enhance the work lives of older care workers, making the sector more adaptable and inclusive.
Final Thoughts: The Legacy of Healthy Ageing 2023
Healthy Ageing 2023 has been a demonstration of what can be achieved when innovative minds come together. Each SBDRP project at the conference contributed to a rich dialogue on ageing, and the ideas exchanged here will resonate and evolve into tangible benefits for society.
We look forward to building on the connections made and knowledge shared at this conference, as we continue our collective journey towards creating a world where every individual can embrace the fullness of a life well-lived into older age.