It’s also a hot topic for politicians, as the cost of supporting a much larger population of retired people could have a dramatic impact on the economy in the not too distant future.
According to some recent research, health spending in the years 2063/64 could be 5% of GDP higher than currently projected, as a result of this aging population.
“Opportunity Knocks” is a report published by the International Longevity Centre – UK (ILC-UK), in conjunction with the Institute of Engineering and Technology and the University of Cambridge’s Engineering Design Centre.
The report warns that without technological innovation over the next decade, health and care cost could be higher than currently projected by the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR).
It explains that predictions for the growth in healthcare productivity are very optimistic given historic trends and that technological innovation will be vital to fill the gap.
There is though significant potential for responding to the challenges of ageing due to developments in wearable technologies, big data, 3D printing, cloud computing, the Internet of things, and smart cities.
This technology and design response to ageing could also benefit the British economy.
Over 65s spend around £2.2bn a week in the UK and this is forecast to rise to over £6bn a week by 2037.
ILC-UK analysis of the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing included in the report highlights some of the problems to be overcome and the barriers to technological solutions.
According to their analysis, one in three 85-89 year olds have difficulty shopping for groceries.
More than one in ten in this age group have difficulty managing money.
More than half of those aged 90+ have difficulty shopping for groceries and a quarter of this age group have difficulty managing money.
4 in 10 over 75s and three quarters of over 85s do not have Internet access.
Tech and design innovation could have a positive impact, helping us live longer, healthier, independent lives.
Some of the tech innovations highlighted in the report, which demonstrate the potential for innovation when focusing on this consumer group, include:
-A kettle which monitors blood pressure
-TV buddies to allow people to remotely share the experience of watching a programme.
-A ‘cuddle cushion’ which would allow relatives being able to send each other cuddles
-A smart water bottle which would prompt people to drink more to prevent dehydration
-Accessible and modern “Boris Scooters” (or Segway’s) in towns and cities to help people with mild mobility impairments get around
-The development of national “trusted information” systems for online and telephone transactions to reduce the risk of scams
We’ve written on the blog here before about the potential for tech innovation to stimulate appetite in people with dementia.
It will be fascinating to see how the technology and design sectors respond to the challenges and opportunities presented by an aging population in the coming years.