Sixteen healthy ageing projects win funding to scale innovations

Front view of female training senior people in performing exercise ball at home.

A project encouraging physical activity in older people and one that brings the arts to people in care homes are two of 12 that will share new funding.

They are all winners of a competition designed to support social enterprises in developing products and services that tackle some of the key impacts of ageing.

Funded by UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) Healthy Ageing Challenge, the Scaling Social Ventures competition provides up to £500,000 in funding for individual successful projects. All projects are run by social entrepreneurs and tackle one or more of:

  • the common concerns of ageing, including impaired hearing, eyesight, mobility and mental wellbeing
  • sustaining physical activity for over 50’s
  • innovative models of care for independent living

Four further projects awarded additional funding

In addition, four further UK-led projects, which have previously secured funding in a global competition to reward the best ideas in healthy ageing innovation, have just been awarded additional funding by UKRI to scale up their ideas.

They are:

  • MyoSock, a smart sock with embedded sensors that records leg muscle and movement activity, with specialised software that calculates muscle health. This allows the user to increase exercise or change what they eat to improve muscle health. Additionally, it will help with drug development to help increase muscle mass and function in people with muscle wasting, a common side effect of ageing. The potential market includes pharmaceutical companies, clinicians, and sports and exercise providers
  • Eyecatcher®, are special glasses that link to a smartphone which measures visual field loss. Designed to be used easy-to-use by eye patients at home, results can also be sent to a user’s medical records, including those used by NHS England and NHS Scotland, for review by a clinician
  • Bia, an app that helps to keep women in midlife healthy, happy, and productive in the workplace. It is co-designed by women, for women. It takes evidence-based components of exercise that are essential for the health of women in midlife. It provides a clear, motivating, structured programme to follow and is underpinned by exercise and behavioural science
  • designed to help tackle loneliness, Squiboon uses the latest technology in an app that encourages older adults to come together; for skills sharing, taking part in their community or even just having a chat. It was co-designed with vulnerable and less affluent older adults. Anonymised data from the app can also help care and housing providers plan more effectively

These four UK innovations, selected from 33 previous winners of the Healthy Ageing Catalyst Awards will get an extra £125,000 to further develop their inventions and bring them to market, with the NHS, local authorities, companies and individuals.

Cutting edge innovation

The awards harness the most innovative and cutting-edge ideas of researchers to create practical, scalable products and services that deliver impact and support us as we age.

Funded by UKRI’s Healthy Ageing Challenge, winners are also part of the US National Academy of Medicine Healthy Longevity Global Competition. UK winners are also eligible for the accelerator phase of this global competition, including a $5 million grand prize.

Extending the benefits of ageing healthily

George MacGinnis, Healthy Ageing Challenge director at UKRI said:

Social enterprises play an important part in reaching into communities and helping those most in need fulfill the potential of healthier longer lives. Research has highlighted the difficulties that successful social enterprises face in raising funds to grow. That’s why the Healthy Ageing Challenge will provide £4.4 million funding through the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI).

The funding is designed to help extend the benefits of ageing healthily to areas where people have the most to gain from improvements in healthy life expectancy.

The projects address a broad range of issues and have a key role to play in reducing the pressures on the NHS and social care through movements such as social prescribing.

The Catalyst awards

These have provided 54 grants over three years for academics based at UK research organisations. The award winners explore innovative ideas with the potential to transform the physical, mental, or social wellbeing of people across the world as they age.

In addition to a grant of up to £62,500 per project, award holders benefit from a nine-month part-time programme of support delivered by Zinc. This helps to accelerate their ideas and enables the researchers to maximise the reach and impact of their work.

All ideas are expected to fit with the priority areas of the UKRI Healthy Ageing Challenge. These include:

  • supporting social connections
  • living well with cognitive impairment
  • managing the common complaints of ageing
  • sustaining physical activity
  • maintaining health at work
  • design for age friendly homes
  • creating healthy active places

The Healthy Ageing Challenge is funded by UKRI and delivered by Innovate UK and the Economic and Social Research Council.

Further information

Projects funded

The 12 projects funded under the Scaling Social Ventures competition.

Appt Health Ltd will apply research intelligence to encourage more older adults, particularly those living in areas of deprivation, to take up and attend preventative healthcare appointments.

Aesop Arts and Society will roll out its Dance to Health programme, which is designed to prevent falls and their repercussions in older people, by ensuring they’re fitter and more agile.

Local Treasures will expand its current programme, providing flexible work opportunities to the over 50s in their local community, using an automated matching platform which connects them to customers, so they stay engaged and active.

HoPES will reach more people waiting for hip and knee surgery, encouraging them to stay socially connected and as fit as possible while they wait through a tried and tested exercise programme and app.

Disabled Living in north-west England will develop a video conferencing occupational therapy assessment tool that integrates seamlessly with a GPs current system. This will effectively assess what equipment, like a handrail, might provide better quality of life for their patients and reduce the risk of falls.

Golf in Society are transforming golf clubs into research hubs to discover the best golfing interventions to improve health and strength in those that are frail and living with dementia.

Active Families North East is scaling up its Well Bean Machine concept, a van containing health assessments, exercise equipment and beverages, taking health screening, low-impact exercise and social interaction ‘on the road’ to reach deprived communities.

Good Boost Wellbeing Limited is employing artificial intelligence to encourage more older adults with musculoskeletal conditions to join, and stick with exercise and rehabilitation programmes run in local leisure centres.

InCommon Foundation will provide support to local programmes that bring the generations together, helping to reducing the social isolation that many older people experience, and connect them with their communities.

Open Age will work with users and the Design Council to scale up their programme of in-person and online group activities for older people, keeping them healthy and socially connected.

The Upper Springfield Development Trust in Northern Ireland will launch and manage a project across the Springfield area of west Belfast to encourage the older generation in the community to be more physically active. It works by awarding dollars for time spent in open spaces which users can exchange for rewards or donate to local community groups and charities.

Active Care Homes through the Arts provides residents in care homes inspiring and engaging digital arts content along with support for the staff to motivate and encourage residents to move more.

Top image:  Credit: Wavebreakmedia, iStock, Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

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