Winning projects will design for ageing

Group of smiling senior friends walking arm in arm along shoreline of winter beach

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) announces £20 million for more than 25 projects to develop products and services that meet the needs of us all as we age.

Winning teams are from the private and public sector, including academia.

Co-designed with older people

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.

Health, connectivity and innovation

Among the successful bidders for first stage funding are:

  • a Welsh project, from VRGO, to improve the long-term health of office workers via chair-based technologies, including smart sensors, which recommend better posture and physical activity
  • a Yorkshire company, Shapemaster Ltd, will make power assisted exercise machines more user friendly for older people and the machines more readily available throughout the community
  • Connected Health, a Belfast based firm, which will improve dignity for incontinence sufferers by alerting carers to issues in real time, using a remote monitor, preventing associated complications and personal discomfort
  • WeWalk Ltd, an indoor or outdoor smart navigation aid for visually impaired people. This fits onto a cane to provide audio-based assistance, detecting obstacles and connecting through a user’s smartphone to integrate with online mapping services
  • FitBees, one of our woman-led services, integrating monitors embedded in ‘smart’ garments. This is linked to a programme of community fitness for older adults, including those living with carers
  • Good Boost Wellbeing Ltd, which will transform leisure centres into community musculoskeletal treatment hubs with artificial intelligence (AI) and gamified exercise monitoring in gyms and pools. Using gamification extends the service to more people by including those who are less mobile
  • Holly Health Ltd is partnering with Age UK Lewisham and Southwark to develop a digital coaching service. It will improve the physical and mental health of older adults, to slow the onset of chronic conditions (which affects over 80% of adults over 65)
  • Scottish based Smplicare Ltd will integrate market leading wearables and digital health devices to help people track the information and insights they need to proactively manage their health.

Designed for Ageing awards

The Designed for Ageing awards are the latest to be made by the UKRI healthy ageing challenge.

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 aims of the awards are to:

  • encourage collaboration between academia and business
  • support an evidence-based approach to innovation
  • create more and better services which support people as they age to remain active, independent, and socially connected
  • support business-led, near-to-market innovations that have potential to scale
  • ensure that best practice in people-centred, inclusive design is applied
  • encourage applications from businesses across the UK, by working with devolved government administrations in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

Opportunities in later life

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.

Further information

The healthy ageing challenge is funded by UKRI and delivered by Innovate UK and the Economic and Social Research Council.

Other projects which have received funding are:

  • Accenture (UK) Ltd’s Homecare: an AI-based smart-home solution that helps older people combat social isolation and loneliness by connecting them to a suite of digital services using voice and screen interactions
  • AMBA Health and Care Ltd: using discreet sensors and a simple app, Amba helps families and carers detect common ageing problems such as poor sleep, inactivity and dehydration earlier. It allows older people to live safely in their homes for longer
  • Connected Health Systems Ltd: a new model of self-care among older people, working with a reablement service and integrating medication management technology
  • Cross Digital Ltd: a website, providing physical, social, financial and housing needs assessments to generate a means-tested care plan, set goals, and provide product and service recommendations.
  • Eargym Ltd: a game-based immersive training app to improve personal confidence and hearing capability in both social and work environments for people with age-related hearing loss
  • Health Companion Ltd will help reduce health inequalities and enable self-care for all. It will extend the range of languages and cultures supported through a prototype service to improve access to GP services for people from minority ethnic communities
  • Koalaa Kommunity: a soft-orthotics service to help the over 50s adapt to upper-limb impairment and remain mobile, active and socially connected in the community
  • Kymira Ltd: a new smart garment and smart shoe biomonitoring service to help women of all ages, and specifically older women, participate safely and more confidently in sports
  • The Lifted app is changing the way carers are recruited using AI-assisted automation to fast recruit, train and disrupt the working experience and conditions for carers. Lifted is reducing the average time to hire a carer from over 100 days to less than 14
  • Music in Mind Remote Ltd: Manchester Camerata and The University of Manchester will create an app based on the Camerata’s renowned Music in Mind programme for people living with dementia. The app will train carers in basic music therapy-based techniques and provide resources for people living with dementia
  • Mysense Ltd: a full home-based preventative health service that can predict decline in functional independence by monitoring daily living activities and fitting to existing health data
  • Physiomedics Ltd will create an easy-to-use enhancement to an existing app which will help reduce pain, maintain mobility and encourage physical activity. It will give older people more control on how they manage their physiotherapy needs
  • Pose AR: an accessible, low cost way of extending physiotherapy services into homes, via a smartphone or other, everyday devices. It will provide diagnostic data to understand how often and well patients perform prescribed exercises
  • PPP Taking Care Ltd will demonstrate and evaluate the use of an in-home alarm to reduce the risk of falls and improve wellbeing for over 65s who have already suffered two falls or more
  • Site Kit Ltd will help address the current crisis in social care through a platform that matches those needing care with those providing it. It will promote a model of care that emphasises wellbeing and meaningful relationships between carers and care recipients
  • Glasgow-based Tactuum’s app which makes it easier for people to find out about, access, or be prescribed services that will benefit them as they age
  • Tech in Care Ltd: a service which makes it easier to share knowledge when people come out of hospital and easier for older people to revert to independence
  • Vira Health Ltd: better care is needed for the 13 million UK women who are menopausal. The Stella app provides relief with personalised plans to manage mood problems, sleep disturbances, bladder issues and more.

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

This is the website for UKRI: our seven research councils, Research England and Innovate UK. Let us know if you have feedback or would like to help improve our online products and services.