UKRI funds seven life-changing projects to trail blaze way to better lives

UKRI funds seven life-changing projects to trail blaze way to better lives
UKRI funds seven life-changing projects to trail blaze way to better lives

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - LONDON — A new living lab village which will support people with dementia, flexible options to help older people to improve their homes, and a project that will create local ‘tribes’ of small providers of adult social care where there are gaps, are just three of the projects being backed by UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.

In total seven projects, run by organizations as diverse as small business, corporates, charities and local authorities, have attracted initial funding from the healthy aging challenge to develop ways of making people’s lives healthier, more socially connected and more independent as they age.

The projects are:

• a new type of housing to be built in the grounds of University of Northampton, as part of a new community and living lab. Inspired by Japan’s Sekisui House, new homes will enable people with dementia to live well for longer, by design, in high-quality modular housing, alongside homes for families and younger people.

• a digital platform that will identify, upskill and check very local providers, or potential providers, of care and match them with those needing it. Artificial intelligence, which is part of the project, can then start to predict what care needs exist in any community and how those needs are best met.

• a project to target the estimated 1.6 million older homeowners who live in homes that are in a very poor state of disrepair. The project will help create warm, safe and energy efficient homes, with a space for live-in care or split homes in two, allowing them to rent out part of it, while tackling structural integrity, safety, better care, loneliness and social isolation.

• a project that builds on the existing commitment from energy companies to tackle fuel poverty to also address wider physical, social and wellbeing needs that we all face as we age. A trusted professional visiting a home to advise on energy use and efficiency measures could advise on a new safer bathroom, novel home adaptations or even social connections, for example.

• a Lancashire-based project that will upskill people working at gyms and leisure centers, so they can visit workplaces to conduct health screenings. This will help to better identify ways in which employees and employers can start to address conditions like back pain, poor mental health or diabetes before they impact people’s ability to live healthy lives as they age.

• a Scottish project, based in three neighborhoods, built upon engagement and involvement with the community. It combines age-friendly homes, with technology and products that enable people to live independently, stay connected and have choice and control in how services are delivered. It will help people to stay well and physically active as they age, as well as exploring new financial products to support them.

• a Greater Manchester-based project to develop an age-friendly design agency to provide design, market research and capacity-building services. In parallel it will explore the case for a technology enabled care marketplace for healthy ageing technology products and services, creating ways for products to be designed around the needs of older people, that they can easily access and trust.

The projects are the ‘trailblazers’ for UKRI’s healthy aging challenge, launched in September 2019. If successful they could attract up to £40m of funding from UKRI, create new jobs, stimulate local economies and boost UK’s expertise in extending quality of life in older age. — SG

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