AN AUSTRALIAN-FIRST initiative could change the face of ageing and give world peace a nudge because, as the designer said: "The answer is on your doorstep."
This month, nursing practitioner Matiu Bush claimed first prize in the Senior Living Innovation Challenge, with a project that seriously represents the "Act local, think Global" approach.
The challenge, thought to be an Australian-first, initiated by QUT in partnership with retirement industry organisations*, offered a first prize of $20,000 for a concept that aims to reframe ageing in Australia.
Matiu's winning project was 'One Good Street'. Using a combination of simplicity, thoughtfulness and use of new technology, he worked up a grassroots concept of meeting, sharing and caring with people in your street (and perhaps even a few blocks away), that seeks to enhance, and perhaps, inform the whole idea of 'staying in your own home'.
The idea that the neighbourhood street is a community within a community is an old one. It might begin with interacting with neighbourhood kids, sharing a neighbourhood barbecue, gradually growing familiar enough to borrow a cup of milk, and then, perhaps, accepting an invite to milestone birthdays. In the best world, the street stays the same and people come and go, but the traditional sense of community survives. However, modern mobility and new work life balances has changed a lot of those customs - but not all of them. Recently I moved and came home to find a pot-plant and welcome note on my doorstep, it was a warm introduction to my new abode.
During this summer's searing heat, Matiu told me his street introduced the air-cond club, an initiative that saw neighbours with air-conditioning opening their home to hot and bothered neighbours. You see generosity can prevail but it's up to you.
The 'One Good Street' model works as an online platform, where residents register what they're doing in their street and are awarded with accreditation. Online, the street accreditations will show up and perhaps extend to a whole suburb. Matiu said the model creates a culture of participation robust enough to tackle a major issue for people over 65-years: social isolation.
Physiotherapist Meg Lowry was named runner-up for her practical book Balance Yourself and Clock Yourself App. Balance Yourself is a step by step guidebook to better balance, and will be sold in places such as pharmacies and GP clinics. It features large text, non-ageist language and clear illustrations, while presenting a full sequence of evidence-based balance exercises. The balance exercises can be practised at the kitchen sink and self-progressed. But balance training is only half the solution; to catch a fall in motion we need to practise thinking faster, reacting faster and stepping faster. Clock Yourself is a series of brain games that are performed with the body. The app leverages the familiarity of a clock face visualised on the floor, and introduces a series of memory and reaction time challenges that involve stepping to the numbers on the imaginary clock. The app is unapologetically low-tech and older adults were involved in each step of the development and Beta testing.
*QUT collaborated with four Industry leaders, Bolton Clark, Aveo, BallyCara and IRT Group. Three Senior Living Innovation partners are not-for-profit organisations and all partners provide accommodation and health services to older people.
Senior Living Innovation Challenge event summary
Purpose and vision:
To uncover game-changing ideas that will empower people over 65 to live the life they choose.
Creating a future for people as they age:
Designing spaces, products and services for people as they age is challenging. Currently options are limited to traditional retirement villages where older people are gated and lived with similar aged residents.
Who are we:
Senior Living Innovation is a major research initiative that aims to reconceptualise the experience of ageing in Australia. Our goal is to bring to life the World Health Organisation's (WHO) Global Friendly Cities and Active Ageing principles.