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How can business meet the Grand Challenge on Ageing?

This breakfast debate explored the opportunities that the ‘grand challenge’ of an ageing population presents.

We were delighted to welcome the Minister of State for Care, Caroline Dinenage, who gave the keynote speech

How can business meet the Grand Challenge on Ageing?

People in their 40s, 50s and 60s can expect on average to live into their 80s and beyond. By 2026, there will be almost 2 million people aged 85 and over, an increase of nearly 25% from 2016. So what does this mean, and how can business meet this Grand Challenge on ageing?

The ageing sector is ‘the most exciting space for any of us to spend our careers in’
Lance Batchelor
Meet our speakers
  • Keynote speaker: Caroline Dinenage, Minister of State at the Department of Health and Social Care
  • Chair: Anna Dixon, Chief Executive, Centre for Ageing Better
  • Lance Batchelor, Group Chief Executive, Saga
  • Sarah Weir, Chief Executive, Design Council
  • Huw Edwards, Public Affairs Director, ukactive

In this breakfast debate we explored what needs to change and what the business opportunities are to enable people in mid-life to age well and remain productive members of society in later life. 

Watch highlights of the Minister's speech:

link to watch the keynote speech

Caroline Dinenage, Minister of State at the Department of Health and Social Care, set out government priorities to embrace the Grand Challenge.

Watch the panellists' responses to the Minister's speech:

link to watch the panellists' responses

Discussion themes:

Social care is feared by many as it is a great unknown. Lots of people don’t understand the system: that healthcare is free at the point of use, but social care is different and is paid for by the individual as they need or require it. There are lots of complicated reasons as to why this is the status quo, but this is difficult for people to comprehend.

The social care system needs to be sustainable.  It is hoped that the NHS long-term plan (we set out some ideas for how NHS England could make some bold commitments to healthy ageing) and the much anticipated Social Care Green Paper will move things onto a more sustainable footing. Staffing is also a huge resource that – given the current UK political climate – is at risk. Resources too, whether they are people, technology, or anything else, need to be fit for purpose and available for industry to utilise as required.

A joined-up government approach will help businesses meet the grand challenge. Cross-departmental thinking and collaborative working will help create better services for individuals to use, and a more lucrative set of opportunities for business. This is starting to happen within government (although again, the current political climate may hinder this somewhat), and is a valuable resource where it does happen. More work is needed to break down silos and to encourage departments to work together – collaborative design of services is a positive way forward.

To end the fear of later life we need to encourage people to plan and prepare for their futures. Getting people to think about what they want for themselves in later life helps to break the taboos around ageing, and can be a real motivator for individuals to try and prevent issues in later life.

People recognise the need to keep themselves fit, healthy and active. There’s a real opportunity in the physical activity sector, for example, to market products and services to meet these desires of an older audience. It will take time for this attitude to move across all business sectors, and will probably require a real culture change…

...which brings us on to how businesses view older people and those approaching later life. Many businesses’ marketing strategies will not segment older age ranges as they do younger. The ‘over 50s’ are lumped into one homogenous group, whereas you might find concise marketing strategies for 16-18 year olds, 19-24 year olds, 25-34 year olds, etc. This limits any opportunities that might arise from considering the needs and desires of someone aged 54, versus someone aged 87. For example.

Businesses haven’t quite embraced this, but change is coming.

Catch up: watch the recording of the event:

link to watch the live stream recording
We need to design things differently, design them well and scale them up so that the marketplace is right across the economy.
Sarah Weir
Ellie Gotay
Events Officer