By Melissa Keogh
South Australia has a global role to play in developing innovative products and services for an ageing population, says Adelaide-based Global Centre for Modern Ageing (GCMA) CEO Julianne Parkinson.
SA has the oldest population of all mainland Australian states, with the GCMA aiming to take the state to the forefront of modern ageing in Australia and the world.
With the proportion of Australians aged over 65 continuing to increase, due in part to higher standards of health care, businesses have a greater need to ready themselves to better understand this growing but diverse group.
Globally, people are now living for longer at unprecedented rates. Across the Asia Pacific, the population aged over 60 is set to more than double from 547 million to 1.3 billion by 2050.
Launched in October 2018, the GCMA provides a living laboratory (dubbed LifeLab), paired with research, insights and advisory services to businesses, organisations and government to help bust ageing myths and assist clients to develop better products, services and solutions to meet the needs and wants of those over 60.
The centre, based in the Tonsley Innovation District, is home to the LifeLab, a demonstration, usability and co-design facility that allows businesses, researchers and over-60s to co-design and validate new and innovative products and services to improve the quality of life and experiences for older people.
A first of its kind in Australia, the LifeLab hosts innovative initiatives including developing solutions that increase mobility, reduce isolation, address nutritional needs and allow people to enjoy a better quality of life.
“The LifeLab network provides services at the demonstration facility and in a myriad of real-life settings. Complementing this, the GCMA’s research and insights capability allows organisations to access the facts to make informed decisions about customer and market opportunities,” says Julianne.
“Together these allow companies and other stakeholders to engage with older people in order to co-create and co-design what products should look and feel like. We can mobilise and scale our offering to assist clients locally, nationally and internationally – a great benefit to SA businesses with export markets and partnerships.
“What we see through our work is that older people are really guiding and informing every step of the way, organisations and their R&D partners. By leveraging the GCMA’s expertise with end users central to the co-design and co-creation, businesses will have improved insights and hence confidence that their product will be better received in market.”
At the head of LifeLab is executive director Veera Mustonen, who joined the team from Helsinki, Finland, as a smart city living lab expert. Veera is currently leading several co-design initiatives that explore how people can age well and continue being active participants in their community.
Each project involves a co-operative approach with over 60s included in the design, creation and trial of the initiatives. One example is the engagement to co-design with residents and others in the redevelopment of an aged care precinct in the regional town of Strathalbyn.
But that’s not all, the GCMA is also undertaking an explorative study on the roll out of an autonomous vehicle trial at a retirement village in SA’s Fleurieu Peninsula. The trial, in collaboration with the SA Government’s Future Mobility Lab, Regional Development Australia and leading autonomous vehicle manufacturer Aurrigo, involves studying the experiences of residents at the Lendlease-owned Elliot Gardens retirement village at Port Elliot who chose to travel around the village in a small driverless vehicle.
The battery powered ‘podzero’, which has been named ‘Elliot’, will be operating at 10km/h with a capacity of four passengers. Embracing a new way of moving around and allowing for greater social interaction between village residents, the trial will provide user feedback which is expected to contribute to determining the adoption and acceptance of new mobility solutions.
Lendlease Retirement Living managing director Tony Randello says the company is always looking for ways to make its villages more liveable.
“This trial may show us how technology could extend mobility and help our residents age in place, among friends and provide them a sense of freedom and independence,” he says.
“We also expect the trial will show that no matter how old you are, you can always embrace new technology into your lifestyle.”
But greater mobility is just one of the needs of our ageing population, with seniors also calling for easier food and food packaging solutions, support for isolation, new learning and training opportunities, and more guidance on transitioning into later stages of life.
Julianne says Asia Pacific countries are taking a collaborative approach to the ageing sector, with other countries reaching out to the GCMA for advice on businesses already developing innovative products and services for older people.
The GCMA also recently hosted senior international delegations from Malaysia, Sweden and China to share insights, opportunities and challenges of modern ageing.
“We know SA has a leading role to play in a global sense in how people transition throughout all of their life’s course. Many of the opportunities and challenges are universal,” Julianne says.
“It’s world class and pioneering work that is proudly being undertaken with the important support of many.”
Industry in focus: Health
Throughout the month of April, the state’s health industry will be explored as part of I Choose SA.
South Australia’s health sector is among the best in the world, renowned for developing new and advanced technologies and research outcomes. Our health industry infrastructure is world-class, providing new pathways and job opportunities, as well as a growing potential for health tourism.
Visit I Choose SA to meet the people building business and industry in SA, and to find out how your choices make a difference to our state.