INNOVAGE is a three year project dedicated to social innovations which support active and healthy ageing.
The project will develop and test, as well as survey and catalogue, social innovation that will have a solid impact on improving the quality of life and well-being of older people. In particular the project aims to make a major contribution to the EU Horizon 2020 goal of extending healthy life years.
The project’s objectives directly address the current major barriers to innovation and to the achievement of the extension of healthy life years across the EU.
INNOVAGE aims to achieve impact in the public, private and third sectors and is built on the closest possible partnership with end users and stakeholders, including older people themselves.
The starting point for this ambitious collaborative project is the goals set by HORIZON 2020 concerning the demographic challenge facing Europe, the necessity of improving lifelong health and well-being for all and the promotion of social innovation, and also that of the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing (EIPAHA) to raise the average healthy life expectancy in Europe by 2 years by 2020. INNOVAGE has been framed specifically to make a substantial contribution especially to this main goal of the EIPAHA.
Though a widely supported concept, few countries have adopted a comprehensive model of active ageing. Many national and European policies focus narrowly on the labour market and working longer, which tends to exclude any older people not engaged in economic activity. Focusing on only the more active older people neglects frail older people and especially those in long-term care institutions. The emphasis on physical activity has also led to inattention to the importance of maintaining mental capacity and mental well-being.
There is also a need for a new vision of ageing. The present perspective is a relic of eras when retirement took place for a majority at state pension ages and postretirement years were relatively short. Changes in the labour market and social behaviour coupled with a remarkable extension in longevity, combined in some countries with later onset of disease and disability, have transformed the experience of later life. The boundaries of frailty are being pushed back and, for a growing number of older Europeans, 70 is the new 50.
Social innovation is not a new concept but recently it has been widely encouraged as a means to improve, expand and diversify innovation for the benefit of society. It is not an easy concept to define, but is broadly understood to mean new ideas meeting social needs and creating new relationships or collaboration. For social innovation to be effective it needs to be tied more directly to the targeted populations and individuals – in this case the ageing population. However there is an absence of successful and sustainable social innovations in the field of well-being in later life, in contrast to civic entrepreneurialism or the public sector. The lack of clear definition and wide understanding of social innovation means many social innovators may not identify themselves so; many innovations remain small, immature and effectively hidden from view.
For example there is great potential for the use of ICT in this field, in support services for informal carers, smart home technology, the use of mobile phones for preventative health care and management of chronic conditions, but none of this is yet implemented on a large scale. In addition, there are few recognised instruments for ensuring the success of social innovations; outcomes are many and varied, making comparisons difficult.
The mission of INNOVAGE is to concentrate the highest possible quality of scientific expertise, the active participation of older people and stakeholders from policy, practice and product development fields. The collaboration will produce and identify major innovative approaches to better quality of life and well-being as people age.
The project will develop a new formulation of active ageing. Based on the work conducted throughout the project, the aim is to produce an inspiring and usable tool to encourage actions by actors at all levels. The focus on the operationalisation of active ageing will directly address the major barriers to social innovation and the achievement of healthy life years across the European Union.
INNOVAGE will also develop an evaluation process to assess the impact of social innovations on well-being in old age. Building on methods being developed as part of the Joint Action Healthy Life Years, INNOVAGE will develop a database of exemplars of social innovation, those with a proven track record or really obvious potential.
The project has four specific objectives:
The project will deliver results in three distinct areas: Four new social innovations
Mapping of social innovations
The project will implement and test four new social innovations which will have direct application (on their participants) as well as indirect (future) application:
These four social innovations will have direct application to their participants as well as providing an evidence base for those interested in developing interventions in their own location or thematic area. The results from these four innovations will also be part of a global survey of social innovations to identify exemplars of the most effective interventions which have a positive impact on active and healthy ageing; each intervention will be assessed against a balanced scorecard and reviewed by experts in a Stakeholder Panel.
The survey results will be used to create a webportal which will provide vital information on each exemplar displayed in a common format. This will be an innovative platform, also available in a mobile/app format, for: sharing learning and networking between service provided, social entrepreneurs, business, policy makers, civil society; capacity building in social innovations by spreading information about successful innovations, and; as a repository of best practice.