Enjoying later life through tech

Posted by Karen Bewick
  • Events


Early in 2016, Netcel approached our much-loved client - Age UK, the UK's largest charity dedicated to helping everyone to make the most of later life, to collaborate on an extraordinary, ideas-generation hack day.

As well as getting the opportunity to munch some tasty croissants and vegan snacks, we wanted to put our creative and technical skills to the test for a good cause. So, together with the dynamic team at video production and animation company - Superla.tv, we set up an event that would provide Age UK with a free day of digital consultancy to explore how new and innovative technologies might be used to meet the specific support needs of older people.

Every year, Age UK helps more than 5m people by providing support, companionship and advice for older people who need it most. Our objective was to develop creative technology-based solutions in response to three real-world challenges faced by Age UK and their target audiences, namely the over-60s – the UK's fastest growing age group, and their support networks.

By pooling our collective resources we aimed to provide Age UK with three credible ideas for solutions to some or all of the challenges. Those with the greatest potential could be developed further by Age UK and their partners to enhance support services for older people nationwide.

The challenges Age UK asked us to explore were:
- Loneliness among older people
- Improving peer-to-peer support for older people and their carers
- Delivering better personalisation within existing services


Netcel's entire team mucked-in on the day, whether participating in hack teams or topping up energy-levels with steady supplies of tea and cake. Superla.tv acted as both roving film crew and specialist media adviser on emerging video technology like Virtual Reality and 360°. Meanwhile, Age UK's Digital Programme Manager assumed the role of expert judge and go-to knowledge source on all ‘older people’ related matters on the day.

After an in-depth kick-off briefing from Age UK, we split off into three teams, ensconcing ourselves in dedicated war rooms to brainstorm ideas and solutions. Teams had to research and productize their chosen idea and communicate it, along with likely benefits, in a 20-minute presentation. This ‘pitch’ was delivered to Age UK for immediate critique Dragon's Den style, and the winning team got to take home a shiny golden trophy!


The project furnished Age UK with three valuable and ultimately attainable ideas.
One solution addressed all three issues together through the development of a nationwide, comprehensive social engagement platform. This would offer access to offline events, real-time virtual events using VR, interaction via social feeds and peer-to-peer support forums, as well as topic-based live chat using tools like rabb.it etc. The platform would be sustained by viable cost-effective support from local government and arts/leisure partnerships to deliver a real-time support network for older people.

Another idea advocated the creation of an Uber-style app-based community (Vuba) that would match transport requirements with volunteer lift-sharing to events, shops, hospital appointments. This would help to combat loneliness by enabling online introductions and discussion between people with similar interests and needs who would then meet-up offline, hopefully leading to long-term friendships.

The winning idea again focused on combatting loneliness but this time by getting companies  on-board to sponsor and run virtual and offline events, keeping older people informed via a bespoke Age UK social platform.

As well as a lot of fun, the Hack Day not only provided our charity client with some good ideas to take away and develop but allowed all of us at Netcel to try our hand at something new and to focus our efforts on a good cause. It’s definitely something we’ll be looking to repeat in future.

From Age UK’s perspective: "Initiatives like this that think 'outside of the box' are a vital source of material for charities. We will re-examine all these ideas, which have helped us to diversify our thinking on how we tackle older people issues in new ways in future".

Watch the video


Winner's Trophy

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