The Foresight Future of an Ageing Population project is part of a Government Office for Science initiative to understand the opportunities and challenges of an ageing population. The project has so far focused on evidence-gathering and engaging with the public. Recently Foresight teamed up with Policy Lab to organise four workshops with government departments to co-create policy ideas to address these opportunities and challenges.
I attended one of these workshops, and found myself on a table with three other policy officials from across Government. The four of us came together to form a team looking at the links between technology and a future ageing population. The task was to come up with some ideas that responded to some of the challenges about how we could maximise the use of the new technology that will transform our lives. We are all from different government departments: DCMS, DCLG, DWP and Government Office for Science. With the other participants in the room we represented a broad and diverse range of subject areas and experience. Which was good because as we looked at the evidence visually represented on a series of cards we saw that the biggest challenge is not with the technology itself - it exists and could do some amazing stuff - but can it work on a larger scale? Can people use it easily? Is it secure? What are the social implications? These are some of the difficult questions.
I think the evidence really brought home the scale of the demographic change. If we were all going to live for longer did that mean we had to work for longer? Would we be both caring for our parents and our grandchildren? If so I think the technology can help.
The workshop was led by Policy Lab so we used some new techniques to look at this topic from different angles and to be creative. Government officials can be very resourceful and we are used to having to solve problems but we don’t always get the opportunity to explore our full creative potential. At this workshop we tried our best by drawing and even making our ideas. We looked into the future using illustrated personas and thought about how the evidence will impact on a human, individual level. All of these techniques ensured that our ideas were more original, more human-focused, more robust and more practical.
At the end of the workshop we pitched our best idea to the group and fielded their difficult questions. The next step is to choose the ideas with the most promise and develop them further. Watch this space.