Active ageing and social innovation

Stream #01

Chairs: Alex Murdock (LSBU), Roger Spear (The Open University)

This stream builds on the well-subscribed theme from ISIRC 2019. The stream develops the positive premise that longevity is to be welcomed and explores how trends in lifestyles and emerging innovation may well see such longevity as a clear asset. It seeks papers, which look at innovations and trends in active ageing. It also welcomes papers, which seek to develop theory and models to examine this phenomenon. Comparative papers and papers, which examine country-based innovations, are also welcome. 

The concept of ‘active ageing’ has evolved to reflect this and has been reflected by work undertaken by the WHO and by research in field such as gerontology (WHO 2002, Walker 2019). There have been initiatives to develop active ageing models in the field of gerontology (Kalache and Gatti) However, the concept is not yet well reflected in the literature on social innovation. A recent thesis examined it from the perspective of loneliness (Sharma 2018). 

Much of the published work has been from the perspective of ‘service provision’ and innovations on behalf of an older demographic (Schulmann 2019). Our stream seeks in particular papers, which sees older people as actively engaged in social innovation perhaps as social entrepreneurs. There is a developing literature on entrepreneurship in older demographics (Stypinska 2018). 

Most countries are experiencing an ageing demographic and this even includes developing countries. This has been generally viewed as positive and a consequence of a better life and healthy society. However, it is also now increasingly viewed, especially in public management and public policy literature, as representing a ‘problem’ or a ‘challenge’. Questions are posed about the proportion of ‘earning’ population, the pressures on social and health care and about intergenerational ‘inequality’. Reviewing academic literature using terms such an ‘ageing demographics’ shows a very heavy skew towards a ‘problem based’ research agenda (almost as if ‘ageing’ is an illness or social problem). We seek to challenge this agenda in this panel. Covid19 has presented new challenges to older people, but at the same time digital technologies have pushed the boundaries of social interaction, as well as supported neighbourliness, and mutual support.  This panel would be particularly interested in research on responses to Covid19.

Papers are invited which develop theory and which identify social innovation models emerging internationally to address the myriad opportunities (as well as challenges) posed by significant changes to global ageing demographics; increased opportunities for those beyond retirement age to remain engaged and contributing, re-framing how we think about careers/work and beyond, challenges of health and social care and housing- both in the built environment and through financial public sector constraints, and opportunities for technology to play a role.