Innovating for healthier, longer lives: how is London’s Knowledge Quarter contributing to the Ageing Society Grand Challenge?

Did you know, on average, at age 65 years, women still have a quarter of their lives left to live and men just over one fifth? In the UK, 65 years of age has traditionally been taken as the marker for the start of older age but, in terms of working patterns, this is out of date. There is no longer an official retirement age and increasing numbers of people work past the age of 65 years.

Our society is ageing and this presents an opportunity. Longer lives mean people can continue to contribute to society for longer: through longer working lives, volunteering, and providing childcare support for family members.

But there are also challenges. More older people means increased demand for healthcare and adult social services. Reducing this demand means innovating to enable older people to live healthy lives for as long as possible. The Government’s Ageing Society Grand Challenge (2017) aims to ensure that by 2035, people can enjoy at least 5 extra healthy, independent years of life. Achieving this requires:

  • supporting people to remain at work for longer
  • building markets for consumer products and services that better meet the needs of older people
  • driving improvements in public health and innovation across the social care sector

Shifting the balance to ensure that our ageing society is a greater opportunity than it is a challenge requires effective knowledge exchange and collaboration between academia, research and technology organisations, innovators and industries.

London’s Knowledge Quarter (KQ) is the perfect environment for the knowledge exchange and collaboration required to tackle the many facets of the Ageing Society Grand Challenge. Many organisations within the KQ are already using their strengths to find solutions that enable us to live healthier lives into our old age. Some examples include:

  • University College London working with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine to investigate associations between cognition and dementia biomarkers, to help with earlier detection and management of dementia.
  • The Royal Veterinary College looking at the biological processes of the cell cycle and cell death, and how problems in the regulation of this system affect healthy ageing.
  • Google, which through its subsidiary Deepmind is studying the use of artificial intelligence to assist in diagnosing cancer, predicting patient outcomes, preventing blindness, and much more.

The review that accompanies this provides a snapshot of the wealth of research and innovation by universities, research institutions, businesses, and charities within the KQ that leads us closer to healthier, longer lives for all. I trust that you will find it interesting, and that it will lead you to a deeper exploration of the exciting work that is going on right now, at the heart of the UK’s capital city.