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Find out what's already happening and consider what role you think you might want to play in working together with others to be as happy, healthy and independent as possible in later life.

Here you can read about recent news, examples of technological and social innovations and how they are enhancing people's lives, and hear the opinions of experts.

Many organisations and businesses are innovating to help older adults live more independent lives. But we feel there is still more to be done to ensure that services, products and businesses are ready to seize the opportunity

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Using creativity to help others

By Emily Cummins

Emily is a 24 year old award-winning inventor. She was made famous by her creation of a sustainable fridge which is 'powered' by dirty water but keeps the contents dry, hygienic and cool for African townships. Her creative thinking has led to a string of commendations including being named as one of the Top Ten Outstanding Young People in the World 2010, The Barclays Woman of the Year Award 2009 and Cosmopolitan magazine's Ultimate Save-the-Planet Pioneer 2008. She describes her design philosophy involves a back-to-basics approach which keeps an eye on the past as well as the future and combines the best of both.

Recent predictions from the Office of National Statistics suggest that babies born today will live to 100 and beyond. Wow! We've come a long way, in 100 years we have almost doubled our life expectancy. Imagine what the world might look like in another 100 years ...

My passion  is to use my creativity ability to help others . I want to see inspired innovation that allows people to live independently for longer, not for the sake of our state tax bill (although subsequent savings do need to be considered when we talk about funding for such innovation projects) but for the maintenance and improvements to the quality of life. It is my belief that it's everyone's responsibility to think about how we can make the most of opportunities to innovate creatively to improve issues within our grandparent's and parent's lives; issues which will, eventually and inevitably, become our own.

I only hope that my story helps to inspire individuals to believe they too can make a difference ...

At the age of four my granddad gave me a hammer. From then on, whenever I used to visit, I'd spend hours with him in his shed at the bottom of the garden.  I'd watch as he'd take scraps of materials and turn them into toys for me and my cousins. My granddad would teach me about the different properties of materials and how to use tools and machinery in his shed. Before I started secondary school I was designing and making trucks, jewellery boxes and rounders sets. At such a young age I was able to explore and experiment. My granddad had ignited my creative spark, which is something I will never lose.

Upon starting secondary school I was introduced to my first design and technology lessons. However, I quickly became disappointed. We were being taught the basics; how to safely use the machinery, what the tools are for and about the different types of materials.  These were things that I had been doing for years with my granddad, but I understood that the other students needed to learn. Still, in my opinion, three years was a long time to learn the basics.  To add to my frustrations, every student in the class would design and make the same products, such as a pencil holder. This was hardly inspiring! However, I was fortunate that my granddad had already given me an insight into just how creative and innovative D&T could be.

Thankfully, once I reached GCSE level, we were able to create our own briefs in our technology lesson. This excited me as it was like stepping back into my granddad's shed, having free reign over the materials and machinery to create something that I was passionate about.  I wanted to identify a real problem and solve it. 

So I could identify real needs and wants, I spent a day with my other granddad who suffered from arthritis and simply watched what he could and couldn't do. One of the first things I noticed was that he couldn't squeeze the toothpaste out of the tube. Over the course of my technology classes, I designed, manufactured and installed a toothpaste dispenser into his bathroom.  Seeing him using my product was the ultimate reward.

After creating my toothpaste dispenser, I thought about the bigger picture; there isn't only my granddad who suffers from arthritis and there is more than just toothpaste that comes in a tube. I realised that my product had more uses than simply for my granddad and that my school project could potentially help many people.

I hadn't really thought about the needs of older adults before, but working on my project made me realise that I take for granted all the things I can do. I hadn't even considered that one day my life would be similar, on a day to day basis, to that of my granddad.

Inventing goes hand in hand with observation and research; how can you identify a true need without observing life and without researching if there are solutions already available? As an inventor, I believe you shouldn't assume what products people want or need, you must firstly ensure that there is a need or opportunity that hasn't yet been realised. By simply spending one day with my granddad, I was able to see first-hand what his life was like and the prospects to make him more independent. My subsequent research told me that there was an opportunity to improve his life; this is when creative thinking is adopted and practical solutions are born...

Now it's your turn....



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