Innovating Aging in Place: Stanford Design Challenge 16/17

Once again, the Stanford Center on Longevity has announced its 4th annual Design Challenge with the succinct title – Innovating Aging in Place. This contest has global reach that promotes the entrepreneurial and creative tech-talent of students from around the world to develop products or services to, as they say, “optimize long life for all of us” – so besides being global it is an inter-generational opportunity!


There are other innovation initiatives out there, that encourage the same focus on aging and a longevity society as featured in my previous blog posts, but the Stanford Design Challenge has been consistently well produced since I’ve been following it over the last four years. Even with this year’s clear title, the challenge overview on the web site states, that the designs presented will address “all aspects of aging in place – biological, psychological, financial and social.”

As usual, the open call for submissions that began last week will continue until Dec.9, 2016, then after the judging period, the finalists are to be announced in January, with the winners determined by mid-April 2017.

Aging in place, a national movement?

Aging in Place is not a newly desired concept. In some cultures for centuries, elders have lived in their homes with the family as long as possible. I recall visiting a friend’s house in grade school. The five member family had recently migrated from Eastern Europe and this included the frail grandmother, who lived in the home right up to the day she died.  My own grandparents in England lived in their own home until they passed away there in the early 1970’s, at a time when outsourced support systems and innovative ideas were not what they are now.

Here we are some 45 years later, and where else but in the markets of developed countries such as the UK, USA and Canada would this now not only be a big business opportunity – but also a national movement. In a time when we seem to have recognition weeks for everything, the National Aging in Place Council (NAIPC), currently with 18 chapters across the USA has declared its big week for October 10-16, 2016. They have even designed a 20-page aging in place planning template to download.

While the opening bullet in the NAIPC mission statement says, “Reaching out to seniors”, you have to ask yourself, at what point do you think you need to start thinking about this? When does your own state of mind tell you that you are a senior? When does someone else think of you as a senior? Does it all suddenly creep on you only in a health crisis?

In the conversations that I’ve taken part in over the last few years, many people in their 50’s and 60’s, are confronted by aging in place decisions with their parents. In some cases, this has prompted the notion that perhaps they should be thinking about how they might put themselves in the driver’s seat, and start proactively taking control of their own choices. Perhaps this would become like the annual financial planning review process. Really it is all part of longevity planning.

logoTo a large degree, the advancement of the aging in place movement will be augmented by technology driven design solutions, as evidenced by the number of contests and research programs as promoted by Stanford in the US and organizations such as AGE-WELL here in Canada. Thanks to these organizations, it becomes that inter-generational opportunity, not merely seniors talking to seniors about seniors.

Yet as well noted through the continuing global conversation on aging and longevity, aging in place or independent living as is it alternatively called, is part of the bigger story of urban design for age-friendly cities. Slowly in mega urban clusters like the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area, where the dynamics of real estate markets are changing, people are beginning to make decisions about stay or move in their planning for later life living.

If you haven’t picked up steam on all this, innovating enough or not yet; take a look at how others are addressing Aging in Place while we wait for the Stanford Design Challenge winners.

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation

National Association of Home Builders


Though as the saying goes – you ain’t seen nothing yet.

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