Senior life in the era of Ageing society

Senior life in the era of Ageing society

According to the World Population Ageing 2020 published by UN, the Ageing population that consists of those who are 65 years old and older has reached 720 million people in the world as of 2020, and is predicted to account for 1/6th of the global population in 2050. Our society is also at the brink of entering the super-aged society as the baby boomer generation transferred into the elderly population starting from 2020. The expansion of the ageing population could be seen as a result of a natural phenomenon in the midst of the extended life expectancy of human on the back of advancement in the medical science and technology. The change in the demographic composition is a critical factor that determines the future of humanity. In particular, since a dramatic change in the demographic structure such as ageing can lead to various changes in the local community, global efforts are being made to seek out multi-angular countermeasures to ageing.


Extended life expectancy refers to the extension of old age. Various social issues that an ageing society would accompany as a result of the extension of life expectancy would mainly include relative reduction of the ratio of the economically active population and issues of senior poverty and slowdown in the economic growth, increase in the cognitive impairment including mild cognitive impairment, and suicide rate of senior citizens. Together with these social issues, we have to correctly understand the physical change, mental change and psychological change that accompany ageing and identify detailed needs to respond to demographic changes. As a result of the spread in the need to specifically recognize the social issues of the ageing era, the social approach on the elderly population of the past that used to be centered on the medical treatment and care has shifted to quality of life filled with happiness for the senior population and interest on healthy ageing. Attempts that used to focus on expanding facility and developing products for seniors through physical approaches expanded to system and service for the senior population such as living, transportation, safety, education, medical treatment, and care, and there are also more cases of issues being resolved through the cooperation of the private sector and the public sector, along with direct participation by the senior citizens. 

International efforts for a city that is friendly to ageing

World Health Organization (WHO) built an age-friendly city that realizes active ageing at an early stage and constructed a guideline for Age-friendly city that covers 3 indicators (Global Age-Friendly Cities: A Guide) that allows all citizens to liberally participate in broad areas that encompass safety, health, society and economy. The corresponding indicators include physical living environment such as convenience of means of transportation, external space and facility, and social living environment such as healthcare for the local community, active social participation, respect and social integration, civic engagement and employment, and communication information for continuous communication.

 8 interconnected domains of urban life (

In addition, WHO pursued a global project known as Global Network of Age-Friendly Cities & Communities (GNAFCC) since 2007 in line with the world-wide trend on ageing. The member cities of this network are cities that prepare countermeasures to issues related to ageing that each city is facing and are recognized for continuously making efforts to resolve the issues, and these members are given opportunities to share of experience and cases with other cities. GNAFCC aims to enhance the quality of senior life within the city by placing ageing in the familiar local community (Ageing in place) as the key value. The ultimate direction taken by GNAFCC is establishing a city environment that is good for all citizens to live in, not just senior citizens. For this, priority is put on gathering the opinions of the senior citizens and identifying the needs by viewing the city environment with a macro perspective, and cooperation of various stakeholders are considered as a must when implementing projects to form an age-friendly city. Furthermore, a circular structure that consists of establishment of plan, implementation and evaluation for age-friendly city is being proposed to continuously respond to ageing population issue, and recently, the concept is expanding not only in large cities but also across the local community-level networks.  

Cities are also taking various individual approaches to the ageing society in addition to international organizations. In particular, senior citizens are being perceived as the agent of independent lives rather than as target of care or socially marginalized with the recent expansion in the perspective that understands the senior population. Therefore, in the process of resolving social issues that are faced by the ageing society, various stakeholders including the senior citizens are actively participating to seek out, experiment and verify the measures together so that practical resolutions can be identified.  

Cooperation of the local community and the ageing society; Kamakura Living Lab and Share Kanazawa of Japan

Citizens and experts are cooperating and senior citizens are utilizing the living lab network to resolve various social issues that are generated in the superaged society in Japan where ageing is proceeding relatively quickly. In Kamakura, Japan, where the share of the senior population amounts to 45%, solutions were identified and better countermeasures were sought out through experiments with local residents in the form of the living lab to find ways to increase the local population and number of jobs. Living lab is a method that is mainly introduced in recent social innovation activities, and refers to the activities to seek out and demonstrate resolutions on issues by cooperating with various stakeholders along with the participation of beneficiaries or users of products and services as the main agent of problem-solving activities. Kamakura aspired to attract commercial facilities using empty houses and stores or idle spaces within the region under the leadership of local residents and senior citizens, and made various attempts to establish a daily space that is fitting to the lifestyle of the senior population and the extended life expectancy. ‘Itoki’, a representative furniture company of Japan is developing products and services that are aligned to the actual life and user demand by collaborating with the local residents through Kamakura Living Lab, and it even mass produces furniture that was co-developed with the residents while reflecting the ‘lifestyle that is appropriate for the long-lived society’. 

  (Research on ways to expand the Living Lab to vitalize the R&D that solves social issues, Science & Technology Policy Institute) / 

In addition to Kamakura, various regions in Japan are making continuous efforts to construct longevity villages by attempting to adopt the residential, care, mobility and health management system based on ‘Ageing in place’ so that the senior citizens can be at ease to carry out the rest of their lives in the region that they have lived in until now as aspired by the Global Network of Age-Friendly Cities & Communities of WHO. Share Kanazawa (金沢) residential complex that was established in Kanazawa, Japan, is a community complex model that was established so that healthy people, those with disabilities and senior citizens can all enjoy the same quality of life, and it was planned to enhance the connectivity among residents. The entrances of the residences were designed to face one another so that the residents can naturally greet one another, and movement path without slopes were constructed while also providing community facility and senior day care services. Furthermore, ‘Share Kanazawa’ is providing an opportunity for the residents to work or volunteer by attracting local stores of the residents within the community such as student housing, housing for seniors, kitchen studio, general stores, child care facility and development support centers. This not only serves the purpose of caring for the senior population but also drives the engagement of senior citizens while aiding the development of sense of purpose, and therefore, can be considered the differentiating factor of ‘Share Kanazawa that has value in terms of the sustainability of business.

Residential community in the ageing society; Co-housing Active Ageing

Co-housing that started in Demark in the 1960s and spread to Sweden, Norway, Canada and other countries is gaining attention as one of the residential measures for the senior population that is centered on Northern Europe. Co-housing is a form of residence that encompasses various age groups, but it is being perceived once again as a residence type that is appropriate for the ageing society from the perspective that the quality of elderly living is improved by satisfying the conditions for Active Ageing while allowing Ageing in place as countries in Northern Europe start entering the Ageing society.    

Senior co-housing that targets the senior population can encompass both individual lives and community lives as it consists of communal facilities and small individual homes, and the senior citizens who are the actual residents would lead in forming the residential complex while voluntarily participating in community activities. Residents would naturally be involved in social interactions with neighbors through mutual support without separate care personnel, and mutual support is the concept of supporting healthy ageing and reducing social isolation by filling parts that require help in daily lives instead of caring for the health issues that come with ageing.


Fardknappen, Stockholm, Sweden   Dunderbacken, Stockholm, Sweden

Senior co-housing that is distributed centering on major cities of Denmark, Sweden and Finland supports safety, convenience, activity and independence based on the fact that a better quality of life can be achieved through the cooperation and engagement of residents. In case of co-housing ‘Kotisatama’ located in Helsinki, Finland, use of smart technology is being attempted such as developing and using specialized application to share regular health check dates, time and meeting schedules. As such, the aspiration of senior co-housing that maintains the physical and mental health wile vitalizing the cognitive function through self-sufficient lifestyle of senior citizens are in line with the expanded perspective that responds to today’s ageing society. 

Moreover, the case of the expanded senior co-housing that encompasses seniors and various age groups can be discovered. ‘Generations Block’ that is located on the western region of Helsinki is an apartment for co-existence of different generations where people of various age groups and from various backgrounds reside together. It goes beyond the concept of co-housing that provides a residential space to provide shared facilities such as music listening rooms and amphitheater so that residents can gather and hang out together, and it also has a barrier-free walkway that go through 3 buildings and indoor space that reproduces the subway station so that people of various age groups can comfortably share the spaces while naturally forming a sense of community. The wide and open hallway and space structure that allows residents to freely move around shared spaces that are connected provides an environment where senior residents, in particular, can share their hobbies and interests with residents of various age groups and live together with a sense of belonging. 


Inside of the Helsinki co-housing ‘Generations that encompass various age groups

Multilateral approach of the city on ageing, 'Transform Ageing'  

According to the UK Office for National Statistics, population who are 50 years old and older accounts for approximately 32% of the economically active population in UK as of 2020, and is close to half of the adult population (47%). The demographic changes have become visible with the impact of ageing population in UK on the social, economic and public services, and as a result, Design Council UK started the Transform Ageing project in 2017 that acts to change the perception on ageing. Transform Ageing started to specifically understand the process of ageing for people, improved the ageing experience of citizens by preventing potential outbreak of disease during the lifecycle and solidified the system and the perspective of local community towards the senior population. 

Transform Ageing Team approached the issues of the aged community in Northwestern region of UK by cooperating with senior citizens, acquaintances, family members, care personnel, social entrepreneurs and leaders of public sectors. Joint workshops were held to design the community activity program, and 6 innovation briefs that were identified consist of research on the method of experiencing positive ageing (Steps to a positive future), enhancement of wellbeing and independence through the improvement in mobility (Mobility and transport), considerations to prepare against changes in life (Life transitions), support for care personnel (Caring about carers), improvement in the access to information (Right information, right time), and forming relationships through social community activities (Making connections). 62 social enterprises were contacted and linked to the system and financial support to identify innovative ideas that would enhance the experience of ageing, and training, coaching and mentoring sessions were carried out so that a network that enables the event participation of various stakeholders could be constructed.


Deliverables of Transform Ageing program are various products and services that were developed. One of the important deliverables is reminiscence therapy using digital app that includes 'Book of You' that encourages patients with dementia to share their stories with other seniors, 'Move It or Lose It' that improves physical and mental health through exercise courses that vitalize the lives of seniors, 'Sporting Memories Network' that drives the users to live a happy and independent life by acquiring confidence and resilience while recovering a sense of identity by gathering common interests on sport among people with dementia and depression, and 'The Sewing Rooms' that combines technological education to instill confidence and encourage sewing and creative activities. In addition, Moments Café, a dementia-friendly café that is located in Plymouth city provides information to people who need advices and support on dementia and allows people to interact naturally so that they can enjoy life that is connected to the community, and an idea like ‘CareCalls’ that conveys the required notification or provides appropriate information to the seniors with slight cognitive impairment who live alone through a propriety software system was implemented through the support from Transform Ageing.



Book of You that started in Wales creates a storybook of digital lifestyle that uses the long-term memory storage of individuals through words, pictures, music and movies based on human cognition and recollection. Book of You was constructed to help people suffering from dementia, but currently, various people including young adults with learning disabilities or living in the life support facilities are working together. (


'Move it or Lose it' that was established by Julie Robinson in 2010 provides fitness courses for senior citizens. It succeeded in the Birmingham region, and it provided unique and innovative fitness courses to senior citizens in the northwestern region of UK through Transform Ageing. (



'The Sewing Rooms' is a social company that enhances the health and well-being of people facing certain issues like dementia or social isolation by hiring them, and encourages productive activities and engagement by carrying out custom training workshops. (

These are all cases where ideas were expanded and spread through the financial support from Transform Ageing, and expands physical and mental activities of senior citizens while including various services required to change the social perception on ageing. Ultimately, Transform Ageing project provides practical utility to reduce social isolation and helps senior citizens live a healthy and happy life through new products and services designed to satisfy certain requirements. Furthermore, it aims to gain insight by understanding the direct ageing experiences from those involved based on the design methodology that centers of human-centric design and design thinking, and it is meaningful in that repeated prototyping and validation were conducted on the ideas together with the local community and stakeholders for practical change, and co-design and social entrepreneurship were combined to identify a human-centric solution. 

Transform Ageing can identify the following positive impact from all stakeholders who are participating in the project. 



Firstly, social entrepreneurs are progressive people who identify solutions to change the society to one that goes in a better direction. Transform Ageing project encourages a sustainable business growth by enhancing knowledge and capability related to business. Specifically, various supports were provided from consultation on operation of the enterprise, such as problem solving, leadership, organizational management and communication in line with the growth stage of each organization, to financial support, and sharing of experience and training on network construction, and this further created jobs and service beneficiaries to result in reducing social isolation of seniors and improving cognitive health. Moreover, social enterprises contributed to the continuous improvement in quality of life by acting as an emotional companion to those who are 60 years old and older, and social influence of enterprises were also enhanced. 

Secondly, Transform Ageing project identified the desires of senior members who wanted to engage directly in the service or system as social enterprises or support. Therefore, various opportunities including motivation and compensation (Inspire Awards) to encourage meaningful participation were created and workshops were held so that senior citizens would be able to directly propose ideas that satisfy their need and be able to be involved in the development of products and services. Ultimately, a better service was developed for well-being, participation and self-sufficiency so that all members who participate in the project can well-understand the requirements of the elderly population. 

Lastly, Transform Ageing played a broad role in the public sector. It identified the demands of various participants and raised the understanding, and improved the perception on social enterprises to enhance the scope and quality of service. In addition, a better understanding was formed among social enterprises, senior citizens and stakeholders and the need for continuous connection to solidify the network was fully recognized.  

Transform Ageing program that was conducted from 2017 to 2020 is evaluated as having provided utility in the deliverables and new approaches based on design thinking across the entire Northwestern region of UK. Transform Ageing Team proposed the following 10 recommendations to other cities or regions planning a similar program as it was wrapping up. (Transform Ageing executive Report) 

1. Involve people in later life throughout. 

Since human-centric co-creation activities (Co-creation) need to be fostered and iterated as a continuous process, it is important to have direct engagement of the senior population in the program.

2. Take a place-based, whole-system approach. 

The entire system has to be accessed based on the local community. 

Local partnership has to be expanded to solve problems by securing many stakeholders and resource. 

3. Harness the assets within local communities.

Use the resource within the local community and cooperate with VCSE (voluntary, community and social enterprise) to leverage their local knowledge and insight. 

4. Support systemic design approaches. 

A systematic design approach should be supported so that stakeholders can develop innovative ecosystems and construct a positive relationship. 

5. Understand commissioners and connect social entrepreneurs into them. 

It is critical to understand the commissioner and interact with them while identifying the factors that impact the cultural changes in their environment.

6. But also, develop products and services for a consumer as well as commissioner market. 

Social entrepreneurs require various resource and support. 

Products and service development for consumers and commissioner markets are required. 

7. Scale ideas without pressure to scale organizations. 

Ideas of individuals and social enterprises should be expanded without any pressure on expansion and construction of an organization, and they should be able to prove their impact on their own. 

8. Consider rural counties test beds for innovation. 

Attempting and experimenting with innovation in small cities and rural counties could be an opportunity to break away from the prejudice about large cities and to attempt and implement new ideas.  

9. Focus more energy on the partnership. 

More energy has to be focused on partnership because relationship must be established between stakeholders to develop and sustain all programs. 

10. Be flexible and adapt to change. 

Governance has to adapt to flexible changes so that the program can be adjusted in a recurring manner without limiting communication and transfer. 

Design thinking for the city environment that is convenient to all

Michael Milken said 'the personal and social benefits of living longer are priceless, and the economic benefits far outweigh the challenges that come with an ageing society’. Today, some cities started to accept the extended life expectancy as a positive change in line with the above statement, and more time and effort would be needed to spread the change in such a perception. 

We have to pay continuous attention to the demographic changes and the ageing society while more complex and multifaceted social issues are gradually emerging because urban facility and living infrastructure that are comfortable for the ageing population are also in the same line as the environment that is commonly required for all age groups and the socially marginalized. In addition, today’s city requires not only hardware that ensures the convenience of citizens but also a software base that can enable healthy and safe living. Various members have to be first understood and those facing the issues need to be in consensus in the process of discovering and approaching social issues to construct the above. For instance, in terms of social issues that will be faced by the ageing society, impact of psychological and emotional change and physical change caused by ageing and would have to be understood and the needs would have to be directly identified through the experience and knowledge of the senior citizens, who are directly involved, to provide opportunities for them to contribute to problem solving.

As confirmed through the above case, many efforts of individuals and regional organizations are required for issues of the cities that accompany ageing, but cooperation of the members as well as the social perception and system are critical. Some cities are already perceiving senior citizens as the active agents of life instead of the subjects of consideration and care to make attempts to create a better residential environment and living system for the senior citizens under the cooperation of the region and the public and the private sectors. Such attempts are in line with the process of prototyping and identifying ideas through cooperation, sympathy and definition of design thinking issues that aid in resolving and making a broad approach to most issues. Design thinking applies efficiently in resolving the social issues of the cities that are becoming more complex from the perspective that members of the community recognize the issues of the local societies together and resolve them through engagement and cooperation of stakeholders. In addition, in the process of preparing for the ageing society, if innovation for a better quality of living for the senior citizens are attempted in areas such as information, product, furniture and spatial design based on design thinking, we will be able to move away from the concept of the past that considered only the construction of hardware for senior citizens to enable the construction of service and system that extends to the local community. In today’s era that is called the 100 years era, I hope that active use of design for happy life of senior citizens will become a general, convenient and safe urban environment solution for citizens of all age groups. 

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