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The Respectful Ageing Innovation Challenge: Solving challenges that seniors face

A retirement village company has launched its annual innovation challenge for elderly, offering a $550,000 prize pool to those who can develop solutions for complex problems seniors face.

The Selwyn Foundation is hoping to fund innovative products, services and ideas that will significantly improve outcomes for older people.

Two years ago, the foundation made it a goal to invest $100 million over the next decade to drive social impact at scale.

“Our research into the areas of greatest need for older New Zealanders shows health, financial hardship, housing insecurity, social isolation and loneliness, and access (including transport as well as digital access) are the five biggest challenges, leading to further negative impacts on both physical and mental health. Addressing these will require new solutions,” says The Selwyn Foundation Chief Executive Officer, Denise Cosgrove.

“We know that New Zealanders have the ability to create amazing solutions through collaboration and innovation, and we want to foster an innovation eco-system that promotes Respectful Ageing.”

Cosgrove says by 2028 there will be 1 million Kiwis over the age of 65, resulting in the need for more support for older people with vulnerabilities as their tax base shrinks.

Across the country, a third of all older people are currently vulnerable, with 13 percent experiencing disadvantage across multiple areas of wellbeing.

Read more: Meet the innovative New Zealand businesses fighting to keep our elderly fit

Nearly 30,000 live in homes that are sometimes or always damp, and experience feelings of loneliness or being isolated.

These issues greatly affect Māori and Pacific seniors.

“The issues older people face are complex. We’ve launched this Challenge to raise awareness and spur businesses, innovators, entrepreneurs and community organisations to come up with creative ways to create real change, whether that’s through technology, products or services,” says Liz Gibbs, Chief Impact Officer at The Selwyn Foundation.

“On the flipside, the ageing population creates huge potential to harness the energy and experience of older people and enable their ongoing contributions. This presents a real opportunity for economic growth through innovation in the design of products, services and support catering to the needs of people as they age.”

Gibbs adds that countries like the US and UK are honing in on elderly innovators to solve the problems they face.

The challenge will be broken up in to two categories, with three grants worth $50,000 each to enable organisations to conduct feasibility study or pilot.

Another pool of $400,000 will be available for up to five “Boost” projects, to help expand the reach or impact of an enterprise’s existing product or service.

Solutions that target groups that have been identified as especially vulnerable, such as single woman, older Māori and Pacific people and products or services that serve the Auckland and Northland region, are particularly sought and prioritised.

Entries for the Respectful Ageing Innovation Challenge close on November 30 and can be entered here.

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