We recently invited Alice Osborne, Founder of Ageable to join us for Transitions 2.0.

Hi, everyone and Matt, thank you for such a generous introduction. And thanks so much for putting this event on and for inviting me. I’m really excited to be here and to continue the conversations. I have eight minutes, so I'm going to be super speedy. I hope I can get through and share with you more about Ageable and our vision for the future of care.

Hi, I'm Alice. I'm very much a care activist, I want the world to be a radically different one from the one that we're living in. And this is why I've set Ageable up, to use imagination and creativity to redesign the way we live, age and care.

The future of care

Ageable is a product of my own experience, which is the intersection of design and innovation and ageing and care. It was a way of me being able to turn a lot of my own frustrations of seeing what was really happening through the care sector, especially during the pandemic, and change things around the sector I really care about.

I'm going to share with you a little bit about what we're imagining for the future of care, why it matters and how we might get there. We're all dreaming of a future where we aspire to age, an intergenerational future that’s not defined by our age brackets. A future filled with ageing experiences that are also filled with caring practices. Also part of this is a future care economy, where care takes centre stage.

So why does it matter? The impact on care homes through COVID-19 has been astonishing. 66,102 people have died in care homes through the pandemic. We've seen them be hit like never before. They've had to do everything they can to manage and make sense of so many challenges without the true support that they deserve.

On the left two elderly people hug through a plastic screen, the right includes text from The Guardian, explaining the danger of social contact.

But alongside other industries, the sector has really highlighted a lot of the inadequacies that were already there within the sector itself. Care homes have had to use their ingenuity and imagination to make ends meet. They've had to live with loss, with grief, lack of families, lack of touch and not to mention the toll on staff and their families.

Covidisolation

I thought I'd share this picture. I still don't really have anything to say about it. There's no words that can really, really make sense of this. It's such a sad image but really encapsulates what's going on right now. This is an incredible imagination and creativity to overcome what is really a harrowing problem, which is people wanting somebody to hold their hands as they may be dying. All of this has refilled my frustrations around the sector, and wanting to build a much better, caring society.

We’re in a care crisis

I’m really inspired by a group of academics called the care collective who have written this book, The Care Manifesto, which really pushes for this notion of universal care. This is very much the type of future that I'd like to be seeing Ageable contributing towards.

A women holds an open copy of The Care Manifesto with handwritten notes towards the camera, text reading 'universal care' is highlighted

I'll share with you a little bit about the story they create behind this but essentially, we’re finding ourselves within a care crisis. There’s been a rise of capitalism and industrialism and a real stripping back of services. Care has become something that’s been far too hidden behind closed doors. Mainly done by women and marginalised groups it's a feminist issue. We filled the gaps of disparate, inadequate and disconnected services.

The vision this book promotes is this notion of universal care, where care is understood as an enduring social capacity in practice, involving the nurturing of all that is necessary for the welfare and flourishing of human and non-human life. They take it beyond the simple interactions necessary around care, but also, think about what that means for the planet as well, from a sustainability perspective.

Communities can save us

In terms of how we get towards this future, for me it's communities that have saved us through COVID, they filled the gaps. And we need to be much better at building communities of care. For too long, we've been relying on other services and other places that have not been able to properly meet our needs. But imagine if we could get that capacity within our communities and the resources they need to develop their own ways of working and supporting each other.

The other thing is around partnership working. How can we be building better societies of caring support, ensuring we help spaces to go above their own needs and places, but also the needs of communities too. As an example, why can't we use places like care homes as places where we can be housing day centres, nurseries or respite. There's so many more places we look at community, not necessarily based on the types of services that should happen within one place. If we think more broadly around what our community needs and how we can support it to really care for each other and thrive, then we can really start to reimagine how things can come together.

Another thing is around building practices and rituals of care, opportunities that really encourage relationships that enable people to thrive. All interaction we have is an opportunity to move towards a more caring or careless world. This is an idea which is really interesting. Every conversation whether you're designing a conversation for an event or whether you're designing a new hospice, you can be thinking about interactions. Every part of this thinking can be really considerate around when we're developing a caring practice. If you don't do that intentionally then there's a risk that we become careless.

My final slide is the care infrastructure we need to design more shared spaces and places for care. This is really about how we have lost a lot of those spaces and places where we can have those conversations, build communities and networks and have those kinds of shared conversations. With more and more privatised land it means there's less and less space for genuine care.

A final thought is this move towards the traditional idea of care. This might be, for example, somebody moving into a care home which is a very obvious notion of care. But we need to really move towards a society where we understand the nuances of that. So that might be one extreme, but having a friendly chat whilst making a cup of tea in your home is another. As well as doing that when we start to go back to our offices, building in communities of care is going to be even more critical. So thank you.

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