THE GROWING MARKET OF SUSTAINABLE AND INCLUSIVE AGEING (CITYPRENEURS SEOUL 2019 THEME 1)
Theme at a Glance
Chances are, you walked hastily across the street this morning to get to work or to meet up with friends. Did you give any thought to the gaps in the pavement or how long it would take you to cross before the crosswalk signal turned red? Were you worried that you might fall and wouldn’t be able to get up, or that cars wouldn’t see you as they zoomed through the intersection?
This might not be on your mind now, but it may be in the near future: we’re living longer and ageing faster than any generation in human history. By 2050, a quarter of the population in most regions of the world will be 60 or older. That’s nearly 2.1 billion people who will face challenges around accessibility, health and inclusion, and will be looking for innovative solutions to help them age well.
There are also people who need help now. South Korea has the highest elderly poverty rate among the OECD nations. It’s also an aged society on its way to becoming a super-aged society by 2026, making it crucial to address challenges around ageing now. Cue “Healthy & Inclusive Ageing”, one of three themes for Citypreneurs Seoul 2019. Under the framework of the Global Goals (UN SDGs), the theme calls for solutions to provide good health and wellbeing (SDG3). Empowering ageing citizens to participate economically and socially in their communities is crucial to this process. This theme also requires us to combat poverty and address the lack of access to basic needs and services (SDG1), and to ensure a decent quality of life through inclusion in the workplace, the marketplace and the community (SDG10).
Ageing well in Seoul
Creating sustainable innovation in cities is one way we can improve the quality of life for older persons. With 68% of the world’s population projected to live in cities by 2050, older persons will increasingly rely on the amenities of urban living, such as healthcare, infrastructure and education. In this respect, innovators can make valuable impact and improve the quality of life in these communities by disrupting traditional product design and service delivery to not only age well, but also encourage senior participation and protect them from rising social and economic inequality.
According to a survey conducted by Seoul Metropolitan Government, one of the challenges faced by the ageing workforce of Seoul is that they are faced with early retirement despite their wealth of knowledge and experience to businesses and their communities. Many of these early retired workers have little in savings and weak social safety nets, making it difficult to live out their later years as they fall into poverty. To tackle this issue, potential solutions include using ICT and cloud computing technology to provide accessible ways for older persons gain job skills and training, allowing persons with limited mobility the flexibility to work from home.
Caregiving is a burgeoning market that offers many opportunities to change the way care is delivered by integrating technology such as ICT and IoT. Seoul’s healthcare system may not be able to adequately accommodate rising costs from conditions associated with ageing such as arthritis and high blood pressure. As the old-age dependency ratio also rises, it becomes necessary to administer care from homes and transition from hospital-based models. Big data and IoT technology can help this transition by shifting the focus of care from treatment to awareness and prevention. Cameras tracking erratic movements to detect signs of stroke and toilet devices identifying signs of diabetes in urine are good examples of innovation that can improve the quality of life and care for elderly people.
The need for age-friendly environments also offers a significant opportunity to improve the living quality of Seoul’s older residents. Age-friendly environments encompass many factors, such as decent air and water quality, safe and affordable housing and accessible urban spaces. The current status of housing in Seoul can be expensive and lacks open, communal spaces for socializing. This can lead to isolation and depression for older and persons with limited mobility. Thus, for seniors, housing should be safe, sustainable and accessible, and incorporate smart design features. Existing housing can be upgraded to be more age-friendly with the help of technology such as AI and big data. Urban spaces and public transportation can also be modified to ensure that both elderly persons and persons with disabilities can navigate cities with ease.
Citypreneurs Seoul 2019 encourages you to apply your innovative ideas to tackle challenges faced by Seoul’s older residents. Solutions for the future will come from social protection initiatives spearheaded by young people like you who will inherit our cities with scores of at-risk populations. Your business model should take into consideration the interlinked nature of the UN SDGs.