Last month there was a report published into the growing number of silver separators, people over the age of 65 who were getting divorced. Report authors, International Longevity Centre, said this could lead to increasing isolation, an understandable but sad outcome of this new demographic trend.

The other headline finding of the report was that the growth in divorce could lead to a greater need for formal care. Now this puzzled us. We’ve read the report and couldn’t find hard evidence to suggest why this might be the case, beyond the citing of academic papers. To get a true picture, we believe think tanks must also speak to the people likely to be affected rather than relying on analysis of existing data and quoting old research.

Perhaps historically divorce did lead to a greater reliance on institutional care but why should it be that way in the future? In fact, rather than assuming an outcome, shouldn’t the report’s authors have investigated the other options available and how can we prevent older people from entering formal care?

There’s a range of initiatives designed to tackle isolation they could have explored. Plus there are new lifestyle options emerging, like Evermore, which aim to provide a convivial environment and a safety net for single older people without the institutionalisation.

Having discussed it, we supposed that maybe the report’s findings had been influenced by vested interests, particularly given the report and the ILC are sponsored by the care sector or organisations who want to get into bed with the sector. We understand think tanks need funding, we’re a commercial organisation and completely appreciate the financial imperative, but we need true innovation in this country when it comes to meeting the needs of older people.

This means thinking big and being prepared to take risks, not trotting out the same solutions. How many special commissions have been convened, or taskforces launched that go over the same ground? These are talk fests that typically feature the usual faces who discuss the usual budget problems that supposedly prevent change. We’re all for generating debate, but debate that results in action and not just headlines.

In contrast, how many voices have we heard speak out about the current system and the fact it is not fit for purpose? It’s broken yet there are some providers who are committed to perpetuating the myth that we need residential care in its current format. We need more innovative solutions that cater for older consumers who don’t want to live in a care home but do want a meaningful, fun and love-filled life.

Radical thinking is required, which is why we were pleased to hear about the Long Term Care Revolution (#LTCRevolution). It’s an initiative from Innovate UK that “focuses on finding radical and innovative new ideas that will disrupt the current long term care institutional model.” Part of the #LTCRevoltuion involves providing a £5 million competition fund to encourage entrepreneurial SMEs to “rethink current models of long term care”.

We hope it attracts this country’s disrupters, change makers, and fire starters – people who will join us in helping to change the way older age is viewed and lived, injecting fresh ideas into a sector that has been stagnant for too long. To quote Steve Jobs:
Steve Jobs Heres to the crazy ones

Sara

Sara Mckee, Founder & Director of Market Innovation
Follow Sara on Twitter @SaraMcKeeFRSA
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This blog originally appeared on The Huffington Post here