In October last year, Sciencewise hosted a roundtable on ageing, at BEIS. The roundtable focused on the Ageing Society Grand Challenge mission to “Ensure that people can enjoy at least 5 extra healthy, independent years of life by 2035, while narrowing the gap between the experience of the richest and poorest”. This is a mission goal thrown into sharp relief by Covid 19, which has widened that gap considerably.
Engaging the public on issues of ageing feels even more pressing now than it did in October. Old age has been associated, mostly straightforwardly, with vulnerability, while social distancing and shielding have thrown issues of home support, loneliness and access to the wider world or active pursuits into sharp relief. Older people are treated as an homogenous group and the relationship between age and other characteristics, including gender and ethnicity, is under explored.
We think it is crucial that public voice informs policy decisions about how to lift lockdown, how to embed fairness in our economic recovery, and how we complete the Government’s Grand Challenge mission to create better, longer lives for everyone. Science and innovative technology is vital to achieving these goals, but its successful use depends on how it meets social as well as technical challenges and responds to people’s needs, values and priorities. In issues of ageing, as in many other areas, it is now more critical than ever to understand diversity of views and areas of consensus; to ensure that evidence for policy is inclusive and robust.
UKRI’s Sciencewise programme has provided co-funding and expert support to government and public bodies on new and controversial issues of science and technology for more than 15 years, including online dialogue and multi-method projects. Contact us for an informal discussion about any aspect of the public dialogue process, including engagement during social distancing or rapid-response engagement, to find out how we can help.
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