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Enabling cities to support ageing and longevity

Updated: Jan 21

Shaping Connections Founder and Director, Associate Professor Bernardo Figueiredo explores how older adults are using technology on his recent study tour to Europe.

The highlight of this week has been the City of Longevity Conference in Newcastle, an event with 150 registered participants from industry, academia, and representatives from cities that are leading innovation in handling aging and longevity, such as BuenosAires, Barcelona, Bergamo, Tel Aviv, Lisbon, Coimbra and Newcastle among others.

The questions raised during the conference revolved around enabling cities to actively support citizens of all generations and social and economic conditions in living longer and healthier lives. I find this model interesting because it shifts the burden of change and health from citizens to the systems that enable people to become healthier. The city, as an inter-local system, is well-positioned to be the guiding force in this regard.

NICA took the opportunity to launch its City of Longevity tool to help cities develop shareable strategies on how to support people in shaping their own future of longevity.

The conference format was engaging and light-hearted, led by an energetic MC, Charlie Charlton. We had presentations from Horacio Terraza from the World Bank, Guendalina Graffigna, a professor and consumer psychologist (therefore a consumer researcher like me), and Yochai Shavit from the Stanford Center on Longevity. These were interspersed with "speed dating" sessions featuring short talks from diverse innovators in academia, industry, and government.

A major focus of the conference was on the city as a generator of data that supports decision-making, a concept I also observed in the idea behind the Campus for Ageing and Vitality, an initiative of Newcastle University and other partners, to create UK’s first health innovation neighbourhood. With the help of sensors, connected devices, crowd sourced data, and AI, cities can more than ever play a role in helping citizens live healthier and longer lives beyond relying solely on demographic data.

Personally, it was a chance for me to reconnect with entrepreneurial people I met earlier this year in Portugal, such as João Malva from Ageing Coimbra and Mário Rui André from the Santa Casa da Misericórdia de Lisboa. I also had the pleasure of reconnecting with Dr Andrew Kingston, who impressed me with the numerous ageing 'hats' he wears. Andrew and I visited the 'flip the script' installation, which won People’s Award prize at London’s Design Biennale 2023. I also had the opportunity to exchange ideas with Emeritus Professor Jim Edwardson, the founding Director of the Institute for Ageing and Health at Newcastle University, and co-founder of VOICE alongside Lynne Corner. The evening concluded with a delightful dinner at the Blackfriars Restaurant, where I got to meet George Lee and share stories about ageism, podcasting, and stigma.

Congratulations to 🐨 Nicola Palmarini and the UK National Innovation Centre for Ageing team for organizing this conference. I am returning to RMIT University with lots of ideas.

Two men outside artwork at a conference
Dr Andrew Kingston and Bernardo at the City of Longevity Conference
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