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We will all age and we all have people in our lives who are ageing: parents, grandparents, friends. Most of us wish to retain our wellbeing and autonomy physically and mentally – to remain in our homes, in our communities. Within widely varied social, economic and cultural contexts, how can we help people understand their options, make informed decisions and activate themselves towards a state of wellbeing as they grow older? How can we help people thrive and live the lives they wish to live as they age?


Setting the Stage

As a world leader in providing healthcare for over 1 million unique patients annually, Mayo Clinic would like to explore the issues around remaining healthy and independent as we age.

Population ageing is unprecedented, without parallel in the history of humanity. Increases in the proportions of older persons (60 years or older) are being accompanied by declines in the proportions of the young (under age 15). By 2050, the number of older persons in the world will exceed the number of young for the first time in history. Moreover, by 1998 this historic reversal in relative proportions of young and old had already taken place in the more developed regions.
… Population ageing is profound, having major consequences and implications for all facets of human life. In the economic area, population ageing will have an impact on economic growth, savings, investment and consumption, labor markets, pensions, taxation and intergenerational transfers. In the social sphere, population ageing affects health and healthcare, family composition and living arrangements, housing and migration. In the political arena, population ageing can influence voting patterns and representation.
Keeping this context in mind, what might healthy ageing and independent living look like in 2013 and beyond?

Before We Are Old – Preparing for the Future

The choices we make in our 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s have an enormous impact on our lives once we enter our 60s and beyond. The social determinants of health play their part as we grow older. These include the circumstances in which people are born, grow up, live, work and age – and the systems put in place to deal with illness.
  • How might we activate people who are passive towards their health to become active in making healthy behavior choices?
  • How might we decrease inactivity and poor diet choices?
  • How might we better collectively address inequalities in the social determinants of health to ensure everyone can age in a healthy and independent way?
  • How might we help people envision their future based on their current behaviors?

Between Middle and Old Age – Life Transitions

The transition from working, raising children, and other aspects of our daily grind into retirement is a challenge for most people. People in this life stage are frequently also caregivers to another person. These family or unpaid caregivers are an essential presence helping oversee the wellbeing of an entire generation through the challenges of ageing. Yet many of those providing this care are also at critical points in their own lifespans – where lifestyle decisions and additional stress may not only compromise their own health but that of those for whom they are caring.
  • How might we help people transition successfully from full time work to retirement?
  • How do we provide support and services to people who serve as caregivers for older adults?
  • What tools might help people plan for their financial transitions and the potential stresses associated with ageing?

Growing Old, Remaining Independent

Ageing need not be a slow motion series of unpleasant experiences culminating in a nursing home. People remain active and are able to live the lives they wish to live not necessarily because they don’t suffer from disease or illness, but rather because they are able to accomplish the activities of daily life. This leads to a sense of happiness and satisfaction. In contrast, the loss of independence – due to multiple chronic conditions, restriction of physical functions, or lack of access to suitable housing, food and resources – can lead to significant dissatisfaction. 
  • What economic, cultural, social or environmental levers can we pull to help people have a happy and satisfying experience as they age?
  • Are there products or services that might help people remain healthy and dependent as they age?
  • How might we help families and caregivers work with ageing adults to make informed choices about the future and understand the financial impact of their choices?
  • How might we improve access to government and community services that can help people experience healthy ageing and independent living?
Together with Mayo Clinic, along with its partners Good Samaritan Society, UnitedHealth Care and General Mills, we're eager to explore these issues and work together towards concrete, actionable ideas to improve lives, health and wellbeing.

Learn more about factors that affect healthy ageing.

About Our Sponsor

Mayo Clinic is a nonprofit worldwide leader in medical care, research and education for people from all walks of life. Doctors from every medical specialty work together to care for patients, joined by common systems and a philosophy of 'the needs of the patient come first.'
Challenge Partners:


  UnitedHealth Care


  Good Samaritan Society


  General Mills

Community Cross-Pollinator

  Meena Kadri

Challenge Community Champion

  Annie Lin

Do you want to get involved in this challenge?

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Join the conversation:

Photo of Paula Suarez

The food in Senior housing, assisted living and nursing homes is pathetic. We need to incorporate healthy whole food in these facilities. I would love to conduct a study in some facilities by incorporating one healthy,organic, whole foods meal a day for 30 days and see what happens. For those that cannot chew well, why can't there be a few vitamix' that can blend organic, whole foods into tasty nutritious green drinks? Or even further, for those that cannot digest as well, why can't a juicer be available so that those people could have one juice a day for 30 days. My hypothesis is that there would be a drastic change in the health of all of the recipients.

Photo of Teng Zhang

Aging is a serious problem now. How to increase the connivence among the ageing people is very important for our society. This a very good idea. I like this idea which try to solving the social issues.

Photo of Loan Huynh

Creating a community to improve that of elders can certainly allow and educate them to practice good habits even in retirement. Certain health care insurances offers a tremendous benefits for certain age requirements.

Photo of chang liu

I like your idea about the elder community thing. In fact we already have that kind of institute in my country, but only for the much elder people who can not take care of themselves and who wants to live with the same age ones. The institute offers healthy food, accommodation, nursing, entertainment and some other service. People who live there pay for the service. As you mentioned, we could set the same kind of houses for people not that kind of old.

Photo of Fei Xin

This is a big challenge. Currently, population aging problem is getting worse, it will affect many aspects of people's lives. In order to maintain wellbeing and thrive as we age, the society should build more and more community center to encourage the enticement people to join in society activities. Besides, the other way is keep independent. Excessive dependence can make people aging. So the society should also create more work opportunities to makes people feel happy. In order to maintain wellbeing, the older people have a healthy body and a happy mood is also essential. So they need communicate with people and physical exercise.

Photo of Congmin Liang

I like your idea, as you mentioned, you made several point in your post "In order to maintain wellbeing and thrive as we age, the society should build more and more community center to encourage the enticement people to join in society activities. Besides, the other way is keep independent. Excessive dependence can make people aging. So the society should also create more work opportunities to makes people feel happy. In order to maintain wellbeing, the older people have a healthy body and a happy mood is also essential. So they need communicate with people and physical exercise." They are really good ideas about this topic, hope to see you more thought in other challenge stage in the future. I am looking forward to.

Photo of chang liu

love you ideas.

Photo of DeletedUser


One key strategy for adding life to as we age is: Intergenerational Pairing, Sharing and Caring!

The more meaningful interactions we create among seniors and youth, the more life we give to seniors and the prospect for richer lives to youth. Some intergenerational activities may include:

1. Youth interviewing seniors to record and learn of their individual stories, journeys, the "river they've known" and wisdom.

2. In some European cities, museums and other culture centers will offer free admittance to pairs of senior and youth visitors. This interesting practice serves the purpose of bring the two generations together and also, it provides many different perspectives while the seniors and youth experience the same thing.

Photo of chang liu

Love your idea!

Photo of chang liu

And also there is a new way in my country how people deal with the aging thing. I know it is very regional but on some sort it may helps. recently, in my country, people spend money all the money they made in their whole life on the house when they purchase it. So when they get old, they have no money but a big house. Now, some bank start so offer the service that they help the older with the medical, nursing and all other stuff, and when the older dead, the bank can have his house.

Photo of chang liu

JFK:"Do not ask what your country can do for you, Ask what you can do for your country", young people offer their youth to the country, but we have to ask what our country can do for us when we need assist to move, Every governments are facing the pension that bring enormous pressure. However, China is not a good example for solving this issue. The culture situation in China is Children have the duty to support the older, otherwise, not only lows, but also the moral issue such as public pressure will push them to the embarrassing situation. The government just avoid responsibility.

Photo of chang liu

Each one does his duty in society and don't ever beyond the limit of moral bottom line.

Photo of Congmin Liang

Awesome challenge. It is significant to maintain wellbeing as we age. In nowadays society, it is more become the aging society than before. To increase the work opportunities, living quality, and health care of older people will lead more attention to all age people. We should build a great living environment not only for older people. but also for ourselves.

Photo of Tim Stutt

One of the saddest things in modern society is how we neglect people of older age. I'd love to see an ongoing impact in this area.

Photo of mengyuan chen

Excellent challenge. Of course, it is very important to maintain wellbeing as we age. As we know, health and wellbeing are vital aspects for all populations. There are many benefits for individuals who engage in physical activity and adhere to a healthy eating balanced diet.

Photo of DeletedUser


Love the challenge, this is the first one I'm exploring though. I believe attires anyone's attention.

Photo of DeletedUser


The condition of the aged /senior citizens in India is pathetic, especially after the land reform act because of which kids take their share and go to cities....I did a film called " Evening of Life" on their plight long time back and the film was used by Helpage International as a Fund- raiser.

Photo of Barbara A

Some good points - but the voice (the "we's" and "they's") and perspective of the pitch assume that the people engaging with this challenge are not old and that younger people will be coming up with the solutions. I hope this challenge is being promoted widely via channels with older audiences so we all get a chance to offer our insights, experiences and good ideas!

Photo of Sylvia Stein

Barbara - I just posted a concept inspired by your observation / comment. It's called "Designing-Our-Future Participatory Pods embedded within the mature community (e.g. ElderIDEO)" Feel free to have a look and build on it.

Photo of Barbara Aria

Sylvia - I only just saw this. Too late to build on your idea, but congratulations! It looks like you're making exciting progress and I'll be following it/contributing if I can.

Photo of DeletedUser


My genius is all I have to offer.I am existing on my old age pension and would love to take part in a quiz show where I may win enough money to ease my existance.I am very fit and would love a small scooter and some camping equipment to relive some places I used to go.This is not a begging letter as I am willing to perform in a show

Photo of DeletedUser


I am not sure how to use your site but I will learn.The key words are healthy living I am 67 and already Iam beginning to see the signs of people ageing.arround me.,in most cases it is not a pretty sight.I feel that the time has now arrived that euthanasia must be considered as a viable proposal in discussions with most people more than 50per cent over 75 would consider this an option ....I know there are many legal moral relastionships etc .Would this possibly relieve the burden on the younger generation or will nature take care of this by natural selection

Photo of DeletedUser


I see that many people are now unemployed and losing their economic safeguards to protect them as they age. They have lost their jobs, their healthcare, and their homes. The anxiety and stress that this brings on is causing increases in their physical and mental illness, as well as an increase in suicides. I see no one addressing these issues for those people over the age of 50 and it will cost our country dearly if it is not corrected.
• Getting the people who must continue to work training to make them more marketable.
o Many have college degrees and therefore do not qualify for financial aid
o Many have degrees that are considered too old and are not taken into consideration
o Most employers have drawn a hiring line to be under the age of 40
• Give tax breaks to companies that set up apprenticeship programs to help retrain these people
o Much of the training could be done online and would not take up company resources
o Company specific software training where the apprentices could pass aptitude training and then be hired
o Hire these apprentices for no less than one year
• Contact all Chambers of Commerce to have members start programs based on their collective employment needs
• Encourage more telecommuting positions for employees over the age of 50.
o They must have real salaries, not minimum wage or less, as many will have to provide for their own health needs well past normal retirement age of 65
o Work that is challenging and rewarding, not just data entry
o These people understand time management, use them!!
Many people have lost their retirement and will be forced to work much further into their later years (70+) and positions need to be found where these people can stay productive. Social Security will not provide them with enough money to live. Many want to keep working , to stay stimulated, and energized with life and purpose. Many also are the support for their children and grandchildren as so much of our middle-class has lost everything and are being forced into two and three generational living situations. We cannot sweep this generation away to make room for the next, in many cases they are their support!

Photo of andrea schneider

Thanks for putting this up. I think this is a really good challenge. Our health is tied to meeting our basic needs (Maslow). I'm turning 66 this week and have a hard time seeing myself as "senior". I'm a working professional and so far a healthy/lucky 4 time cancer survivor. Each time I "survived" I was offered a cancer survivor program. Nice but not relevant to my basic need to get back to work, which got harder and harder as I got older. I had great medical care, terrific caregivers and a lot of support. However, no one ever asked me, or anyone I know, what we needed to transition back to normal life.
I'm not slamming cancer survivor programs, they help a lot of people, but no amount of meditation, massage, or good nutrition could meet my need to survive a new reality. There are a lot of older Americans trying to live in a rapidly changing social and economic reality, conditions no one predicted. It's always important, to continually check, the assumptions we make. We have so many great opportunities to design with the customer in mind.
In this new Innovation Age, our most vulnerable populations are under unexpected stress. We can deal with healthy aging by considering our context, which is also where our opportunity lies. I think people in general want to feel they are making a meaningful contribution have meaningful relationships in their lives and a strong sense of community.
It's very weird to notice that you're no longer the leadership generation, it's not your turn anymore. I think ageing is very complex and more then just about our medical health.

Photo of DeletedUser


Hi, this is a very important subject, if we are lucky we will have the privilege of getting old, as my dad has always said, it's better than the alternative!

Even though the ideas phase is closed I'd like to share my idea. It's inspired by Anne Kelcey who after a long career in social work took a degree course in contemporary applied arts and established Kelcey Ceramics. She has a tiny pottery studio next to her house and makes beautiful and inspiring objects.

I think that when a person reaches the age of 65, along with their ‘old age’ pension they should get a grant for a free taster course in a subject of their choice. Many people discover parts of themselves they didn't know about when they learn something new and go on to take more courses and even establish small businesses.

The idea that turning 65 is a time to shut down and quietly fade away should be turned on its head. It is a time for opening up, for exploring new possiblities and unlocking any latent creative potential.

To learn something new is to remember what it means to be alive, it is never too late...

Photo of DeletedUser


Hi Challenge Administrators,

I'm passionate about putting better online exercise resources in seniors' hands, and building a community around healthy activities. I'm even (here it comes!) working on a startup to that end.

How can I best interact with this competition? Should I just float the vision, sans startup self-promotion mumbo jumbo, and watch the idea sink or swim?

I think I know the answer, but would appreciate your feedback. I'm asking out of respect for the platform and its intent. Thanks for bringing focus to this area.


Photo of Ashley Jablow

Hi Blake, glad you're joining in and passionate about this topic. We'd love it if you shared your idea in our challenge (the Ideas phase is open now so it's the perfect time!). The OpenIDEO community will definitely have thoughts, builds and questions to share that will hopefully only make your idea stronger. With that said, you might want to check out the terms of use for our site – if you have any IP that you'd want to protect, OpenIDEO may not be the best place to share your 'secret recipe'. Still, we'd love to learn more about what you're working on and see how we might be able to hope you'll share with us!

Photo of DeletedUser


re-educate doctors so they understand how much nutrients and physical activity can do to treat an illness. Currently it's more like a vague idea, while they are confident that what people really need is a drug.

Photo of DeletedUser


How well you can live in old age is dependent on your financial status, your emotional support system and accessibility to healthcare services. Any system that can provide these ( whether through the family or community) to the aged, will have a vibrant aged community. In India, the traditional joint families have disappeared. The young are busy and the old are lonely. Those who can afford hired help are better off than those who cannot. Old age homes are gaining ground with the parents of NRIs but still the idea has not caught fancy of the senior generation. Providing good platforms for social, gainful activities for aged are a must.

Photo of DeletedUser


I have a side-line issue which relates. There is a housing crisis for aging adults with intellectual disabilities, who are aging right along with their much-older parents. In simplified terms, the system of group homes has failed as costs of operation have exceeded long-term sustainability, and we certainly do not want to return to a time of mass institutionalization of these individuals, with physical, cognitive or other challenges.

As a sibling of a 42 year old with intellectual and physical challenges, I am confronted with my 70+ parents continuing to be caretakers as they approach their own-age related challenges.

Photo of DeletedUser


I'm in a similar situation, except I would be your 'child'. I'm in my mid-twenties and have worked with my grandparents to purchase a small home next to mine. We live within a small town with plenty of things to do and public buildings (library, hospital, community center, etc). My parents (you in this scenario) will be taking care of my uncle. The thinking is that we don't want to spread everyone too thin. My grandparents are able to provide free daycare and teach wisdom and family values, while I provide care and help in areas where they are no longer independent (driving, outdoor work, etc). We are also working on a scenario in which I inherit the small home in the future and rent out the property to help pay for the care of the uncle.

Our solution was just to skip around the group home and institution altogether. It is sort of a communal living scenario. I hope this can help you or inspire others to think creatively and find a solution to your problem even if it is a bit unconventional.

Photo of DeletedUser


In my opinion, communities, discussions, and services geared towards the elderly these days are all about "surviving" the rest of their lives versus "thriving" the rest of their lives. Surviving through the natural progression of age is a very private, depressing, and scary issue to face, which is potentially part of the reason why we struggle to get large samples of pertinent information from the elderly on the problems and fears they are really facing. The focus on surviving shuts people down and turns them away. But, a focus on thriving will bring people outside and interacting with the community, creating organic discussion and debate amongst friends, instead of caregivers - open conversations that can help bring serious questions and issues to light. From there, we can hopefully establish ways in which we can collaboratively find the right answers and solutions. In our society today, the assistance we provide to the elderly is quantitatively focused around time and how much of it is left. Conversely, I believe it is a qualitative approach to this issue that will be the key to getting real results, as in how can we improve your quality of life, regardless of time?

Photo of DeletedUser


I wonder whether 'transitioning from full time work to retirement' is going to continue to be a relevant issue. Will many people be able to afford to completely retire ie. remove themselves from the workforce in the future, looking at pension projections etc? And will people even want to?

Photo of Tamar Lasky

And sometimes the "retirement" isn't voluntary, as when people in the 50-65 year old age group lose their jobs and are unable to find other jobs - not a very pleasant transition.

Photo of DeletedUser


The topic of ageing is important because it affects the majority of the population. Even those of us who will not experience aging directly, will most likely experience it through caring for elderly family members and friends. As is the case in many other areas of life, our economic status will, in large part, determine the quality of our ageing process. All things being equal, those with higher incomes will fare better than their lower income peers. Growing disparities in income will leave us with an ageing population in need of more care with fewer resources available with which to provide it. I think this is a great challenge, relevant with the potential to improve the quality of life for everyone.