Driverless cars – the Flourish project

0000013Driving their own car is important to older people, with nearly 70% of households where someone is over 70 have their own car. In July, the DVLA announced that for the first time, the number of driving licences held by people over 90 had surpassed 100,000. But the numbers who at that age had given up driving, perhaps because of diminishing cognitive skills or poor eyesight, and the numbers who were restricting their driving because they did not want to drive in the dark, in poor weather, on motorways or in the rush hours will have been considerable. Such avoidance behaviour, and especially in areas with poor public transport options, can constrain the social engagement and inclusion of older people, reducing their resilience and independence. There will be a knock-on effect on their sense of wellbeing, which in turn can lead to loneliness and a declining appetite for life, and perhaps on to depression. Continue reading “Driverless cars – the Flourish project”

The Energy Revolution

The smart meter roll-out has been bumpy, and bedevilled by technical issues around its communications systems. To date, about 6m have been installed towards the goal of achieving 50m+ installations by 2020, and the Government remains adamant that that date is not negotiable.

We are de-commissioning old coal-fired and nuclear-fuelled generating plants, and replacing some of that capacity with enormous wind farms. Solar power is becoming more commonplace (nearly 1m householders now have a solar panel on their roof), and we are experimenting with tidal power and other technologies. But all our existing cables and wires are in the wrong place to transmit this electricity to our homes. Continue reading “The Energy Revolution”

Welcome to the (digitally) active citizen

In 1991, Estonia enthusiastically embraced its freedom and independence from the Soviet Union, but its economy was in a parlous situation. It faced overwhelming bills just to sustain its basic public services. A leading light in its Government, who went on to serve for ten years from 2006 as President Toomas Ilves, was an autodidact computer programmer, and forcefully advocated that those public services would only be sustainable if the country embraced the digital economy. So it came to pass that everyone had to sharpen up their skills, and get used to paying their taxes, updating their health records, registering their right to citizen benefits, voting, and even applying for a bus pass online. No exceptions. Continue reading “Welcome to the (digitally) active citizen”

Culture and Wellbeing

In February, the British Museum hosted an Age Friendly Museums Network event.   An astonishing 250 people showed up! The Network was launched four years ago, but it really has grown and blossomed. The basic idea is to reach out to older people’s organisations, either to take objects out to show them, or to lay on something special in the museum. Some older people may remember with little affection their last visit to a museum five or six decades ago, and won’t understand how much this milieu has changed. But others have jumped at this chance to get some V.I.P. treatment.

Continue reading “Culture and Wellbeing”

Tackling excess winter deaths and fuel poverty

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This time last year, the Excess Winter Deaths statistics showed an enormous jump to over 40,000 for the previous winter.    This year, the number returned to its trend line, at 24,300 (including 20,800 amongst the over 65s) in England and Wales during the winter of 2015/16.   But if this lower figure is ‘normal’, it is still a disgraceful situation. Continue reading “Tackling excess winter deaths and fuel poverty”

Disruptive change ahead in the way we buy and use energy

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In the spring, Ofgem announced its Insight for Future Regulation project, and has now produced the first paper of a series:  first Future Insights discussion paper. It sets out some of the dramatic changes in the way we use and buy energy which might come about in the next five or ten years.

First, a health warning – past predictions are not a firm guide to the future, though they are the best we have got.  Between December 2012 and March 2016, the number of active gas or electricity suppliers in the domestic market doubled from 20 to 43. Forecasts by the (then) Department of Trade and Industry in 2000 for electricity demand in 2015 turned out to be 20% too high – our appliances are much more efficient than anticipated. Continue reading “Disruptive change ahead in the way we buy and use energy”

The future is electrifying

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Two thirds of our current electricity generating plants will be decommissioned by 2030.   In the next fifteen years, they will need to be replaced with a mixture of new power stations and by generating more energy from renewable resources – primarily wind and solar, and tidal might also have a place. On top of that, we will need more electricity as we proceed with the electrification of heating and transport – some predictions suggest that we should eventually be planning for a seven-fold increase in electricity generation capacity.    Continue reading “The future is electrifying”