New research hub to tackle ageing population challenges

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A group of older adults enjoying a work at the beach.

A new multi-million-pound intergenerational research centre at the University of Stirling will provide pioneering solutions to the challenges posed by an ageing global population.

The Intergenerational Living Innovation Hub is announced today [Thursday 9 December] and will be established with £7.25 million of UK Government funding, secured as part of the Stirling and Clackmannanshire City Region Deal.

The City Region Deal is a £90.2 million investment from the UK Government and Scottish Government in innovation and infrastructure that will drive inclusive economic growth throughout the region. Regional partners, including Clackmannanshire Council, Stirling Council, and the University of Stirling, will invest up to £123.8 million, resulting in a Deal worth more than £214 million, to be delivered over the next 10 to 15 years.

Located in Clackmannanshire, the Hub – which will include state-of-the-art facilities and a development zone – will bring together researchers, industry, healthcare providers, and the third sector to develop innovative ways for an ageing population to live, work and socialise. Architects, designers, construction companies, and technology providers will work in collaboration to help bring commercially and socially viable solutions to life.

By developing effective products and services, the Hub will make a tangible difference to people’s lives – transforming the narrative around ageing from one of challenge to opportunity – by addressing the housing and social care needs of an ageing population; supporting the development of good quality, age-friendly housing, businesses and public buildings; enabling people to live well with dementia; and bringing together older and younger generations. The centre will incorporate a full-scale dementia and age-friendly designed built environment – shaped by the University’s internationally-renowned dementia design standards, established in 1989.

Innovative solutions

UK Government Minister for Scotland Iain Stewart MP announced the funding, as well as a further £750,000 of support for the Japanese Garden at Cowden, near Dollar. He said: “These two fantastic projects, supported by the UK Government's £8 million Clackmannanshire Fund, will bring jobs, visitors and further investment to the area. Together, they will build upon Clackmannanshire's existing strengths while also developing innovative solutions to international challenges as people live longer.

“The UK Government is levelling up communities and building back better from the pandemic, and we are investing more than £1.7 billion into projects with local partners across Scotland to do this.”

Professor Sir Gerry McCormac, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Stirling, said: “We know that across the world, populations are ageing, disrupting traditional economic and social patterns, and creating demand for new technologies, products and services.

“Thanks to the £7.25 million investment in the University of Stirling, provided through the Clackmannanshire Fund, the Intergenerational Living Innovation Hub will put Clackmannanshire at the epicentre of ageing research, breaking new ground in the advances that make a meaningful difference to communities locally, and across the world.”

Professor Sir Gerry McCormac

Professor Sir Gerry McCormac, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Stirling, welcomed news of the Hub.

Globally, the population of people aged 60 and over is set to double by 2050. In Scotland, the population is ageing at a faster rate than the rest of the UK – with Clackmannanshire the local authority expected to experience the most significant increase (48%) in people aged 75 and over, between 2016 and 2026. In addition, it is predicted that the region will see a 39% rise in the number of pensioners by 2039.

This changing demographic presents a profound set of challenges around quality of life, health and wellbeing – but also presents opportunities for economic development and social inclusion. An ageing population creates demand for new products and services – such as care technologies, housing models and innovative savings products for retirement – to help people remain independent for longer, continue to work or remain economically active, and stay connected to others within and beyond their communities.

Economic transformation

While placing the region at the centre of an international network of excellence in ageing research and development, the Hub will also boost innovation and economic transformation across Clackmannanshire, bolstering local business, nurturing start-ups and creating high-value jobs. It will also support inclusive growth through investment in skills and training.

Councillor Ellen Forson, Chair of the Clackmannanshire Commission, which worked with the UK Government to allocate the funding, said: “Clackmannanshire is an exciting place to be and the Clacks Fund announcement is another step forward in unlocking further opportunity and potential within the county to ensure that we deliver economic growth in a way that benefits our residents and communities.

“We are delighted to be working with the University of Stirling and the Japanese Garden at Cowden on these exciting projects.”

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