The Government Office for Science recently published a summary of some work they've done on the Future of an Ageing Population using Speculative Design.


You can read the report of outcomes here:


The approach to this work - Speculative Design- is interesting to us; given that Wellderly was born when three people training to be designers came together. The approach they used included gaining responses to fictional objects that are sufficiently recognisable today but are also illustrative of a potential future.


People, mostly aged over 50, were brought together in workshops where they explored responses to these fictional objects on the theme of transport, work and services. The objects in this case were computer generated pictures of scenes, illustrating things like shops and streets.


The way this work was framed was largely responding to the challenge of an ageing population, rather than- as we are at Wellderly- exploring the opportunities of having a larger percentage of the population living longer. Nonetheless there are still many useful insights in this report.


For example participants in the Work session said they were concerned about "balance for needing income versus doing social good" in their future of work. Whether and how Wellderly participants should be paid for their efforts in designing new responses to social problems is an issue we are debating.


Participants in the Future of Services session were concerned that "older people themselves might become ghettoised, away from younger people and families". This is an issue we intend to tackle head on by intentionally creating a mix of participants in our design workshops, from different backgrounds, including professionals with an interest in the issues, and building participants' skills in including people of different ages. One thing we wonder is whether we should include teenagers in our workshops too, to make it more intergenerational.


Participants in the Transport session "strongly voiced the opinion that urban and infrastructure planners should take older people into account when designing these systems, engaging in meaningful and deliberative consultations". Wellderly aims to go one step further and offers the opportunity for planners and other professionals in public, corporate and third sectors, to gain skills in working alongside older people as co-designers. These skills and experiences can then be transferred into professional practice on other projects. We are interested in how this could be formalised and recognised as professional development.


We'd be interested to hear what you think:


  • Should we be aiming to pay participants?
  • Should we mix not just older people and professionals but young people too? .... and
  • How could the skills gained by professionals working in our diverse design teams be recognised?


We would love to see more Speculative Design work like this and would like to collaborate on generating some Speculative Designs for future worlds where our ageing population is an opportunity and older people are a valued and treasured resource for addressing social problems.


Wellderly, The Melting Pot, 5 Rose Street, Edinburgh, EH2 2PR

Telephone: 07515252419