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Despite popular perception, very few people aged 65 and over live in residential aged care.

In fact, only one in every 20 older people are in an aged care home, with 19 out of 20 living independently in a household.

There are many factors behind that figure from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, including increased longevity, more government funded home-care services and greater household wealth.

But one of the strongest drivers is simple: people want to live in their own home for as long as possible.

The Global Centre for Modern Ageing (GCMA) opened recently in Renewal SA’s Tonsley Innovation District to help companies develop products and services supporting older people to live more fulfilling lives.

Tonsley Precinct Director Philipp Dautel said the centre was an ideal fit for Tonsley, as the health, medical devices and assistive technologies was one of its four target sectors.

“Our target sectors are all high growth, and build on South Australia’s proven capacity,” he said.

“The GCMA fits with our vision to bring together researchers and businesses to create new products and translate ideas into commercial success.”

The GCMA has a living laboratory, LifeLab, with a sophisticated research facility at its premises in the Main Assembly Building at Tonsley.

LifeLab brings together older people, businesses, organisations and researchers to co-design and validate products, services and experiences.

LifeLab can be set up to simulate a home environment – for example, a kitchen, a lounge room, a bedroom or working space – where older people interact with the product being developed.

One of the first workshops held in LifeLab was to explore older people’s perceptions about Smart Home devices and systems to enable ageing well at home. Several businesses, including Tonsley Village developer Peet, took part in the workshop and gained new insights into users’ wants and needs.

GCMA chief executive Julianne Parkinson said the centre would facilitate advances in technology and service delivery, including those which are key to older people being able to age at home safely and comfortably.

“Today, many of us are living into our 80s and 90s and yet society has not focused enough on living better, rather than just living longer,” she said.

“We are here to reverse the stigma of growing older being seen as an economic and social burden and value it differently – as an age of opportunity.”

Smart property developers, builders, entrepreneurs, and personal service providers are identifying the huge market opportunity the increasing numbers of older people represent.

It’s a market which is growing fast. Currently, there are about 3.7 million people in Australia aged 65+. By 2031, that number is going to be nearly 6 million.

A recent McKinsey Global Institute report, Urban World: The Global Consumers to Watch, estimated that the retired and elderly will generate 51 per cent of the urban consumption growth in developed economies from 2015 to 2030.

Ultimately, the Global Centre for Modern Ageing aims to improve the lives of older people in South Australia, the nation and across the globe.

At the official launch of the centre, Premier Steven Marshall said it was time to shatter the myths about ageing and enable people to live purposeful lives in ways of their own choosing.

“Modern ageing is a new narrative, a new way of looking at getting older – a recognition that personal plans and aspirations don’t come to a sudden halt at the age of 65, a recognition that ageing presents an opportunity not a threat,” he said.

Older citizens are invited to visit the LifeLab with bookings via Eventbrite.

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