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Beyond Numbers

Activating communities through dynamic hyper-localised hubs

MA 22/23
Ageism, Isolation, Stigma

Society often associates individuals with their age. They are expected to behave, set goals, and have a routine solely based on their chronological age. However, can a mere number truly define how a person should live their life? This issue is particularly pertinent to older people, as societal perceptions restrict their opportunities and choices. These ingrained perceptions also influence the regulatory bodies and support systems available to older individuals, resulting in predominantly reactive approaches that limit current services being restricted to the medical needs or functional needs of older people.

One fundamental problem lies in the general categorisation of anyone over the age of 60 as "old," leading to services primarily focused on assistance and care. However, the reality is that older individuals' needs are evolving and are different at various stages of their later years. Prior to reaching a stage of complete dependence, they aspire to pursue ambitions, explore new careers, and engage in new hobbies. Despite their strong will, diminishing functional capabilities often prevent them from utilizing regular services. Consequently, older individuals grapple with various emotions, including fear of the unknown, denial of the need to change everyday habits to support their needs, and self-consciousness regarding perceived incapability.

How can we effectively support older individuals during their transition period and help them lead the lives they envision for themselves? With the ageing population projected to double and reach nearly 10 million within the next 15 years, addressing these needs becomes increasingly urgent. It is crucial to move beyond the reactive lens and develop comprehensive support systems that accommodate the evolving aspirations and challenges faced by older individuals.


BeyondNumbers in being developed in partnership with AgeUk H&F, a local charity working in the community to support older people, their families and carers. Through this collaboration, we are in the process of envision ways in which we can build conducive environments for healthy ageing with a strong ficus of demystifying ageing beyond numbers.


Governments worldwide are scrambling to address the challenges posed by this demographic shift. This demographic shift has significant implications for all aspects of society, including labour and financial markets, the demand for goods and services, such as education, housing, health, long-term care, social protection, transport, information and communication, as well as family structures and intergenerational ties.

However, the current systems and social structures in place do not adequately support the evolving needs of the older population. Individuals often find themselves navigating these uncertain transitions on their own or with minimal support from their surroundings.

  • As people age, their social circles tend to diminish, resulting in social isolation due to limited opportunities and avenues to form new social bonds.
  • The services designed to provide support and care are often stigmatised and inaccessible due to various barriers, including financial, cultural, and logistical factors.
  • On top of the physical, cognitive, and emotional changes that accompany ageing, individuals also have to contend with the negative stigma associated with growing older.
  • Retirement is rapidly becoming an obscure concept with more individuals leaning towards (or compelled) continuing to live, work and do as they please, without opting for 'retirement' where one ceases to work beyond a certain chronological age.


Despite the prevailing negative connotations associated with ageing, it is important to recognize that this view hinders progress for all of us. There is tremendous potential to reshape the narrative in a way that addresses the issue systemically and avoids reinforcing existing negative perspectives. There is a pressing need and opportunity to design environments that foster healthy ageing. We must aim to create inclusive and supportive communities that promote longevity, enabling individuals to lead fulfilling lives as they grow older. Achieving this goal requires collaborative efforts on a systemic level to bring about transformative shifts in the social and cultural landscape.


Our service intends to orchestrate conducive environments for healthy ageing through a network of hyperlocal hubs that serve as a platform for facilitating intergenerational symbiotic exchanges of value through the active involvement of local councils, charities and service providers. We aim to facilitate these engaging opportunities that can be initiated by the community or local organizations within the neighborhoods. Through our strategic partnerships with the borough council, we intend to provide them with the necessary infrastructure and resources required to support these initiatives.


Special thanks to our tutor Dr. Nicolás Rebolledo Bustamante for his valuable feedback and continuous support and encouragement throughout the course of the project. We are grateful to AgeUK H&F (Sophia, Peter and Derec) for sharing their knowledge with us and for opening their premises to us; to Arup and Design Age Institute (Carly and Marney) for sharing their valuable expereince with us and to civil servants from Newham(Noor) and Hammersmith and Fulham boroughs(Peggy) for giving us an insight into this sector. We are also grateful to all the interviewees who gave us their valuable time to share their experiences and provide insight into their lives.

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