Why the Collapse of Intergenerational Living Has Increased Loneliness

Why the Collapse of Intergenerational Living Has Increased Loneliness

Erica Young’s excellent website The Reliants Project pointed us towards an explanatory article that strongly chimed with this founder’s thoughts on the potential vulnerability and fragility of the modern nuclear family. Particularly when buffeted by physical or mental illness, bereavement and other factors that can lead to fracture or breakdown. In The Nuclear Family was a Mistake David Brooks traces the shift from living in close extended families to living in small nuclear families. 

He cites the work of Jane Jacobs, journalist and urbanist, in her 2004 book about North American Society called ‘Dark Age Ahead’. At its core is the idea that families are ‘rigged to fail’ because the structures that once supported the family no longer exist. For millions of people the shift from big and/or extended families to detached nuclear families has been a disaster. It certainly was for my family. 

David Brooks traces a 150+ year journey of how we got here. Though based on America, the forces at work are very relevant to UK society too. 

The extended family might once have comprised parents, siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, great-aunts, great-uncles and grandparents over three or four generations. Over time, whether to pursue a better home or job, extended families have completely decentralized so that by the 1960s the nuclear family became the norm: typically a father and mother and two children. Multigenerational gatherings first gave way to smaller families spending time together around the TV. More recently, smart devices have usurped even this time together as each person has their own screen. The big interconnected family of siblings and extended kin, which helped protect the most vulnerable people in society from the shocks of life, has fragmented into ever smaller and more fragile forms. In many sectors of society, nuclear families have further fragmented into single-parent families and, for some people, chaotic families or no families. 

During the period from 1750 to 1900 the numbers of extended families living together about doubled. These extended families offer resilience as more people can share unexpected burdens. If, say, a parent dies, siblings, uncles, aunts and grandparents are there to step in. However, extended families can also be exhausting and allow little privacy or choice as you are forced to be in daily intimate contact with people you didn’t choose. Greater stability comes at the cost of freedom to make your own way in life. By contrast, a detached nuclear family provides an intense set of relationships among, say, four people. If one relationship breaks, there is nothing to cushion the blow: in a nuclear family, the end of the marriage means the end of the family life as previously understood.

As Brooks points out, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, as factories opened in big U.S. cities, young men and women left their extended families and rural farm life to pursue the American dream. Finding city life lonely, they started to marry sooner and started nuclear families: the decline of multigenerational cohabiting families mirrors the decline in farm employment. By 1960, 78% of all children were living with their two parents, who were married, and who lived apart from their extended family. The nuclear family seemed to flourish between 1950 to 1965 as divorce rates dropped and fertility rates rose. This was a stark change from the way humanity lived during the tens of thousands of years before 1950. And since 1965 the essential fragility of the nuclear family has been revealed: now only one-third of Americans live in a nuclear family (vs. 43% in the UK).

From 1950 to 1965, economic and societal conditions supported the nuclear family. It thrived because disempowered women, often excluded from better quality jobs in the workplace, spent hours as homemakers raising children. Nuclear families, in suburbs, were also more connected to other nuclear families than they are today, forming a support network that operated much like an extended family. The postwar period saw high church attendance, unionisation, social trust, and mass prosperity which all correlate with family cohesion, creating ideal conditions for family stability. 

The bonds started to fray

However, new forces began to stress the nuclear family. From the 1970s, young men’s wages declined, putting pressure on working-class families in particular. Society became more individualistic and more self-oriented with people putting greater value on privacy and autonomy. As feminism rose women started to achieve greater freedoms to live and work as they chose. By the ‘60s and ’70s, there was a cultural switch to putting self before family, a move away from the ‘family first’ attitudes of the 1950s. Baby Boomer culture stressed liberation and the culture of marriage shifted to be more about adult fulfillment than childbearing and rearing. 

As marriage became a love match, staying together made less sense when the love died. The trend of rising divorce and resulting family breakdown began long ago as divorces increased fifteenfold from 1870 to 1920. By 1950 27% of marriages ended in divorce whereas 45% do today (33% in England & Wales). This trend was helped by families generally having fewer relatives around in times of stress to support parents. The result was that between 1970 and 2012 the share of households consisting of married couples with kids halved. In 1960, 72% of Americans were married and only 13% of households were single-person. By 2018, nearly half of American adults were single and the number of single-person households had more than doubled to 28% (41% in the UK).

The concept of marriage is also falling out of favour: in a 2019 survey over 80% of American adults said getting married is not essential to living a fulfilling life. 51% of young Americans (aged 18-34) were living without a romantic partner in 2018, up from 33% in 2004. Only 70% of late-Millennial women are expected to be married by age 40 vs. 90% of Baby Boomers and 80% of Gen X women. (In the UK the number of cohabiting couple families continues to grow faster than married ones rising 26% from 2008 to 2018.)

Americans today also have less family than ever before as the birth rate has halved since 1960. (down 39% in the UK). By 2012, most American family households had no children (87% don’t in the UK). More had pets than children! Only 10% of households had 5 or more people by 2012 half the rate in 1970 (5% in the UK in 2020). The biggest change is in the decline of intergenerational living: only 18% of 65+ Americans lived with their children and grandchildren by 1990 vs. 75% in 1850. 

We could be living through the most rapid change in family structure in human history, as a result of a multiplicity of economic, cultural, and institutional causes. Over the past two generations, people have moved further apart geographically, as a result of which married people are less likely to visit their parents and siblings. This greater self-sufficiency means, in turn, that they are less likely to help with chores or offer emotional support to other family members. 

Affluent, highly educated families can afford to purchase the support that extended families used to provide, which supports children’s development and reduces stress and time commitments for parents. Those further down the income scale cannot. In 1970, there were no great differences in family structure according to income. Now there is a huge divide between the family structures of the rich and poor. Research shows this has increased income inequality by 25%. In 2005, 85% of children from upper-middle-class families lived with both biological parents when the mother was 40 vs. only 30% for working class families. College-educated women ages 22 to 44 have a 78% chance that their first marriage lasts at least 20 years vs. 40% for those with a high-school degree. Among Americans aged 18 to 55 only 26% of the poor and 39% of the working class are currently married. 

People who grow up in a multigenerational extended clan tend to be more willing to make sacrifices for the sake of the family than those who grow up in nuclear families who can have a more individualistic mind-set. The result is more family disruption. People who grow up in disrupted families have more trouble getting the education they need to secure prosperous careers leading, in a vicious circle, to more trouble building stable families, because of financial challenges and other stressors. The children in those families can become more isolated and more traumatized.

Vulnerable people and especially children suffer most from the decline in family support. In 1960, 5% of children were born to unmarried women and 11% lived apart from their father. 50 years later these numbers have risen to 40% and 27%. Now about half of American children spend their childhood with both biological parents, with 20% of young adults having no contact with their father (for some due to the father’s death). America has a higher rate of single-parent households than any other country. 

Though there are stable and loving single-parent families, on average, children of single parents or unmarried cohabiting parents tend to have worse health and mental-health outcomes, less academic success, more behavioural problems, and higher truancy rates than children living with their two married biological parents. Research shows, if you are born into poverty and raised by your married parents, you have an 80% chance of climbing out of it. This falls to 50% if you are born into poverty and raised by an unmarried mother. 

Groups that experience greater discrimination tend to have more fragile families. African Americans have suffered more in the era of the detached nuclear family. Nearly half of black families are led by an unmarried single woman (19% of UK black households are made up of a single parent) vs. one-sixth of white families as the high rate of black incarceration results in a shortage of men to become husbands or caretakers of children. 2010 census data shows 25% of black women over 35 have never been married vs 8% of white women. Two-thirds of African American children lived in single-parent families in 2018 versus 25% of white children. Research suggests the differences between white and black family structure explain 30% of the affluence gap between the two groups.

It’s not just the lack of relationships that hurts children; a 2003 study showed 12% of American kids had lived in at least three “parental partnerships” before they turned 15. The transition moments, when an old partner moves out or a new partner moves in are hardest on children. 

Single men have also suffered from fragmented families. Men benefit from male bonding and female companionship in extended families. Today many American males go through childhood without a father and spend a long period of early adulthood – perhaps until their mid 30s – unmarried: these men are less healthy, earn less, and die younger than married men.

Time to tackle a growing crisis 

Women have benefited greatly from the loosening of traditional family structures, and access to education and better paid jobs, giving them more freedom to choose the lives they want. But many are raising their young children without extended family nearby, a lifestyle that can be brutally hard and isolating especially as women still spend significantly more time on housework and child care than men. The result is stressed, tired mothers trying to balance work and parenting with both, inevitably, suffering.

As the social structures that support the family have decayed, the reality is that now only a minority of households are traditional nuclear families. The majority are formed of single parents or never-married parents, others are blended families who come together or cohabiting couples. Without extended families, older Americans have also suffered and levels of loneliness have, unsurprisingly, risen. According to the AARP, a US nonprofit that empowers older people, 35% of Americans over 45 say they are chronically lonely. Many have no close relatives or friends to take care of them. 

These numbers are alarmingly high and while current UK numbers do not look as bad, 5% of UK adults and 13% over 65 are chronically lonely. And where the United States leads, Britain often follows. Population growth projections in the UK, especially in the older demographic, will see these numbers explode. Being in bad health, or having a disability or an underlying health condition, are major risk factors for loneliness. But other risk factors can be just as important, especially those related to family structure such as being a working age adult living alone, being divorced, separated or single.

And so, we can see clearly that the collapse of intergenerational living, and the parallel rise of fragmented family structures, has increased loneliness. We know that chronic loneliness is equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day due to a 26% increase in the risk of premature mortality. This is a growing health crisis. With serious implications for both society and the economy.  

We need action to tackle this public health crisis now. The subject of my next blog post….

I am heavily indebted to David Brooks for the thoughts in this blog.

The Modern Way to Live Intergenerationally and Reduce Loneliness

The Power of Intergenerational Friendships

In my last blog post I focused on the collapse of intergenerational living and the rise of fragmented family structures which has increased loneliness. Chronic loneliness is a health hazard equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day so our focus now turns to potential ways out. 

Human beings have become the dominant species on the planet by being remarkably practical and capable of adapting to ever changing circumstances. We are also intrinsically social animals. So if the family you were part of is no longer around the answer may be to create a new one, if you are prepared to reconsider who counts as kin. David Brooks considers this issue in the second part of his fascinating article.

Knitting people together

Anthropologists have long argued about what exactly kinship is and have found a wide variety of created kinship models among different traditional cultures. For much of human history people lived in extended families consisting not just of people they were related to but people they chose to cooperate with. They may not have been genetically close, but they were probably emotionally close. One study of 32 present-day traditional foraging societies, found primary kin (parents, siblings, and children) usually made up less than 10% of a residential group. As such kinship has been variously described as sharing a “mutuality of being”, an “inner solidarity” of souls, as people being “mystically dependent” or seeing themselves as “members of one another.”

When European Protestants came to North America, in the 17th and 18th centuries, their relatively individualistic culture existed alongside Native Americans’ very communal culture. While European settlers kept defecting to live with Native American families, almost no Native Americans ever defected to live with European families. Has our Western individualist culture, which prizes the values of privacy and individual freedom, been a huge mistake?

We seem to want both the stability and solid roots of close family as well as the mobility, dynamic capitalism and liberty to adopt the lifestyle we choose. Despite the damage caused by the collapse of the fragile structure of the detached nuclear family – rising drug addiction, suicide, depression, inequality and a detached, disconnected, and distrustful society – we do not want the legal, cultural, and sociological constraints that made them possible. However, there are hopeful signs that Americans are experimenting with new forms of kinship and extended family, as a reaction to societal changes and family chaos, and that a new family paradigm is emerging as people search for stability. 

In 1980, 12% of Americans lived in multigenerational households but this has now risen to 20%. 

Brooks points to two forces at work. Economic pressures have been pushing Americans toward greater reliance on family since the 1970s, and especially since the 2008 recession, The share of children living with married parents began to inch up in 2012 largely driven by the financial crisis of 2008 as young adults moved back home: in 2014, 35% of American men ages 18 to 34 lived with their parents. In time this shift might not just be due to economic necessity as data suggests many young people are already looking ahead to helping their parents in old age. College students also have more contact with their parents than they did a generation ago. Sometimes derided as helicopter parenting or a failure to make your own way, it makes sense that young adults rely on their parents for longer than they used to as the education process is now longer and more expensive. 

Secondly, more older people are moving in with their children. The percentage of older people living alone peaked around 1990. Now over 20% of Americans over 65 live in multigenerational homes not counting the large share moving to be closer to their grandkids but not into the same household.

Immigrants and people of colour – many of whom face greater economic and social stress – are more likely to live in extended-family households. More than 20% of Asians, black people, and Latinos live in multigenerational households, compared with 16% of white people: extended families are becoming more common as diversity in America increases. African Americans have always relied more on extended family and the capacity of the wider community to take care of each other than white Americans.

The return of multigenerational living is already changing the built landscape as more home buyers are looking for homes to accommodate their parents or returning adult children. More houses are being built that enable family members to spend time together in shared areas whilst also preserving their privacy through separate entrances, kitchens and dining areas. Though catering to those who can afford such houses, they are a response to a realisation that family members of different generations need to do more to support one another.

Bridging the divide

However, the most interesting extended families are those that stretch across kinship lines. In recent years America has seen the rise of organisations that facilitate new living arrangements that bring non biological kin into family or family like relationships. It could be single mothers finding other single mothers interested in sharing a home or co-housing projects, in which groups of adults, often young singles, live as members of an extended family, with shared communal areas but a private area for sleeping. 

‘Kin’ is a co-housing community for young parents where each young family has its own living quarters, but also shared play spaces, child-care services, and family-oriented events and outings. Other co-housing communities bring together non-kin middle and working class people across multiple generations resident in small apartments with a shared courtyard and industrial-size kitchen with upkeep a shared responsibility. The adults babysit one another’s children and the extended family rallies to support members in difficulty or crisis. These types of experiments suggest people may want flexibility and some privacy but they also want more communal ways of living.  

Some programmes are helping prisoners convicted for serious crimes to create a form of extended family. Others bring traumatised veterans into extended-family settings. There are nursing homes that house toddlers so that older people and young children can go through life together. Others help disadvantaged youths to form family-type bonds with one another. There are many different types of forged families in America today.

These new families Americans are forming would look familiar to our hunter-gatherer ancestors as they are chosen families which transcend traditional kinship lines. The origins of the moden movement can be traced to 1980s San Francisco where gay men and lesbians, many of whom had become estranged from their biological families, came together to support one another to cope with the trauma of the AIDS crisis. The families they created had fluid boundaries similar to kinship organization among parts of the African-American, American Indian, and white working class. These family members could count on each other emotionally and materially and took care of each other. These groups, termed “forged families” or “fictive kin” by anthropologists, were pushed together by tragedy and suffering in a way that goes way deeper than a convenient living arrangement. 

Over several decades, the decline of the nuclear family has led to millions of people being set adrift as the relationships in their life, that should be the most loving and secure, have broken down. Over time, some of these individuals are coming together to create forged or chosen families who are committed to each other. The communities they create are providing the kind of care to non-kin that is replicating the support that used to be provided by the extended family.

Rich nations have much smaller households than poor nations. Arguably these rich economies benefit from us living alone or with just a few people as we are mobile, unattached, and uncommitted so can devote an enormous number of hours to our jobs. The rich world’s affluent can dedicate more hours to work unencumbered by family commitments as they hire people who will do the work that extended family used to do. This life can be emotionally empty when family and close friends aren’t physically around or when neighbours aren’t geographically or emotionally close enough for you to lean on them or them on you. The impoverishment of family life has led to a crisis of connection in our societies.

David Brooks often asks African friends who have immigrated to America what most struck them when they arrived. Their answer is always around a theme of the lonely way we live. The era of the isolated nuclear family has been a catastrophe for the non-affluent leading to broken families or no families or changing families that leave children traumatised and isolated or older people dying alone. Family inequality also undermines the economy the nuclear family was meant to serve as children who grow up in chaos have trouble becoming skilled, stable, and socially mobile employees later on.

The nuclear family has been crumbling since the increasing individualism of the 1960s which left many families detached and unsupported. Problems with education, mental health, addiction or the quality of the labour force stem from this. The nuclear family paradigm of the 1950s is not coming back yet people are hungering to live in extended and forged families. In ways that are new and ancient at the same time, people are experimenting with more connected ways of living and new varieties of extended families. 

Supporting new kinship models

There is an opportunity to deepen and broaden family relationships and allow more adults and children to live, grow and be supported in more ways than small or fractured families can provide to reverse the destructive decades long trend of having fewer and fewer kin. These shifts will mostly be cultural and driven by individual choices but government support would be needed to help nurture this experimentation for the working-class and poor whose family life is under the most social stress and economic pressure. This could include child tax credits, subsidised early education, and expanded parental leave. The two-parent family, meanwhile, will endure as for many people, especially those with financial and social resources, it is a great way to live and raise children. 

Cohousing communities in the UK are gathering a lot of interest, though the longstanding housing crisis, with property in short supply and out of reach to so many, may stymie initiatives to develop more communal settings that encourage forged family living. Longer term planning will be needed. For older homeowners with a spare room there are also cross-generational non-kin home sharing initiatives. 

However, there are more immediate ways to bring people together in our communities that enables them to recreate the benefits of extended families without necessarily moving in together. BuddyHub creates new, personalised and intergenerational social circles called ‘Friendship Wheels’. This is a direct response to the challenges created by chronically lonely older people having either lost their inner social circle or having no social circle close to home. These mutually beneficial relationships also offer a friendship solution to working age adults.

This writer lost her nuclear family to cancer, dementia and severe mental health problems way too young. So, forging a non-kin family has been a conscious and unconscious activity throughout my adult life. From the inception of the initiative, I spoke of people joining the “BuddyHub family” because I understood so many others needed to forge a new extended family around them, just like me. It’s incredibly touching to be thanked by a member for putting her ‘in contact with such wonderful girls. I am very happy that they are in my life. They are part of the family now!’. That sounds like a forged family to me!

I am heavily indebted to David Brooks for the thoughts in this blog.

The Power of Intergenerational Friendships

The Power of Intergenerational Friendships

We love creating intergenerational friendships at BuddyHub. So thanks to our friends at Aging 2.0 for highlighting this great article on the benefits they bring. 

Author Elizabeth Bennett discusses how we tend to form friendships with people of our own age as we go through our education and working lives. That’s fine and normal but forming friendships with people who are older or younger, so of a different generation, has many benefits that enrich our lives. Yet, research showed that only a third of Americans had a close friend who is at least 15 years older or younger than they are.

In my last two blogs, I focused on how the collapse of intergenerational living, the norm for most of human evolution, has increased loneliness. In large part this is because the opportunity to connect with people from different generations, with all the benefits that brings, has greatly reduced. 

Friendships across ages have many benefits for society

They build community and empathy, help break down generational stereotypes and provide opportunities to gain a fresh perspective and grow. Friends of different ages can help you see the bigger picture and stop you comparing yourself to or competing with your age-peers which benefits your mental health. Such friendships offer the possibility of richer and more interesting conversations. People of varying ages have different life perspectives and experiences which can give rise to new ways of thinking and doing. We all evolve as people as we travel through life and the friends you have had since youth may not fully understand the more evolved you.

There are many benefits to having older friends

They can help you gain perspective to help cope with difficult life events such as redundancy or a break-up. You can learn how they survived and thrived after difficult life events. They often have a different outlook to those of a similar age to you. Older people tend to be more focused on happiness which can be refreshing for younger people more focused on life goals such as career advancement, buying property or starting a family.

The benefits of having younger friends

Sharing life experiences and perspective can be extremely rewarding. Only having older friends can be limiting as your cohort can reduce over time due to loss. It can be really rewarding and invigorating and lead to a change of routine and trying something different which studies suggest can increase brain function.

In modern Western society, the opportunities for different generations to mix can be very limited despite these benefits. However, BuddyHub specifically focuses on building intergenerational bonds. We see a real desire for these relationships as everybody benefits from the friendships created. 

Employee Mental Health: a £45bn problem

Employee Mental Health: a £45bn problem

Happy, healthy staff are more likely to be productive so enhancing employee wellbeing makes good business sense. Yet official figures show one in five employees experienced depression during 2020: that’s concerning but not surprising. Social relationships are critical for wellbeing and act as a buffer to support against mental ill health, yet the shift to hybrid or home working has reduced opportunities to develop social connections at work and to deepen them during social time. The cost to businesses of poor employee mental health in the UK has been put at a startling £45bn. Here we look at what employers can do to help. 

What happens in an employee’s life away from work can impact on performance and what happens during the work day can affect overall life quality. One area that employers may never have thought to focus on is whether their employees feel lonely both at work and away from work. But the pandemic changed that with a greater awareness of the impact on mental health due to social isolation and loneliness. 

Loneliness in the workplace is now getting more focus. In ‘Employees Are Lonelier Than Ever. Here’s How Employers Can Help’ Constance Noonan points to already high rates of employee loneliness before social distancing and remote work kicked in. Loneliness was already a growing problem in wider UK society with 2.6 million or 5% of adults always or often feeling lonely, pre-pandemic. Noonan argues that as companies consider the future of work and employee well-being, loneliness needs to be a priority. This is due to the negative impact on mental and physical health (chronic loneliness is as likely to lead to early death as smoking 15 cigarettes a day) which reduces productivity and turnover and risks burnout. 

Noonan suggests ways to improve relationships within the workplace and argues it will take more than simply bringing colleagues together face to face. Fostering stronger bonds amongst colleagues would be helped by thinking about how people interact with other members of their teams. More opportunities to share and develop work can help people feel more connected and engaged as a team and boost team morale. Rewarding ways of building better relationships will help. 

People bond when they are prepared to show some vulnerability by, say, sharing something quite personal. But they will only do so if they feel their work environment is a safe place to do that: finding ways to build empathy will support this. However, employees may not realise that negative feelings about work may actually stem from loneliness. As Noonan says “what counts is whether someone perceives there is enough support in times of needs and how social the work environment feels in terms of real, empathic connections to colleagues.”  

A recent report  ‘Employers and loneliness’ written by the Campaign to End Loneliness for the government’s ‘Tackling Loneliness Network’ of employers, takes a broader view of the issue. This is discussed by Francis Churchill in his article ‘Employers key to tackling loneliness among the workforce, government says’. 

The report considers how feelings of loneliness, unrelated to work, can be brought into the workplace and could be exacerbated by workplace loneliness. Though work can give opportunities to connect, employees can also feel lonely or isolated when there. Whilst excess stress from work, such as long working hours, can spill into other areas of life creating feelings of loneliness.

The report suggests employers address loneliness and relationships within their wider work on employee wellbeing. Recommendations include employers emphasising cooperation and connectedness as important values, surveying employees about loneliness, making loneliness part of managers’ responsibilities and facilitating staff networks to help tackle the problem.

As Churchill reports, employers pay a price ”when a lack of social connection and loneliness at work means employees show less commitment and productivity and greater absenteeism and staff turnover.” A 2017 Co-op survey cited by the report, says loneliness costs UK employers an estimated £2.5bn a year. The majority due to staff turnover (£1.6bn or 64%) and lower productivity (£665m or 26%) with presenteeism also a major factor. This is dwarfed by the £45bn cost of poor mental health to employers which came out of the 2020 Thriving at Work report by Deloitte. This highlights the true cost of poor mental health on business recognising it as a society-wide issue and economic issue.

Thus, tackling loneliness and supporting employees to build social connections makes good business sense as it helps employers ensure a more productive and resilient workforce. What is your organisation doing to tackle this problem?

BuddyHub selected by UK Research and Innovation to share nearly £3m funding to tackle challenges of ageing

BuddyHub selected by UK Research and Innovation to share nearly £3m funding to tackle challenges of ageing

BuddyHub has been awarded funding as part of the Healthy Ageing Challenge competition run by UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI). Thirty-one projects will share nearly £3m in funding to tackle the impacts of ageing.

BuddyHub creates intergenerational, supportive social groups of four people called ‘Friendship Wheels’ to support mental and physical health. The investment will be used to design and pilot a parallel service to form ‘Clubs’ of 10-15 people around diverse interests giving everyone involved, but especially lonely older people, opportunities to expand their social circle and make even more friends. Catherine McClen, Founder and CEO of BuddyHub, said:

“We are incredibly happy with this award which recognises BuddyHub’s innovative and scientific approach to helping people form new local friendships to overcome loneliness and improve their wellbeing. We have a great team with diverse skills and experience who, together with our members, will design and pilot a new ‘Clubs’ service. By putting local members at the heart of everything we do, together we can tackle loneliness in their area and create vibrant, happier, intergenerational communities where everyone can make new friends and no one needs to fear being lonely”.

UKRI is the public body that distributes UK government funding for research and innovation across the UK, and works in partnership with universities, research organisations, businesses, charities, and government to create the best possible environment for research and innovation to flourish.

This is the first time a UKRI funded competition has targeted social enterprises, so that projects are more directly designed to create social, as well as economic, benefits. “Social enterprises can play an important part in addressing inequalities in healthy longevity, yet recent research has highlighted the difficulties they face in raising funds to grow. That’s why the UKRI healthy ageing challenge will provide £2.78 million funding through the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI)”, said George MacGinnis, Healthy Ageing Challenge director at UKRI.