Reducing social isolation amongst older people


With An Innovate Change / Innovation Unit ANZ venture, Aotearoa New Zealand

Aotearoa New Zealand’s ageing population brings huge challenges for health and social care systems. Social isolation is a common thread among the many challenges that older people face in Aotearoa New Zealand, and it’s an issue that has a significant impact on the health and wellbeing of individuals, families and communities.

Generations aims to develop solutions that will better connect older people, reducing social isolation and improving their health and wellbeing.

The challenge

In 20 years

the number of people over 65 will double to become almost one-quarter of Aotearoa New Zealand’s population.


of older people living in Auckland reported experiences of loneliness.

“Social isolation can have a similar negative impact on the health of older people to that of smoking, high blood pressure or obesity” Holt-Lunstad, Smith, & Layton, 2010

Workshop activity Workshop participant Two friends

Evidence shows us older people in Aotearoa New Zealand are experiencing social isolation in increasing numbers.

Older people are more likely to live alone, experience a disability that limits mobility or interaction, leave paid work without an alternative day activity and their friends are more likely to move away or pass away.

The goal of Generations is to reduce social isolation among older people, and ensure they have positive social connections to friends, family, communities, work and other non-paid day activities that enable them to thrive, participate and contribute as full citizens.

Our impact


co-designers, including older people, stakeholders, technical experts and external provocateurs and creative thinkers


intensive multi-day sprints as part of discovery phase with co-designers


empathy-led conversations with older people around Auckland, which informed a deeper understanding of the lived experience of older people

Since the beginning of 2018, the co-design group has been through an intensive discovery process to gain a deeper understanding of the challenge. They have identified five opportunities for change, which will be the starting point for designing solutions:

  1. Planning for ageing well
  2. Housing that connects, not isolates older people
  3. Work that welcomes older people
  4. Powering up community catalysts
  5. Elevating the visibility of older people.

The next phase of Generations starts with a process of creative thinking to generate ideas for solving the challenge. The most promising solutions will then be identified and tested with older people, and further iterated based on the learning from the testing (prototyping) process.

The project was initiated by Innovate Change and will be continued by the Innovation Unit Australia Aotearoa New Zealand team. We are currently exploring partnership opportunities in order to secure the future of these next phases.