An extended version of this post appears on Google’s Public Sector and Elections Lab blog
For European policymakers, projects such as the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Aging and the UK’s “Get Digital” initiative demonstrate the importance of helping senior citizens stay happy and healthy at their homes. A pensioner living at home is bound to be happier and more productive than one stuck in a nursing home. Technology can help achieve this goal, and Google is doing its part. We recently brought together a diverse bunch of energetic people of all generations for our first ever Interactivism event - a special two day hackathon in London designed to make the Internet more accessible to older generations.

Before the hacking commenced, we heard from a true YouTube star, Peter Oakley, known online as "Geriatric 1927". Peter, 83 years-old, spoke inspirationally about his experiences on YouTube, his love of all things web related, and demoed his skills.

It was then time to get down to business. Students and senior citizens paired off to work on projects, which ranged from TV Mate (an easy to use remote control made from a computer tablet that can be personalised with photographs and sounds) to TimeTag (a mechanism for dealing with delays in hospital appointment schedules) to Echoing (helping people in care homes connect and add value to the outside world by recording memories specific to local places).

Several of the older participants from the grandparenting forum Gransnet commented on how much they appreciated the respect they received from their young colleagues. Some even found the experience life-changing, with one attendee writing: “this event really has done something wonderful
to me... I feel quite different”.

After hours of hard work, the final projects were presented to a panel of judges. They awarded EZPZ Browser the much sought-after Google Interactivism Award. A group of Gransnetters were also invited to form their own panel of judges. They voted for Spotted, an app for sharing likes and dislikes.

Following the success of this event, we plan to use Interactivism’s innovative format to help inform policy development in a variety of other areas. Google UK will soon be announcing the second Interactivism event focusing on the ways in which technology can break down barriers and open doors for kids searching for jobs. Watch this space.

Posted by Naomi Gummer, Policy Analyst

PS: More photographs from the Interactivism weekend are now available at this Interactivism Flickr group.