Sigtuna - the oldest town in Sweden

The Scandinavian countries are well known for their excellent social services, including medical care. Like many other parts of the world, however, they are facing a challenge. The elderly make up 25% of the entire population, and this is expected to grow to 40% by 2030, and 45% by 2050. At the same time, about one-sixth of the adult population has some sort of disability. These demographics will result in an enormous strain on the countries’ resources, so the choices would seem to be to drastically change their social policies, or to bankrupt their governments, or to innovate their way out of the problem.

The five Nordic governments have joined forces to encourage the third option, and have launched the “Nordic Independent Living Challenge.” The competition is intended to identify new solutions to help the elderly and disabled to live independently in their own homes, with the goal of improving the quality of their lives while lowering costs. The competition casts a wide net for ideas, which can cover challenges such as helping individuals get around, or staying in touch with family and friends, or staying in shape. The competition also seeks to provide help for professional and family caregivers, to make their responsibilities easier to manage without compromising the quality of care.

The prize for the competition is 1 million NOK (Norwegian Krone), which is about US$130,00. Additional awards will be given for projects that cross Nordic borders, and for student submissions. Finalists will be given the opportunity to develop and test their product or service, with the winner to be announced in the summer of 2016. The competition is open to any individual or company from one of the five participating countries, and the deadline to enter (in English or a Scandinavian language) is March 15, 2015.

This project seems like a great way to crowd-source new ideas to tackle a real and serious social problem. It will be interesting to see what emerges from the competition, and whether this is a model that could be replicated in other countries.