Agile Ageing

Agile Ageing

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Design a way to increase and maintain mental agility and ‘brain power’ in older age.

Challenge and scope

This brief looks at the role of design in addressing some of the complex challenges, and the exciting opportunities, presented by an ageing population. In particular it asks you to address how older people can increase their mental agility, and in turn enhance their overall wellbeing, for longer and more fulfilling lives. 

There are some longstanding negative assumptions around mental agility in older adults, including a prevailing notion that the brain, mind and memory are on a hopeless, one-way deteriorating track in older age and there’s not much we can do about it. These misguided assumptions can in turn negatively influence behaviour, and cause people to abandon attempts to keep a healthy mind and body in their older years. 

It’s true that ageing impacts on cognitive skills, but recent studies have shown that the ageing brain can continue to function actively and effectively if we recognise its needs for challenge, nutrition, exercise and more. In their book Use it or Lose it, Bragdon and Gamon (2000) show that the effects of ageing on the mind can be slowed and even reversed if we proactively engage in certain behaviours, just as muscle mass can be increased and rebuilt through specific training and activity. 

With this in mind, how can people can be encouraged to maintain and even increase their mental agility in older age? Experts have suggested a range of factors that can increase mental agility, including: 

  • Staying mentally active – this is essential to keeping your memory sharp and your brain in the best shape possible. The more you activate, train and test your brain the better it will perform and keep your neurons firing with clear, strong signals. There are lots of activities that can help with this, such as crafting, reading, puzzles, memory games and brain teasers, and mastering new skills (such as a language or learning to dance) stimulates the brain and creates new pathways. Novelty and variety are also important in maintaining an ageing brain – mixing up activities as well as everyday habits helps the mind to stay sharp 
  • Eating and nutrition – there are certain foods that are good for your cognitive functions, and food with relevant nutrients can help to deliver eating habits that support brain functions. Convenience and taste also matter – healthy food is healthy only if people actually eat it. Eating with others also increases social interaction (see below), and food has been shown to taste better in good company than eating alone 
  • Exercising and healthy lifestyles matter – in fact, they positively affect the brain in many ways. Exercise pumps more oxygen to the brain, aids the release of hormones which aid the growth of brain cells, and stimulates brain plasticity. Indirectly, exercise improves mood and sleep, and reduces stress and anxiety 
  • Social interaction – social interaction stimulates the mind and boosts wellbeing. Research has shown that staying socially active and maintaining interpersonal relationships is an important factor in maintaining good physical and emotional health as well as cognitive function, although things like retiring, moving into a new home, and friends passing away can often make this more of a challenge as people get older. 

This brief asks you to design something that helps people to embed behaviours that will maintain and increase ‘brain power’ and improve the quality of mature years. Remember that behaviour change solutions that are imposed on people are often less popular and successful than those which the user finds genuinely appealing and willingly choses – with that in mind, make sure you think about the incentives for people to engage with your solution, and beware of being patronising. 

 The format of the designed solution is completely flexible – for the purposes of illustration only, the following would all be viable responses: 

  • an innovative product or game that stimulates the brain in new ways 
  • a scheme, activity or event people can take part in 
  • a campaign that targets people’s behaviour around the ageing brain 
  • a new or re-imagined food or lifestyle brand 
  • an environment or service that provides appealing opportunities for social interaction and/or facilitates mental stimulation 

Your solution may incorporate many of these elements – and many others are also possible. 


There are two awards available for this brief.

Fazer Award of £2500Paid placement at Waitrose in the graphic design team

Remuneration: £2500

Duration: 8 weeks

Location: Waitrose Headquarters, Bracknell, Berkshire

The winning entrant will have the opportunity to work in the small but highly productive graphic design studio at the business headquarters in Bracknell, Berkshire. The placement will provide real working experience and the student can expect to complete more than one piece of published work. This will involve taking the brief, presenting their own creative work and managing production, which will include commissioning and art directing photography, illustration and artwork. The scope is varied and covers own label packaging, promotional brochures, magazines, corporate identity and more.

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With adititional support from


Judging criteria

There are six criteria that your entry will be measured against – make sure that your submission materials demonstrate that your solution meets these criteria: 

  1. Social and environmental benefit – how does your design benefit society and/or the environment? 
  2. Research and insights – how did you investigate this issue? What were your key insights? 
  3. Design thinking – how did your research and insights inform your solution? How did you develop, test, iterate and refine your concept? Demonstrate the journey you’ve been through to the end result 
  4. Commercial awareness – does your journey make sense from a financial point of view? What is the competitive environment your solution would sit within? 
  5. Execution – we are looking for a design that is pleasing and looks and feels well-resolved. 
  6. Magic – we are looking for a bit of ‘magic’ – a surprising or lateral design solution that delights 

Submission requirements

All entries must be submitted through our online entry system.

As you prepare your submission, please ensure that: 

  • you do NOT include your name, university/ college or other identifying marks anywhere on your submission 
  • none of your submission files exceed 10MB – this is the maximum size for each individual file / board when you submit online 

The submission requirements are: 

  • 1 x A3 PDF Hero image with 1 sentence description A singular ‘poster image’ that conveys the essence of your project, plus a 1 sentence strapline or description 
  • 1 x A3 PDF Big Idea Summary A single A3 PDF page describing your ‘Big Idea’ in less than 250 words. This should clearly explain what your solution is, the specific area of need it addresses, and how you arrived at the solution
  • 4 x A3 PDF Boards Outlining Your Proposal 4 pages describing your proposal and demonstrating that you have met the six judging criteria. Each board should include a heading. Number each board in the top right hand corner, in the order they should be viewed by the judges 
  • 10 x A3 PDF Pages of Supporting Material Up to 10 A3 PDFs of additional material illustrating your development process – this could include scanned pages of your sketchbook or computer modelling/sketches (if applicable) 
  • Optional YouTube / Vimeo + website links Please note that we cannot guarantee supporting films and websites will be viewed at the shortlisting stage. If you have created digital materials, we recommend referencing them (for example by including labelled film stills or website screen grabs) in your 4 main PDF boards 

Eligibility + entry infomation

Download entry guidelinesDownload this brief

18 January 2017

Competition opens for entries

8 Febuary 2017

4pm GMT
£25 early bird deadline

8 March 2017

4pm GMT
£35 final entry deadline

20 March 2017

2-stage judging process begins

1 June 2017

2016/17 winners announced