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Why Silver Futures?

August 8, 2023
Close up of rings of Saturn with red orange overlay
Rachel Slattery creates and nourishes communities of curious minds around frontier tech and better ways of working.

For more than 20 years I have run my own business and with my fabulous team, nourished and gathered communities around frontier technology and better ways of working, creating events connecting people across research, industry and government.

Rachel and her grandfather
This is a photo of me with my beloved grandfather Charlie, who was a “skittle”. No matter what life threw at him, he bounced back up.

I am intrigued by how some older people – even those with significant health conditions – maintain their equilibrium and push on, while others are entirely weighed down and retreat from life. So much about ageing is happening in our heads, which is why I am curious about how our character may impact our future well-being.

It might have been my wonderful maternal grandfather Charlie and my impressive paternal grandmother Phil, who first made me question why age is often used to categorise us. To me, they were “younger” in spirit and actions than many friends around my own age. They never let their chronological age determine their behaviour, interests or aspirations and enthusiastically embraced living life to the full.

As my own years have ticked over, my interest in how tech can help us as we age has grown. I co-founded a tech startup 10 years ago. While it failed, its aim was to help carers and loved ones connect around someone in their circle needing care. Over the 14 years of guiding Tech23, the annual deep tech gathering I ran before it found a new home at Cicada Innovations, I was curious at how few Australian startups were focusing on anything to do with the specific challenges of ageing, especially bearing in mind that many of the conditions we associate with ageing we could well face earlier in life.

In our work straddling tech and research, we have had the joy of encountering individuals who are passionate about innovations that can bring equality, dignity and care to more of us as we age. My own father’s struggles as he aged only increased my eagerness to learn more about ageing, so I began studying Gerontology at the University of Melbourne, which is proving to be a rewarding journey. A few years ago, I set out to discover some of the global innovations in Agetech and spoke to some VCs here about how to get an early-stage fund in Australia to focus on Ageing. Let’s just say, it’s still a work in progress! Given that by 2050, those aged 55 and over are expected to make up about 40% of the adult Australian population, I am hopeful about new opportunities for Australian innovators in the area of ageing, and that’s why I am passionate about shining a light on Agetech innovators on the Silver Futures platform.

Running the AgileAus conference for the past 15 years has allowed me to steer curious minds to better ways of working. Now, through Silver Futures, I am passionate about guiding people to better ways of living, which as work is so central to our lives, sits comfortably alongside the pursuit of better work. I have a growing preoccupation with how rituals help us navigate our days. When we are young, it’s the rituals of school and later work that delineate our days. What happens when we stop or change a ritual? Covid has highlighted how some rituals are burdensome, and we feel freer when they are gone, but other rituals are life-affirming and crucial to our sense of self and well-being.

When I realised that I wanted to focus on ageing, I started talking about my interest to friends. It was fascinating to me how just the mention of the word ‘ageing’ was so repellent to many! The connotations around ageing are so negative that perhaps we sideline it in the false hope we can avoid it? I want to change that! For me, ‘silver’ is a positive and precious word, and also a fond hat-tip to the silver hair many of us will sport as we celebrate more birthdays. It goes without saying that ‘future’ is something to nurture, hence Silver Futures.

I want us all to realise that if we are lucky enough to age we should do so with our whole heart! I want to help foster ready access to the knack of ageing well. Where’s the research, the innovations, the tech to help and how do we get our hands on it? How we spend each one of our days matters. That shouldn’t change as we grow older.

The world is turning silver – are you ready? I want access to everything I need to wring out every damn minute of this life I have! I invite you to come on the journey with me.