Grants available for organisations with novel solutions to the challenges facing seniors.

The Selwyn Foundation has launched its inaugural Respectful Ageing Innovation Challenge, which will see $550,000 given to develop solutions to the complex problems seniors face.

The Selwyn Foundation embarked on a transformation process two years ago, selling six of its seven rest homes, with a goal to invest $100 million over the next decade to drive social impact at scale. The Challenge is the first step on that journey, aiming to fund innovative products and services that significantly improve outcomes for older people.

“Our research into the areas of greatest need for older New Zealanders shows health, financial hardship, housing insecurity, social isolation and loneliness, and access (including transport as well as digital access) are the five biggest challenges, leading to further negative impacts on both physical and mental health. Addressing these will require new solutions. We know that New Zealanders have the ability to create amazing solutions through collaboration and innovation, and we want to foster an innovation eco-system that promotes Respectful Ageing,” said The Selwyn Foundation Chief Executive Officer, Denise Cosgrove.

There will be 1 million New Zealanders over the age of 65 by 2028, coinciding with a shrinking tax base to support older people with vulnerabilities. While older people are often seen as being wealthier and in a better position than younger people, the Foundation’s research across Auckland and Northland identified an estimated 37,500 significantly vulnerable older people in those areas alone. That number is only expected to grow as our ageing population increases.

A third of all older people in New Zealand are currently vulnerable, with 13% experiencing disadvantage across multiple areas of wellbeing. Nearly 30,000 live in homes that are sometimes or always damp, and many experience feelings of loneliness or being isolated, which international research tells us places them at greater risk of an early death. The issues are greatest for Māori and Pacific seniors, with compounding challenges for single older women, those with a disability and those who have mental health issues.

“The issues older people face are complex. We’ve launched this Challenge to raise awareness and spur businesses, innovators, entrepreneurs and community organisations to come up with creative ways to create real change, whether that’s through technology, products or services. On the flipside, the ageing population creates huge potential to harness the energy and experience of older people and enable their ongoing contributions. This presents a real opportunity for economic growth through innovation in the design of products, services and support catering to the needs of people as they age. Countries like the US and UK are already embracing this, and we want to create the same kind of environment here,” said Liz Gibbs, Chief Impact Officer at The Selwyn Foundation.

The Challenge has two categories, each with different criteria. Three grants worth $50,000 each will be awarded to enable organisations to conduct a feasibility study or pilot. Another pool of $400,000 will be available for up to five “Boost” projects, to help expand the reach or impact of an enterprise’s existing product or service.

Applicants are encouraged to take an evidence-based approach that addresses the key areas of disadvantage: health, housing, financial hardship, social isolation/loneliness, and access. Solutions that target groups who have been identified as especially vulnerable, such as single women, older Māori and Pacific people, are particularly sought. Products or services that serve the Auckland and Northland regions will also be prioritised.

For more information on the Respectful Ageing Innovation Challenge, visit

Entries close 30 November.

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