You are old. You wake up, in your own bed, and look up at the camera on the ceiling, which has been looking down at you all night. You find its presence reassuring. Another day begins. While your smartphone takes your blood pressure, a companion robot brings in breakfast, together with your various meds. You know you should get up. You have physiotherapy exercises to do on your games console. And you know the clinic will be analyzing your every move …

A scene from 2050? Perhaps, but it could also be much sooner. Care for older people is evolving rapidly, in response to an impending crisis in demand. The good news is that for the first time in history, most people alive now can expect to be around well into their sixties. The challenge is that increasing longevity coupled with lower birth rates means a smaller global workforce will have to support a much larger elderly population. Health and social care will be on the frontline. As the World Health Organization (WHO) has pointed out, older people have complex health needs, often with multiple chronic conditions and geriatric syndromes, and most health services are ill-prepared to cope.

This poses tough questions for governments and healthcare providers across the globe, especially as rising expectations coincide with pressure on funding and fewer resources to go round. The answers promise to challenge not only established models of healthcare provision but the way in which cities are planned and, perhaps most fundamentally, the distinction between care environments and our own homes.