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Stitch wins United Nations ITU WSIS Healthy Ageing award

Stitch wins United Nations Award for Impact on Healthy Aging

It gives me an enormous amount of pleasure to announce that the United Nations ITU and the Global Coalition on Aging awarded the 2024 WSIS Healthy Aging Innovation Prize to Stitch in Geneva last week.

The United Nations!

We have had plenty of things to celebrate over the years with Stitch, but this ranks right up there as one of the most exciting things we have ever announced.

It is incredible recognition not just for the Stitch team, but for every single member of the Stitch Community, and the positive impact we have been able to collectively generate over the last ten years.

I learned we had won the award less than ten days earlier, and had to scramble to fly all the way from Sydney to Geneva to be at the presentation. It was a looooong trip in economy — I spent more time on the plane than I actually stayed in Geneva itself — but it was an easy decision to make … I would have crawled over hot coals to be there!

Here I am on the day I arrived, clearly pleased as punch to be there:

Andrew outside the United Nations

The presentation of the award took place in the middle of the biggest event the UN ITU hosts devoted to the positive impact of technology each year, something called the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS)+20 Forum High Level Event.

This year’s event took place from the 27th to 31st of May in Geneva, and was co-organized by ITU, UNESCO, UNDP and UNCTAD and co-hosted by ITU and the Swiss Confederation.

The forum brings together thousands of attendees and delegates from over 200 countries, with a dazzling array of sessions devoted to topics as diverse as artificial intelligence, addressing poverty, Internet access, and — of course — healthy aging.

The award presentation took place at noon on the 30th of May, in the ITU Montbrillant building, directly across from the Palace of Nations and UN headquarters, with the award presented by Tomas Lamanauskas, Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations International Telecommunications Union. Here is the photo (and you can just make out the UN Palais des Nations in the background):

Andrew receiving the WSIS award at the United Nations

The prize itself is for organizations making a positive impact on healthy aging, under one of the UN’s major initiatives, something called the Decade of Healthy Aging.

We are, of course, enormously proud about being recognized for this award. It was highly competitive — there were hundreds of submissions from countries all around the world — and included innovations in health, medicine, and medical devices, and information technology.

All submissions were assessed on a variety of dimensions, including not only the main action areas from the UN Decade of Healthy Aging, but also key action lines from the WSIS and the Global Coalition on Aging. It was one of the most exhaustive applications I have ever completed.

The judging panel selected a shortlist of finalists from the applications, and all finalists were required to give a short presentation to the judging panel in support of their applications.

And after all of that, ultimately, Stitch won.

Important aspects of our application included:

The importance of the issue

Social determinants are well understood to be one of the largest contributing factors to health and well-being for older adults. If you are over 60 and lonely, you are 45% more likely to die in the next 12 months than someone with good social connections, and 64% more likely to develop dementia

The US Surgeon General ranks loneliness as having as severe a negative health impact as smoking 15 cigarettes per day

Stitch's role in addressing it

Stitch now has over 230,000 members worldwide, and over the last 12 months, Stitch members and volunteers organized events in 476 cities and counties, with attendees from 5,207 towns and neighborhoods.

While those events are designed to be rewarding and enjoyable, they also have a deeper purpose, demonstrating a measurable positive impact on the lives of Stitch members.

In our most recent controlled studies, members who became socially active in the community reported a 54% reduction in isolation and loneliness, a 5x increase in social activity, 40% increase in physical activity, and statistically significant improvements in both physical and mental health.

Our alignment with United Nations and WSIS action areas

A major dimension to the award was how aligned Stitch was to the United Nations Decade of Healthy Ageing Action Areas, as well as the WSIS action lines and themes.

These included, amongst other things, combating ageism, creating age-friendly environments, the use of technology to benefit aspects of life, and ethical dimensions of the Information society.

As I outline in my community update video above, however, what makes us most proud of this award is that it is something that reflects positively on all the members of the community and what we’ve created together.

Every project that applied for the prize was asked to explain how much input older adults had given to the solution, as that was part of the judging criteria.

We explained that Stitch members have done far more than “give input” to Stitch: they ARE Stitch! 

Every single activity, event, interest group, and discussion in the Stitch community is created, organized, managed, and moderated by members of the community (in other words, older adults). The Stitch Community Board is constituted solely of members of the community, who provide strategic direction and governance oversight about how the community should operate and be developed.

Stitch was created for a very specific purpose, which is to improve our members’ lives and wellbeing by reducing loneliness and social isolation. What makes Stitch unique is that the very people it is designed to help are those who have made it a reality.

In Stitch, older adults aren’t the “problem”. They are the solution.  

We think that is utterly inspiring.

So thank you to every single Stitch member who has ever attended or organized an event, participated in a discussion, joined an interest group, or even just simply replied to another member. You have helped create the community we know and love today, which means this award is for you.

Congratulations.

25 thoughts on “Stitch wins United Nations Award for Impact on Healthy Aging”

  1. Congratulations Andrew! And thank you so much! Very well deserved by you! Not only is it an amazing organization in general, but during the pandemic it became a life saver for many of us. Thank you again!

      1. Dear Andrew & Team

        Congratulations!! From a thought process to now.. Andrew, you/we did it!

        We know what we Do works because we are proof of it, and the United Nations (the 🌎 🌍 🌏 world) agree.

        Centre stage lets All take a bow & clap together 👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏👏

        Hey Andrew, party at your house??? 🤣🤣🤣🤣😊😊😊😆😁

  2. Congratulations! This is great news. From the beginning it was the, for members, by members that stood out for me as I had never come across anything like this and on a global scale. You Should be proud of your creation and dedication 👏 ✨️ ❤️ 👌

    1. Wow! Andrew, how exciting and so well deserved! I have been a Stitch member for 9 years (?) and have seen your struggles to keep it afloat, your energy, dedication and commitment to a community in which you so deeply believe! You have provided us a wonderful place to come together, make new friends, enjoy events, express ourselves and become part of a community. Thank you and Congratulations!

      1. Andrew Dowling

        Fantastic to hear from you Ann, it’s been a while! Yes, we are very proud of the resilience we’ve shown over the years (or is it stubbornness?) to get where we are today … although we still really feel we’ve only scratched the surface of what’s possible. Running Stitch is always challenging, but also always delightful, as I am privileged to meet so many wonderful people. Hope to see you at a Stitch event some time soon!

  3. Congratulations to one and all at Stitch. What an achievement to be recognised, by the United Nations no less. We all joined Stitch for those reasons and make it happen in every way and every day. I’m impressed.

  4. Awesome Awesone!! I am so thrilled with this news. So well deserved. Thank you Andrew for driving, supporting & being everything Stitch! To you and the team, take a bow. It’s wonderful being part of the Stitch community – congrats to us all – the Stitch Family…. it’s been quite a year!!🫶👏

  5. Amazing organization and certainly a credit to you!
    I have only been a member for a little over a year and it has been a life saver for me after I lost my husband. Keep on keeping on and thank you!

  6. Stephanie Bashford

    Congratulations, Andrew on this outstanding, highly deseved global award! You’ll never know just how many people have been heartened and lives enriched by the community, friendships and confidence Stitch has given them – thanks to your generous-spirited determination to bring people together! Thank you for all you (and any team with you) do!

  7. I join in yiuoelation as Stitch receives this prestigious award. I am proud to be a part and parcel of this effective and rewarding organization.

  8. Congratulations Andrew for creating this great group and to all those who have helped to make it a success! This is a great achievement for you to be recognized by the United Nations. I appreciate your energy, commitment, and all that you have achieved and continue to accomplish to make this a positive experience for everyone.

  9. Michelle El-Rassi

    What an achievement!
    Well done Andrew and all Stitch members.
    Thank you for making my life less lonely and full of companionship 🤩

  10. Way to go, Andrew and team! Quite an accomplishment. I *love* the warmth, respect, and civil discourse the Stitch community has to each other. Strength-based, autonomous, an a great contribution to positive mental health/self-care to boot.

  11. Thanks Andrew for starting Stitch and creating the friendship opportunities and social activities that we all enjoy and gain so much from.
    This Award is a well deserved recognition for what you have achieved. Congratulations to all Stitch members for assisting in this unique social experiment.
    My granddaughter joined me up about 6-7 years ago so I wouldn’t be lonely. So glad she did.

  12. Kimberly R Arasato

    Andrew, I’m so proud of you and your vision to make life better for those who are at the senior stage of life. I have been a member for the past 8 years and I can clearly see how much Stitch has benefited me. It gets increasingly more difficult to make friendships as we age. However, with Stitch, friendships are there just waiting to be found.

    I love your energy for Stitch, your commitment to it, you belief in it and giving us a way to help support the growth of Stitch. As someone else mentioned, it was a life saver during COVID and a way to keep sanity and build relationships around the world. I’m so glad I knew about it then. And as things have settled back towards normal, it was the breath of fresh air to seeking out friends again and activities to get out again. I love Stitch and can’t thank you enough. I am so proud to be included in a organization that has now been recognized by the United Nations for the support it offers for this new stage of life that I have now entered.

  13. I have come late to read of this success and I warmly applaud it, you Andrew, and all those who promote the community of Stitch. Yes, for me too it was a life saver during COVID. I am not a organiser, but I am lucky to have benefitted from the efforts of those who can do so. Thank you all and many congratulations Stitch.

  14. Thank you, I can’t wait to get started, I’ve been searching for a site like this. I have a lot of stories to tell.

  15. So very well deserved Andrew. Thank you for all the fun and interesting things I have discovered to do in this city since I joined Stitch. Thank you to all the fun and interesting people I’ve met who organise events or attend them. Sometimes it’s Stitch members who make up a large part of the audiences so, thanks to us too. You have changed so many peoples lives. Thank you.

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