Under the theme “AGEING WELL IN THE DIGITAL AGE: a growing community of change makers”, the 2018 AAL Forum brought together in Bilbao, Spain a wide range of stakeholders to look at the future of the digital transformation of health and social inclusion in an ageing Europe. Like previous years, AGE Platform Europe was present to make sure that older persons are part of the debate.
The AAL Forum, standing for Active and Assisted Living, is a yearly meeting of representatives from the municipalities, provinces and regions, health and social care providers, civil society, small and medium entreprises (SMEs), industry and the research community willing to exchange ideas and solutions on how to develop a more inclusive silver economy that benefits individuals, society and the industry. It is organised in the frame of the AAL programme, a joint funding programme dedicated to ageing well.
This year again, from 24 to 26 September 2018, AGE and its member organisations took an active part in the discussions to bring into the debates the perspective of final users and remind the importance of partnering with older adults all along the development and innovation process.
Age-friendly smart housing: can standards help?
In the workshop Joining up age-friendly smart homes and smart communities: Voices in standardization, organised by the PROGRESSIVE project, AGE addressed the issue of digitalisation in support of independent living, insisting on the role of standards to ensure that technologies used in smart living environments are interoperable, secure, usable and accessible. Looking at what smart housing and smart cities should look like to become age-friendly, the workshop’s participants identified digital literacy, privacy, evolving needs, and interfaces design as key issues to be addressed.
The topic had been extensively discussed the day before by AGE Task Force on age-friendly environments and the PROGRESSIVE team during a meeting, hosted by our Basque member organisation Nagusilak, where we brainstormed on standards and ethics in relation to the use of new technologies (ICT) and how to ensure those technologies will benefit older people.
Strengthening project and policy coherence
Matching digitalisation and ageing well also requires greater coherence and efficiency between research and policy work. Together with the collaborative working group of the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing (EIP AHA) and the European Innovation Partnership on Smart Cities and Communities (EIP SCC), AGE co-organised the workshop Matching AAL projects with European and international agendas for smart, sustainable and inclusive development, in which we examined how to improve the convergence between AAL projects and key European and global frameworks such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). There again, AGE advocated for a better alignment of innovation projects with social policy agendas in order to ensure reciprocal contribution between research and policy initiatives and thus better impact.
Last but not least, AGE member and former President, Liz Mestheneos from 50+ Hellas, spoke in a workshop on Risk Competence in AAL and technology innovations as viewed by users and policy. This session identified the potential risks involved with methodologies to overcome inefficiency, including the use of technology to support greater efficiency.
Mrs Mestheneos pointed out that developers and decision makers who seek technological innovations should reflect more on the implications – both positive and negative – of what is being developed e.g for jobs/community/ sociability and participation. These reflections are not just about older people but about the consequences for societies as a whole.
Representativeness leaves room for improvement
The AAL Forum offers the opportunity for the many diverse stakeholders in the field of the smart assistive technologies to join forces to promote ageing well in Europe. However, we recall that older people, as main potential users, should lead the discussions to ensure the solutions to be developed meet a social need. We believe that giving a core role to older persons in the discussions on what concerns their lives is in everyone’s best interest given that it would ensure the appropriateness of the innovations.
If the Forum really wants to fulfil its ambition of being a place of exchange for all interested parties, more should be done to increase older people’s participation and actual contribution. Inviting local non-profit organisations (NGOs) of self-advocates seems to AGE members the most direct option to hear the opinion of a large number of potential customers in a cost-effective way.
Silver Economy Awards handed over to the Covenant
The AAL Forum and the Bizkaia Silver Week were the momentum chosen by the Consortium of the SEED project to announce the handover of the European Silver Economy Awards to the European Covenant on Demographic Change during the Covenant’s General Assembly, on 26 September. Read more in this article.
For more information on the AAL Forum and view the programme, visit the event website.