With more than 1200 participants, the European Summit on Innovation for Active and Healthy Ageing, organized by the European Commission on 9 and 10 March 2015 with the collaboration of AGE Platform Europe, gave a high visibility to the potential of silver economy focusing in particular on the technological, business and growth opportunities emerging from Europe’s ageing demography.
Inaugurating the event, the European Commissioner for the Digital Economy Günther Oettinger stressed the urgency to make our future sustainable to all generations and the need to remain active for longer so as to be able to ensure health and life quality in old age and prevent poverty. He further spoke of the digital revolution as being the future of Europe, pointing out the need to include older people in that development namely through digital skill acquisitions.
Between the keynotes speeches of Commissioner Oettinger, Commissioner Carlos Moedas (Research, Science and Innovation) and the new President of the Committee of the Regions Markku Markkula, four thematic debates were held on the Silver Economy (longevity as a driver of economic growth), Sustainable Health & Care Systems, Employment and Innovation for Active and Healthy Ageing, from concept to reality, from local to global, together with a large number of workshops dealing with the role of innovation in different areas impacted by population ageing: accessible homes, cities and communities, care and health, marketing development, senior tourism, crowd-funding. Participants could watch videos promoting technological innovations, such as robots which help older people living at home with grocery lists, staying in contact with family members abroad or giving them reminders to take their medication.
Apart from presenting innovation solutions that can help address EU’s population ageing, the event also shed light on the existing challenges and obstacles to the development of innovation-based solutions in Europe, in particular the need for a supportive framework. Many of the barriers highlighted were in relation to data protection, high speed connection, fragmentation of health systems markets, financing issues and skill development.
AGE Vice-President Helen Campbell (Age&Opportunities, Ireland) took part in the thematic Debate on ‘Changing Demographics; the Impact on Europe’s Workforce and Social Model’, where she highlighted the importance of involving older people in the development of assistive technology and services to make sure they effectively meet the needs of the large variety of older people in Europe.
AGE Secretary-General Anne-Sophie Parent was among the speakers in the sandpit on ‘How to empower elderly people through ICT solutions’, in which she presented the ‘European Charter of rights and responsibilities of older people in need of long-term care and assistance’ developed as part of the EU-funded DAPHNE Eustacea project (2008-2010), taking the perspective of older people themselves and the AFE-INNOVNET network, led by AGE, bringing together regional and local actors willing to support the co-creation of innovative solutions for age-friendly environments with local older people and their scaling-up to other parts of the EU. Ms Parent also presented the upcoming European Covenant on Demographic Change which will be launched on 7 December 2015 by the AFE-INNOVNET project to create the necessary political and technical framework to bring together in a more formal and long-term structure local and regional authorities and other stakeholders across the EU who wish to promote together age-friendly environments.
This Summit was an important milestone in the debate on innovations for active and healthy ageing and opened promising and ambitious discussions around the so-called Silver Economy. It was a good opportunity for AGE to exchange with its participating experts (18 of them attended the event) and to strengthen its links with many different stakeholders.
Still the different debates, which focused mainly on technological and business solutions and involved industrials and political officials, could have been enriched by taking on board older people themselves (the user perspective), starting from the actual needs and expectations of the large diversity of EU’s older population. In addition, a higher participation of local and regional authorities into the different panels would have bring an interesting dimension considering their competences and key role in making innovation for active and healthy ageing a reality for their citizens, as Commissioner Oettinger rightly pointed out in its opening speech.
Visit the website of the Summit for more details and relevant documents and presentations
On the occasion of the Summit, AGE issued a press release calling for a comprehensive EU strategy which would help turn population ageing into an opportunity for economic and social growth in Europe.