15 June 2007

€1bn in digital technologies for Europeans to age well

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Ageing
European Commission press release:

Responding to the needs of Europe’s growing ageing population, the Commission has today adopted a European Action Plan for “Ageing Well in the Information Society”. This Action Plan is accompanied by a new joint European research programme raising to over €1bn the research investment on information and communications technologies (ICT) targeted at improving the life of older people at home, in the workplace and in society in general.

These new EU initiatives will contribute to allowing older Europeans to stay active for longer and live independently. Together they promise a triple win for Europe: improved quality of life and social participation for older people in Europe, new business opportunities for Europe’s industries, and more efficient and more personalised health and social services.

“Europe’s ageing population is a challenge for our job market, and its social and health systems. But it is also an economic and social opportunity. ICT will provide new and more accessible products and services that meet the needs of older people,” said Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for the Information Society and Media. “These two initiatives will mobilise digital technologies that will improve the daily lives and social participation of older people, and create new opportunities for Europe’s industry.”

By 2020 25% of the EU’s population will be over 65. Spending on pensions, health and long-term care is expected to increase by 4-8% of GDP in coming decades, with total expenditures tripling by 2050. However, older Europeans are also important consumers with a combined wealth of over €3000 billion.

ICT will increasingly allow older people to stay active and productive for longer; to continue to engage in society with more accessible online services; and to enjoy a healthier and higher quality of life for longer.

The majority of older people do not yet enjoy the benefits of the digital age – low cost communications and online services that could support some of their real needs – since only 10% use the internet. Severe vision, hearing or dexterity problems, frustrate many older peoples’ efforts (21% of the over 50s) to engage in the information society.

In response, today’s Action Plan aims at:

  • overcoming technical and regulatory barriers to market development, through market assessments and by facilitating the exchange of best practice between Member States;
  • raising awareness, and building consensus via stakeholder cooperation in 2007 and the establishment of a best practice internet portal,
  • accelerating take-up through, for example, a set of pilot projects and a European award scheme for smart homes and independent living applications;
  • boosting research and innovation by immediately supporting a joint public-private research programme dedicated to “ambient assisted living”. It aims to foster the emergence of innovative, ICT-based products, services and systems for Europe’s ageing population.

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