Innovation and the elderly... a must for Europeans
Bringing technology closer to the elderly is high on the EU agenda. Rising to meet this challenge head on is the Ambient Assisted Living Joint Programme (AAL JP), which promotes innovative products and services for the ageing population.
The European Commission on 16 December presented a report on the progress of the AAL JP, outlining in particular how small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have intensified their involvement in projects, how participating countries are offering solid financial support, and how recommendations to provide positive results continue.
Directed at the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers, the report will help strengthen the AAL JP, which is one of the key actions of the Digital Agenda for Europe. The AAL JP effectively fosters cooperation between the EU, 20 Member States and 3 Associated Countries to enhance the well-being of senior citizens through smart information and communication technologies (ICT) solutions, thus reinforcing one of seven Digital Agenda goals. For example, ICT solutions are contributing to sustainable healthcare. Investing in digital technologies related to healthcare, so-called 'eHealth', gives Europe's ageing societies access to affordable healthcare.
The report also underlines how the AAL JP can provide support to the pilot European Innovation Partnership (EIP) on Active and Healthy Ageing, as set out in the Innovation Union Flagship Initiative. Within the next 30 years, the number of Europeans aged over 65 will increase by almost 40%. The EIP, which is slated to be launched in 2011, would fulfil three objectives: improve the health and quality of life of the elderly; contribute to the sustainability and efficiency of health and social care systems; and boost competitiveness and business opportunities.
'Europe needs to prepare for the future ageing of its society and the use of innovation shall be one of the tools at our disposal,' European Commission for Health and Consumer Policy John Dalli said in November. 'This is why I am very pleased that the very first of the Partnerships is on Active and Healthy Ageing: it will imply a close cooperation across different policies covering public health, research, digital and industry policy.'
Commenting on the AAL JP, Commission Vice President for the Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes said: 'I am pleased that participating countries see the AAL JP as an important level to tackle the challenge of demographic ageing, as shown by their substantial financial commitments.
'Information and communication technologies are crucial to improving the lives of the growing number of Europe's senior citizens. The AAL programme demonstrates how, by pooling our resources, the EU can achieve far more in this important area than individual Member States ever could.'
The Commission's first evaluation of the AAL JP is based on the conclusions of a high-level panel that reviewed the joint programme against the wider context of innovation responding to demographic challenges.
The report highlights how the AAL JP has succeeded in bringing together the 23 participating countries to tackle the hot issues impacting our society, and to fill the gap between innovative research and the market roll-out of wide-ranging solutions for active and independent living in old age.
The AAL JP offers fresh solutions that will be ready to use by 2013. And over 50 research and innovation projects targeting the social interaction of the elderly and chronic disease management have got off the ground in the last 2 years. For instance, seniors have been equipped with robots at home to carry out household chores, thus giving the elderly the boost they need to improve their well-being.
To bear even more fruit, the joint programme should get more end users involved in projects where solutions are being designed, the European Commission suggests, adding that more consistent eligibility and financing rules would also reduce any obstacles that may impact the projects' progress. The European Commission plans to establish financing arrangements to bridge the gap between the 'pilot phase' and large market uptake. It will also foster solid relations between the AAL JP and other EU-funded programmes.
In another development, the European Commission has green-lighted a report drafted by a panel of experts urging EU Member States and industry to strengthen their support of ARTEMIS and ENIAC, two Joint Undertakings that target nanoelectronics and embedded systems in various fields. The experts say Member States need to offer more funding, and industry should intensify its support of a European strategy if ARTEMIS and ENIAC are to succeed.
'ENIAC and ARTEMIS are proving valuable for Europe's growth and competitiveness. But to continue European success in nanoelectronics and embedded systems we will need to pool more resources. Industry and EU Member States need to invest twice as much in the next 3 years as they have so far if we wish to accomplish our initial ambitions of EUR 2.5-3 billion programmes,' Commissioner Kroes said.
The public and private sectors are shelling out over EUR 1 billion for research and innovation for ageing: EUR 600 million in the AAL JP; some EUR 400 million in the EU's research framework programme; and more than EUR 50 million in the EU's ICT Policy Support Programme.
For more information, please visit:
Ambient Assisted Living Joint Programme (AAL JP);
To read the Interim Evaluation of the AAL Joint Programme, click:
Digital Agenda for Europe:
Data Source Provider: European Commission
Document Reference: Based on European Commission press releases
Subject Index: Social Aspects; Information, Media; Information and communication technology applications ; Education, Training; Coordination, Cooperation