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Innovation for Active and Healthy Ageing: Lessons from Japan

At the European Summit on Innovation for Active and Healthy Ageing, Prof. Toshio Obi discussed EU-Japan cooperation on innovation for healthy ageing.

Many countries are now experiencing population age structures never seen before. An ever-increasing life expectancy combined with falling levels of fertility is modifying the shape of the age profile. In several EU Member States and in Japan it is morphing into an almost reversed pyramid, where the larger cohorts are among the elderly. In 2012, in Europe 16 % of people were aged 65 or over, whereas in Japan this figure had reached 22.9%. According to the European Commission’s 2015 Ageing Report, by 2060, the demographic old-age dependency ratio (people aged 65 or above relative to those aged 15-64) is projected to increase from 27.8 % to 50.1 % in the EU as a whole. Japan’s ageing rate is already the highest among advanced economies and continues to steadily increase. Its working age population is expected drop by 13 million during the period 2010 to 2030 and by more than 30 million by 2050, according to the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research in Japan. How is Japan intending to cope with this massive sea change? At the recent European Summit on Innovation for Active and Healthy Ageing held in Brussels, Professor Toshio Obi, Chair of the APEC e-Ageing Project, spoke about how the country is looking towards improved research and innovation to address the changing age profile of the population. According to Professor Obi, in general, better information and communications technology access and service delivery will be key to a thriving society as the population ages and increases pressure on shrinking workforces and budgets. Professor Obi emphasised the importance of cooperation between Japan and Europe, as both population profiles are coping with the same phenomenon. And since robots will play an important role when it comes to assisted living technology, he pointed in particular to cooperation on robotics projects. Indeed Japanese and the EU researchers have already enjoyed fruitful cooperation ventures in this area though FP7-funded projects such as ROBOT@CWE, ROBOSOM and BIOMOT. Professor Obi insists that making ICT more accessible to a greater number of people, including the elderly and people with disabilities, and enhancing public and private data use, can do a lot to create paperless environments and reduce operating costs for businesses and economies. Innovation related to the development of GPS systems, sensor systems, e-health, medical ICT equipment and telemedicine will all be crucial to address the challenges of an ageing population in the future. The case for investing in innovation in this area is not only a social one – it makes sense financially also. According to BCC Research the global telehospital/clinic and telehome market reached over EUR 17 billion in 2014. General consumption among older people is also increasing, and according to Professor Obi, we need to establish a global standard for the ‘silver economy’ which is expected to grow to EUR 22 trillion by 2050. Support for older citizens in all eventualities – not just day to day situations – must also be considered. Japan’s recent experience of coping with the Tsunami highlighted the importance of a framework and technology that supports older people in disaster situations. In closing, Professor Obi called for EU-Japan cooperation in particular on robotics, mobile 5G, 8K TV, auto-driving cars and telemedicine via Horizon 2020. With Europe and Japan leading the charge in terms of ageing populations, he noted, ‘We could form a coalition to set a new agenda to address the challenges. Together we can help the rest of the world.’ For further information, please visit:


Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czechia, Germany, Denmark, Estonia, Greece, Spain, Finland, France, Croatia, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Latvia, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Sweden, Slovenia, Slovakia, United Kingdom

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