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Ageing and technology - state of the art

The Institute for Prospective Technological Studies of the European Commission's Joint Research Centre has published a study on the issues related to the ageing of European populations and technology. The study was requested by the European Parliament's Committee on Research, ...
The Institute for Prospective Technological Studies of the European Commission's Joint Research Centre has published a study on the issues related to the ageing of European populations and technology. The study was requested by the European Parliament's Committee on Research, Technological Development and Energy, and prepared by VTT, the Finnish member of the European Science and Technology Observatory (ESTO) network.

The study begins by underlining the demographic trends in Europe, which mean that Europe's population as a whole is ageing. This is due to a combination of falling birth rates and increasing longevity. This ageing population will require technological solutions to respond to the problems raised by ageing, and the accompanying shortage of carers in the working age population. The study suggests that Europe should look on this as an opportunity as well as a challenge, given that the market for technological solutions to the problems of ageing is worldwide.

These technological solutions must respond to users' needs, and not establish those needs, the report emphasizes. Moreover, given the wide range of users and markets, such as individuals, voluntary groups and public and private organizations, the creation of the social structures necessary to successfully introduce new products will be extremely complex. The report suggests that the responsibility for developing the infrastructure for these products must rest with society. In addition, social and health policies and the level of public funding will largely determine the incentive for industry to develop new products. The report states that consumer power needs also to be brought to bear on the market.

Ageing and technology should be integrated into all programmes within the Fifth Framework Programme, according to the study, while specific actions should be established to address the following issues:

- Increasing the coordination of efforts and dissemination of information;
- Implementing pilot projects to demonstrate, validate and evaluate products in real-life situations;
- Mobilizing other funds from regional and other European sources;
- Investment in understanding the social aspects, and into education and raising awareness.
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