Forschungs- & Entwicklungsinformationsdienst der Gemeinschaft - CORDIS


Ageing and Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) represent two defining trends of our times. On the one hand, ageing represents one of the greatest social and economic challenges of the 21st century. By 2025, all EU countries and most policy areas, notably social security and health care, will be affected by an increase of 20% of Europeans who are aged 65 or over, with a particularly rapid increase in numbers of over-80s. On the other hand, European societies of the 21st century dispose of scientific and technological knowledge unknown to previous generations. Assistive technologies, biotechnologies, medical technologies, monitoring systems and other ICTs can contribute to mitigate physical limitations, spatiotemporal constraints, and improve the lives of elderly citizens in numerous aspects.
However, the uncertain nature of technological trajectories and outcomes means that more societal and ethical challenges are likely to be raised. Mediatised technological solutions often view older individuals as malfunctioning machines, portray ageing as a sum of limitations to be overcome, and technologies as a fix. Current ambiguities and interpretative flexibility in terms of meanings and values associated with ICT must not be left unchecked, but addressed before interpretative flexibility diminishes, some technology artefacts gain dominance over others, and meanings about ageing well converge.

INCORPORATING EUROPEAN FUNDAMENTAL VALUES INTO ICT FOR AGEING: A VITAL POLITICAL, ETHICAL, TECHNOLOGICAL, AND INDUSTRIAL CHALLENGE (VALUE-AGEING) was a 48 month Marie Skłodowska-Curie Industry-Academia Partnerships and Pathways Action, whose main objective was to advance knowledge and provide concrete recommendations about how ICT can give older individuals as well as ageing societies the possibility to improve their lives while respecting values such as human dignity, autonomy, respect for private and family life, data protection and non-discrimination. More specifically, VALUE AGEING delved on seven areas corresponding to seven work packages (WPs):

1) Research and analysis of the impact of ICT developments on dignity and non-discrimination;
2) Research and analysis of the impact of ICT on freedom and autonomy of older persons;
3) Research and analysis of the impact of ICT on well-being and living conditions of older persons;
4) Research and analysis of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and ethical codes in ICT for ageing;
5) Research and development of methodology to develop future narratives depicting different hypothetical visions of potential futures of ICT for ageing taking into account emerging technological trends;
6) Elicitation and discussion of best practices providing the appropriate framework for the evaluation of ethical
7) Research and analysis of governance and policy options shaping the direction of ICT for ageing.

In line with the rationale behind Industry-Academia Partnerships and Pathways Actions (IAPPs), research on the ethical, legal, social and human right implications (ELSHI) of ICT for ageing was fuelled by early stage and experienced researchers coming from different backgrounds and sectors and without specific training or specialisation in the field of gerontology studies. The inter-sectoral and interdisciplinary collaboration, the continuous exchange of skills, competences, experiences and philosophies along the aforementioned seven pathways, mobilised a consortium composed of three partners with experience in ethical, social and regulatory issues of ICT (Centre for Science, Society and Citizenship [IT] (which withdrew from the project in m41), Free University of Brussels [BE], Austrian Academy of Sciences [AT]) and six partners (Frontida Zois [GR], Innova [IT], Vegan Solutions [IT], Netwell Centre [IE], Tecnalia Research and Innovation [ES], Queen’s University of Belfast [UK]) which covered some of the main technological areas of ICT for ageing, such as development of assistive and healthcare technologies, smart homes, social web and so on.

VALUE AGEING started in October 2010. The secondment scheme came into effect as of January 2011, and up until the end of the project in September 2014, a total of 23 seconded researchers (some of which worked in different institutions) and 8 recruitments were successfully completed with representation and involvement of all the institutions in the process of skills and knowledge transfer. From the total number of secondments and recruitments, there was almost a perfect gender balance, with 50% females and 50% males.
Overall, the work carried out to achieve the project's objective involved three stages: a comprehensive fact-finding exercise, the development of specific metrics and a database of best practices, and action plans identifying, evaluating, displaying and distinguishing alternative policies.

The main conclusion of the VALUE AGEING project is that the incorporation of values in ICT for Ageing is best represented as an on-going project. The reason for this is that, particularly in Europe, the recognition of a common core of fundamental European values coexists with the heterogeneity of older persons and the different local realities in which Europeans age. In the area of ICT and Ageing, this means that claims for the universality of values (to be embed in science and technology) should not obscure differences in local context. Effective routines, clear, stable and easy to assess criteria for good and better performance in different contexts permit to openly negotiate differences rather than retreating to assertions of universality. In line with the principle of subsidiarity, the EU should foster the involvement of national and local communities, which are essential not only for understanding the diversity of impacts of ICT on older persons, but also for replicating technology solutions that have proven to work.

This sobering conclusion invites researchers to ‘look around’ and humbly ask what older people value and why they value it, in the context where they live. This is a first step towards supplementing science and technology with the analysis of those aspects of the human condition, e.g., frailty, loss of dexterity, cognitive decline, etc., which science and technology alone cannot easily illuminate. It is also an invitation for policy-makers to uncover the sources of vulnerability in communities before financing expensive anti-ageing or health care technologies; to re-engage with inequality before finding out how technology developments can improve older persons’ lives; and to evaluate resource allocation taking into account that the vulnerability of older persons is often the outcome of outside economic, social and policy changes, such as structural reforms of retirement age and pension schemes.

The project’s main recommendations to policy makers, academia and industry could be summarized as follows:
- ICT for Ageing that have proven to be effective should be made accessible in primis within the public health-care and public long term care systems;
- Older patients should not suffer from any disadvantage with regards to their medical treatment or care in the event that they choose not to adopt technologies;
- Introducing care technologies should be combined with inclusion in the care networks, with the development of new services, and with the pertinent legal arrangements, in particular with regard to those individuals who are incapable of giving consent and those who are vulnerable to exploitation;
- Data collection should be always kept to what is necessary for the activities supported by the systems;
- A Responsible Innovation approach, we argue, would mean that technological developments should be made using participatory methods, by involving those who are concerned and affected by them, and by evaluating devices in situ within concrete contexts and real situations.

The findings, conclusions and recommendations of the project are crystallised in a series of deliverables and final reports freely available on the project’s website (

Grant agreement no.: 251686
Project full title: Incorporating European fundamental Values into ICT for ageing: a vital political, ethical , technological, and industrial challenge
Project acronym: VALUE AGEING
Duration of the project: 48 months
Start date of the project: 01 October 2010
Date of approval of Annex I by the Commission : 07 May 2010
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