One billion euro in digital technologies for Europeans to age well

Brussels 14 June 2007Responding to the needs of Europe's growing ageing population, the European Commission has 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 1 billion euro 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 European Union (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.

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"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", stated 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 percent of the EU's population will be over 65. Spending on pensions, health and long-term care is expected to increase by 4-8 percent 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 euro.

ICT will increasingly allow older people to stay active and productive for longer; to continue to engage in society with more accessible on-line 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 on-line services that could support some of their real needs - since only 10 percent use the internet. Severe vision, hearing or dexterity problems, frustrate many older peoples' efforts - 21 percent 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 co-operation 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.

Between now and 2013, the EU and Member States, and the private sector will invest more than 1 billion euro in research and innovation for ageing well: some 600 million euro in the ambient assisted living programme, an expected 400 million in the EU's latest research framework programme - IP/06/1590 - and about 30 million this year in the EU's ICT Policy Support Programme - IP/06/716.

The action plan and research programme will enable a better quality of life for elderly people, make significant cost-savings in health and social care possible and create a strong industrial basis for ICT and ageing in Europe. Europe itself could also become a lead market in ICT for "ageing well"; and as ageing is a global phenomenon, a strong industry in Europe would have opportunities worldwide. Furthermore, research aimed at developing more practical and simpler appliances that are easier to understand and use has a much broader scope of application.

Ageing Well in the Information Society is a flagship initiative of the European Commission to promote an inclusive European information society - IP/05/643. It is an integral part of the EU's i2010 initiative - a European Information Society for Growth and Jobs - IP/05/643. In 2005 the Commission adopted a strategy on e-accessibility - IP/05/1144 - and in Riga in 2006 EU Member States agreed on a political agenda for e-inclusion - IP/06/769. By the end of 2007, the Commission will adopt a Communication on its future e-inclusion strategy.


Leslie Versweyveld

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