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Ageing well in the Information Society: Action Plan on Information and Communication Technologies and Ageing
The European Commission is launching a new action plan within the framework of the i2010 initiative: the aim is both to help older people towards a safer and more independent old age and to promote the development of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in services to persons.
Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 14 June 2007: Ageing well in the Information Society - An i2010 initiative - Action Plan on Information and Communication Technologies and Ageing [COM(2007) 332 final - Not published in the Official Journal].
The ageing of Europe's population poses a challenge to the European market for employment, social services systems and health care. But it also provides an economic and social opportunity: Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) will give rise to new, more accessible products and services satisfying the needs of older people.
The action plan seeks to promote and coordinate the development of ICTs associated with services for older people in the European Union (EU), to enable them to:
- prolong their working life, while maintaining a work-life balance;
- stay socially active and creative, through networking and access to public and commercial services. This would reduce the social isolation of older people, particularly in rural areas;
- age well at home: ICTs must encourage a higher quality of life and degree of independence.
Europe must adopt ICT for ageing well *. These technologies may indeed become a driver for jobs and growth, as well as a successful lead market.
For the moment, the market for services associated with ageing remains fragmented. Furthermore, none of the stakeholders (older people, industry, public authorities) have an overview of the problems and the solutions needed. Market development is hampered by the lack of exchange of experience and good practice. Standards, procedures, reimbursement schemes and provisions related to disability vary from one Member State to another. Finally, technical barriers stand in the way: older people do not necessarily have the technological tools and know-how needed.
In order to rationalise this system the Commission is encouraging stakeholders to place users at the centre of their thinking.
The objectives of the Commission's action plan are therefore aimed as much at citizens as at businesses and public authorities. The objectives are:
- for citizens, a better quality of life and better health;
- for companies, increased market size and market opportunities in the internal market for ICT and ageing, better skilled and productive workforce and a stronger position in the growing markets worldwide;
- for public authorities, cost reductions, increased efficiency and better overall quality of health and social care systems.
The action plan is structured around four areas:
- removing legal and technical barriers to development of the market, by assessing the markets and facilitating the exchange of good practices between Member States. The Commission proposes assessing the technological possibilities and identifying guidance and target dates. This is with a view to removing legal and technical barriers to the uptake of ICTs for independent living. The Member States should, in parallel, strengthen the implementation of current legal requirements for e-Accessibility;
- raising awareness and building consensus through the cooperation and development of partnerships between the different stakeholders. ICT for ageing well will be a key contribution to the European e-Inclusion Initiative in 2008. The launch of an internet portal for ICT and ageing is also planned.
- accelerating take-up of technologies, for example, through a set of pilot projects and a European award scheme for smart homes and independent living applications;
- stimulating research and innovation, through immediate support for shared research agendas between the public and private sectors, dedicated to "Ambient Assisted Living". This agenda seeks to encourage the emergence of innovative ICT-based products, services and systems for the benefit of Europe's ageing population.
The Commission seeks to improve ICT-based research for older people in the 7th framework programme (FP7) for research, technological development and demonstration activities. Other initiatives are being launched within the context of the Competitiveness and Innovation Framework Programme. These will be accompanied by a new European Shared Research Programme. In total, the programmes will increase investment in ICT research and innovation to over EUR 1 billion.
In the future, better coordination between Member States is necessary to stimulate market-oriented research in this field. To achieve these objectives, a common research initiative "Ageing well in the Information Society" will be set up. Furthermore, businesses, industry, service providers, etc. will be encouraged to establish dialogue, particularly through technology platforms, to allow for more rapid emergence of innovative products, services and systems.
This action plan forms an integral part of the European Union i2010 initiative - An information society for growth and jobs. The Commission had previously adopted a strategy on accessibility of online products and services in 2005, and in 2006 the Member States reached agreement in Riga on a policy agenda for an accessible information society based on inclusion.
Ageing in Europe is an important economic and social challenge: in 2020, a quarter of Europe's population will be over 65, while expenditure on retirement and health care will have tripled by 2050. However, older people are also consumers that should not be discounted, with global wealth in excess of EUR 3 000 billion.
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