Over the past few years, the Institute for Prospective Technological Studies (IPTS) has been carrying out research in the field of ageing, with a focus on the role that Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) can play to promote Active Ageing. IPTS has looked at the issue from several perspectives, including the socio-economic and technological dimensions of both the ageing phenomenon and the Active Ageing policies that the EU is now adopting. Information and Communication Technologies for Active Ageing attempts to reflect aspects of the contribution ICT can make to quality of life for older citizens in Europe. Benefits can be found in health, employment, housing and elsewhere. The potential market for innovative solutions in ICT for Active Ageing is crucial for the European economy and for the society at large. The European Union has the opportunity to become a research and market leader through innovative applications and services for ageing. Moreover, the promotion of societal values in Europe regarding ageing can serve as a model for other ageing societies. This book is to be expected to contribute to the debates on ICT for Active Ageing and provide important hints for research in the field fostered by the European Commission’s Directorate General for Information and Media.
Over the past few years, the Institute for Prospective Technological Studies (IPTS)
IPTS is one of the seven research institutes of the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission.
has been carrying out research in the field of ageing, with a focus on the role that Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) can play to promote Active Ageing. IPTS has looked at the issue from several perspectives, including the socio-economic and technological dimensions of both the ageing phenomenon and the Active Ageing policies that the EU is now adopting.
The European Commission's Directorate General for Information Society and Media (DG INFSO)
Directorate H (ICT addressing Societal Challenges).
has been using the results of this research to help define new policy options and research challenges for the EU's Seventh Framework Programme.
The IPTS has also extensively contributed to the Ageing Well in the Information Society action plan,
“Ageing well in the Information Society – Euro 1bn in digital technologies for Europeans to age well” is part of the flagship i2010 initiative on the needs of the ageing society, launched by the European Commission, and co-funded by the EU, the Member States and the private sector under Article 169 of the EU Treaty. See http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/activities/einclusion/policy/ageing/launch/index_en.htm.
which aims to coordinate the Member States' applied research programmes in ICT for independent living of older Europeans.
This book attempts to reflect aspects of the contribution ICT can make to quality of life for older citizens in Europe. Benefits can be found in health, employment, housing, and elsewhere. The potential market for innovative solutions in ICT for Active Ageing is crucial for the European economy and for the society at large. The European Union has the opportunity to become a research and market leader through innovative applications and services for ageing. Moreover, the promotion of societal values in Europe regarding ageing can serve as a model for other ageing societies.
We expect that this book, the result of collaboration between authors from Europe, Japan and USA, will contribute to the debates on ICT for Active Ageing and provide important hints for research in the field fostered by DG INFSO.
Global ageing will be a major determinant of long term economic development in industrial and developing countries. The extent of the demographic changes is dramatic and will deeply affect future labour, financial and goods markets. The expected strain on public budgets, and especially social security budgets, has already received much attention, but ageing poses many other economic challenges that could threaten productivity and growth if they remain unaddressed. While ageing is global, there are marked differences in the speed and the extent of the ageing processes across countries. These differences are likely to generate different growth paths and change the international pecking order within the developed countries. Due to the globalization of labour, financial and goods markets, however, these differential demographic developments will also precipitate trade and factor movements. Exploiting these movements offers important opportunities during the ageing process.
The transition from a largely passive to a more active political orientation among older people was echoed (and encouraged) by policy makers at both local and national levels. The EU played a leading role in facilitating the articulation of this new approach by and to older people through the 1993 European and 1999 UN years. In particular the outline of a new approach to active ageing in the latter provided a radical statement about the potential of active ageing to reflect, on the one hand, the discourses arising, bottom-up, from older people and being reinforced by those with scientific expertise in health and well-being and ageing, on the other, those coming, top-down, from policy makers concerning the economic sustainability of the EU's social protection systems. In other words, active ageing is that rare policy concept that can unify the interests of all key stakeholders: citizens, NGOs, business interests and policy makers. While the significance of ICT for this policy have not been proclaimed until very recently there is an expectation of increasing pressure for action on this front at EU and Member State levels. For various reasons the comprehensive vision of active ageing set out in 1999 has not been reflected in EU policy instruments or actions. Therefore a fresh approach may be necessary to re-orientate active ageing discourses from their dominant focus on employment to a broader, more comprehensive, one on participation.
Mary L.M. Gilhooly, Kenneth J. Gilhooly, Ray B. Jones
49 - 76
The chapter aims to examine the definitional challenges associated with the term quality of life, measurement challenges, the challenges associated with enhancing quality of life, and the role of information and communication technologies (ICT) in quality of life in old age, and finally comments on the challenges of a modern information society for older people. The term quality of life started as a social scientific index of the relative well-being of whole populations, i.e. the state of states. Nowadays quality of life is more likely to be viewed as an individualized aspect of the modern psyche. This shift in conceptualization is problematic in that, if quality of life is individualized, it cannot be meaningful to assess it in the same way for everyone. Nevertheless, over the years a vast range of methods of measuring quality of life has emerged, leading to several measurement challenges. Wealth, health and social relations have all been found to be prime determinants of subjective quality of life; for ICT to enhance quality of life for older people they need to mediate the relationships between these three important factors and quality of life. To date there is relatively little evidence that ICT has improved the quality of life of older people. Suggestions are made as to why ICT is unlikely to influence life quality for older citizens. The chapter is drawn to a close by asking if quality of life is a meaningless term and if the future is bleak for old people in a modern information society. The answer to both questions is no.
All in all, the demographic changes in Europe imply an enormous economic potential. While these changes are still considered a nightmare by much of today's media (as characterised by notions such as ‘clash of generations’, ‘war on pensions’, ‘Methusalah complot’), the economic power of the 50+ generation makes one thing very clear: in the long run, only those firms that understand how to address the demands of this age group by designing products and services according to their needs will survive in most markets of the future. Although older customers in principle have basic demands similar to those of younger customers, there are a number of important differences in preference and consumption patterns, as well as a greater importance of aspects related to health, safety, independence, mobility, and social participation. Even if older customers do not explicitly articulate these needs, those products and services that implicitly recognise them, and offer ways to fulfill the demands that stem from them, will have a great market potential. Furthermore, older customers do not fit the cliché of conservative, technology-averse customers. Market research shows that the new generation of 50+ consumers likes to experiment and to try something new quite often. Traditional values no longer strongly dominate the decision to buy. Consumption is increasingly characterised by hedonism and self-realisation motives. Neither are older customers technology-averse. However, they only buy technology-related products if these, in their eyes, represent meaningful solutions to existing problems.
In terms of numbers, Japan is now the oldest nation in the world as its 65+ population passed the 20% level in October 2006. Today's senior citizens are expected to successfully fulfil their later years quality-wise. In 2007, members of the baby boomer generation are reaching their retirement age, now mandatory at 60, and businesses are said to be eagerly anticipating the huge new emerging potential of the “silver market”. To cope with functional changes, robotics will play a key role. Toshiba is developing a new robot which can download recipes from the Internet and prepare meals. So, most household equipment in a future home will be closely networked with Information and Communication Technology to enhance quality of life for all. However, looking at reality, we have to face the issue of digital divide. ICT is now part of life, but it is a quite foreign culture for most senior citizens in Japan as many of them have never used – for instance – a typewriter. Two major solutions to this issue are being tested. One consists of class-room lessons organized by local authorities, computer businesses, NGOs, universities and other educational institutes, etc. Another is a certification system. The biggest challenge is to help older people to realize that ICT is a “must” for them to achieve active and healthy ageing. It is obvious that they will face mobility impairment as they age. Impaired mobility limits social contacts and has an important impact on quality of life. ICT can help them to avoid this social isolation.
There are several paradigms behind the general aim of extending the average human life expectancy without extending suffering. The most challenging one is “active ageing” put forward by the World Health Organization. The new paradigm of active ageing takes the life-course perspective and different life styles into account when distinguishing between different groups of older people. Active ageing refers in this context to a continuous participation in social, economic, cultural, spiritual and civic affairs, not just the ability to be physically active or part of the labour force. Active ageing views elderly people as active participants in an age-integrated society. An interesting way for advancing research on concepts to match supply and demand can be derived from focusing on promising ICT application fields for age-based innovations. In fields like learning, employment, health, housing and others a lot of ICT-based applications for active ageing can be found. This article argues that ICT for active ageing is a new promising framework to tackle the challenges of ageing societies, to transform them into opportunities and to use as many opportunities of ageing societies as possible.
The role of learning is changing in ageing societies as the ageing phenomenon causes pressures to improve the quality of life and active participation of older people for promoting active ageing. Learning provides means to improve both the physical and mental health as well as general activity of older people. Research suggests that older people do have learning needs and are interested in learning and active ageing, but opportunities for participating to meaningful learning activities in old age are scarce and the conditions not always right. However, participation to learning communities is not only important for the older people themselves but also for younger generations to access and learn from the knowledge and experiences of older people. ICT can provide new means for creating learning opportunities for older people, both for organized education and for building communities for informal learning and communication. However, ICT tools are new for many older people today and the threshold for taking up new tools for beginning new learning activities may be high. Attention is needed to improve the usability of tools, access to the equipment, and to the types of learning opportunities provided. As the background and motivation of older people may differ from each other as well as from younger generations, special considerations are needed to design ICT supported learning approaches that enable relevant learning for all participants.
Given the growing importance of ICT in the workplace, understanding digital inequality is essential for both academics and politicians in a modern, competitive, and knowledge-based labour market. The implementation of policy measures should, as a priority, focus on lower educated and unemployed older workers to systematically close the generation gap and further career progress. Research on ICT access of employed and unemployed senior citizens targets two developmental lags currently producing social tension. An individual lag occurs if social structures and working environments change more rapidly than people's abilities. A structural lag occurs if a mismatch exists between the changing capabilities of older people and their opportunities on the labour market. This article shows that the duration of computer access positively influences the likelihood of employed people to remain employed, indicating the current developmental lag to be of individual origin. Computer illiterates are increasingly marginalized due to the speed of technological development and a progressive updating of job requirements.
A question of extraordinary interest for the active ageing paradigm is the importance given to preventive medicine and the promotion of healthy lifestyles. In this sense, we consider that Social Computing is a very good example since its potential is enormous and needs to be further explored. It is obvious that ICT technologies, in general, facilitate the wider and quicker dissemination of healthy lifestyles and the prevention of dangerous habits. However, what is the added value offered by Web 2.0 applications, and how have Internet users' attitudes changed? And more specifically, what are the advantages for older citizens? Social computing: 1) facilitates the fast dissemination of preventive health measures and of healthy ways of living; 2) shortens the sometimes long wait for an appointment with a health professional; 3) facilitates the personalisation of health-related information making it more realistically accessible by posting reminders to patients of their periodic clinical examinations or seasonal vaccinations and 4) provides information adapted to the level of disability or the physical limitations.
Active ageing is proposed as a comprehensive solution for the senior collective in Europe, to ensure a better standard of living for this group. ICT will play a major role in assisting the elderly to manage their lifestyles, and thus make active ageing feasible. However, there is still an important number of individuals who do not enjoy the benefits of ICT. It is widely believed that in order to achieve the inclusion of senior citizens in the Information Society, the digital divide associated with age must be greatly reduced. This seems feasible as this heterogeneous collective seems especially motivated to learn how to use ICT to their best abilities. Empowering senior citizens, by providing personalised information, both in terms of ICT and healthcare knowledge, to keep healthy could be regarded as a potential solution. Stakeholders in policy making and advocacy need to be closely involved in promoting active ageing programmes that make use of ICT, and there needs to be more active cooperation between people and the institutions in charge of social policy.
Many research and development projects have demonstrated that ICT for housing offers opportunities to support living (comfortably) at home in old age. However, to date there are no scientific studies which would explain the reasons why ICT for housing is so difficult to implement. One most beloved by politicians is an alleged “technophobia”; however, in most cases this has proved to be rather nonsensical. As has been shown in this article, the bottleneck for the implementation of ICT to support living at home in old age is not technology – but rather the “philosophy” of development strategies, design and fit with the circumstances of everyday life of the elderly and their carers. Technology is not an end in itself. It makes sense only when it really “supports” people to fully utilize their options for active ageing.
In order to maximise the potential of Independent Living Services (ILS) for active ageing, it is expected that innovative organizational models will be needed to support their implementation. For example, closer co-ordination between all service providers and stakeholders of independent living services is essential, such as health and social services providers' coordination for early detection of risks and preventive interventions. ICT have a central role to play in new models of healthcare, since they allow the networking and sharing of citizen information among all stakeholders that underpin a more integrated care provision. New models also allow continuity of care, avoiding unnecessary hospitalization or intrusive surgery, minimizing the disruptive effect of healthcare interventions on patients' daily lives. Specific research to better understand how ICT can contribute to enabling independent living through new models of care would be needed. Current models and solutions for care provision need to take better account of user-contexts. There is a need for research into methods on how to integrate users into the research and development process generally, i.e. not only the older citizens but also all the other actors in the ILS area, including formal and informal carers. Awareness about ILS its opportunities is limited among potential users professional organisations and policy makers alike. Outreach strategies that familiarize all stakeholders with technological options already available and under development are required.
This chapter aims to exemplify the potential of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in the case of brain-machine (BMI) and brain-computer (BCI) interfaces. Applications at the crossroads of ICT and cognitive science have been identified as one of the most promising application areas of the future by both the US National Science Foundation and by the European Commission. Both R&D funding agencies consider that the cross-fertilisation between information and communication technologies and cognitive sciences becomes a co-evolutionary process, where progress in one area accelerates progress in the other. Applications arising from this co-evolutionary process hold the promise of a large economic benefit. Recent bibliometric research does confirm these findings and pinpoint BMI/BCI as particularly impacting to society and economy. Generally speaking, however, the prospects of technologies with a long-term time horizon of a couple of decades are seldom discussed in the frame of active ageing. Brain-machine (BMI) and brain-computer (BCI) interfaces are no exception. However, discussing the potential challenges, opportunities and risks of emerging technologies and relating them to active ageing polices in a quite early stage of innovation can be a useful exercise in order to achieve a sustainable innovation process.
Beyond the traditional resistance to change, researchers and practitioners eager to promote Design for All in the area of ICT must recognize some specific challenges to their efforts. Among the key hurdles to be faced are the language and nomenclatures utilized to address and describe the agenda at hand. Next in order of importance is the erroneous assumption that Design for All is a sideline to the primary offering of good design and that, for some reason, if a design satisfies the needs of consumers who use wheels to ambulate, fingertips to see, eyes to hear, and adaptive technologies to navigate the consumer world, they could not be considered a member of the whole group of consumers who do not require those forms of assistance. By design, every individual should be included in the plethora of product and environmental opportunities for employment, entertainment, housing, and transportation etc. Regardless of age or level of ability, each consumer has the expectation and the right to access the goods and services they uniquely require to live the life they chose to lead.
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