The ageing population of Europe has been seen as a crisis by many as the rising costs of long term care and the challenges that affect the daily lives of older adults put more and more pressure on society. However, the power of technology is now helping to give independence back to older adults, and demand for solutions that improve quality of life for them and their carers is soaring. So, is this really a crisis, or is it an opportunity to help integrate people into society for longer while simultaneously nurturing a new market that can help boost the economy?
Populations around the world are ageing. This long-term trend began several decades ago in Europe due to increased life expectancy and declining birth rates. The result is that there is now more pressure on healthcare systems, social services and the working population, as older citizens become increasingly dependent upon others.
But what would happen if this trend were not treated as a challenge, but rather as an opportunity? People do not want to lose their independence – it is taken away from them. But now there is a growing group of businesses and researchers who believe that technology can give that independence back to them. This is what the AAL Programme, which funds ICT projects that promote active and healthy ageing, is all about.
The AAL Programme is, in its essence, all about making life easier for people as they get older. The challenges of ageing affect everyone, either personally or indirectly through relatives and loved ones. The AAL Programme is confronting this phenomenon head on by promoting the creation of state-of-the-art technological solutions that can help people live independent and active lives for longer.
Wearable devices and other smart technologies that are an integral part of the AAL Programme are set to transform the insurance industry. Companies can use data generated from smart devices to set insurance prices and reward customers based on the data collected about lifestyle. Many insurers view personalising customer experience as a top priority, with some already seeing a return on investments made in this area.
As the “silver economy” emerges and people realise the potential of this growing market, one of the many opportunities to arise from this trend has been the need for more houses that are suitable for supporting independent living amongst older adults. It is estimated that 75 per cent of houses in the EU are deemed not suitable for independent living. In Germany alone it is estimated that the need for age-friendly houses exceeds 2.5 million already today. Without addressing this situation, the rapidly increasing costs of long-term care for older adults will quickly become unmanageable.
Investment in independent living solutions and digitally enriched age-friendly homes has the potential to have a huge positive economic impact on many SMEs developing their activities in key sectors such as construction, ICT, and local service and social enterprise sectors. The need for technology that supports active and independent living is growing, and so now is the time to get involved.