For any AAL Forum regular, Peter Saraga will be a familiar figure, seen every year enthusiastically parading the exhibition floor, speaking at workshops and taking part in plenary debates covering all aspects of active and healthy ageing. Of course, he will be at the forum again in Bilbao in September, but this year will be his first as the President of AAL, a position that gives him the chance to set out a clear vision for the programme as it enters the last two years of its current funding cycle and looks confidently into the future.
Saraga, who spent much of his working life involved in the development of technological innovation with Philips, believes he is taking over the AAL reigns at a time when things are looking “very exciting and interesting”.
“I am optimistic that the time is right for AAL,” he says. “The acceleration in demographic change means that the latent demand is growing and as we see the development of transnational networks and viable ecosystems, we will also see more digital solutions enter the market.”
But Saraga is also keen for there to be a subtle shift in how the success of AAL is measured, away from purely on the number of products it gets to the market – “it is so much more than that”.
“One of the critical issues we now face is the deployment and upscaling of the digital solutions. The networks are very important, too,” he explains. “You cannot get deployment at scale, which is what we need to make a real difference, until you have transnational ecosystems involving all critical stakeholders. If you look at other industries, where things really work, there are industrial, social and economic ecosystems operating, there are standards and there are financing systems in place, too. It takes quite a long time to establish these inter-relationships but when in place, that’s when you get a global industry – and AAL can contribute to the development of those ecosystems.”
“There is a great deal of work going on addressing ageing – the science of ageing, disease and every other aspect of living for longer. I want to show that our contribution to all this in what we do has been and will continue to be significant.
“The exciting thing for AAL is that we are not starting from scratch to address this issue. We have done a lot with our 220 collaborative projects, support for more than 700 SMEs and how we have involved end users in the co-design and co-creation of products”
“We are also a programme that is driven by national governments (member states) and operating at a pan-European level means that we have transnational networks available for the products and solutions we produce. Using these networks, we can bring people together. And if those ecosystems start to exist, then the work we are doing in collaborative projects will work better. It will be easier to develop products that have greater impact. The process of innovation will speed up.”
Of course, one of the most important ways AAL brings people together is at its annual forum – and Saraga is looking forward to a very productive few days of discussion, planning and building important collaborative networks in Bilbao.
“For all those coming to the forum, there will be opportunities to discuss what the next stage should be in active and healthy ageing – or ‘ageing well in the digital world’ as we have now labelled AAL’s mission”
“And that is the issue – what is the future of ageing well in the digital world?,” he asks. “The digitization of health and care is happening everywhere and it is changing the way we do everything. Some people will find this difficult, but it offers us all many social, economic and health-related opportunities.
“We want to discuss these opportunities along with the contribution digital solutions will make to the future of active and healthy ageing – how to achieve better deployment at scale for these solutions, how the many different stakeholders can contribute and how we can develop more effective relationships and ecosystems. By coming to the AAL Forum, you will meet people with a lot of experience of working on these issues.”
“AAL can help to do that and that is what we need to work towards now – but we need to work together, with strong inter-relationships and not just within AAL, but with others in the market – care homes, standards organisations, SMEs, financial and insurance companies – all have a big part to play and I would like to see all at the forum to play their part.”
Register to the AAL Forum here!