European high-level panel consults on ICT solutions to help elderly to live more independently
Date: Wed, 06/09/2010 - 12:54
A consultation inviting citizens, businesses and researchers to share ideas on how best to use information and communications technologies (ICTs) to help older Europeans live more independently, and more generally to establish new ways to put ICTs at the service of the most vulnerable members of society, has been launched by a high-level panel established to advise the European Commission on the functioning of the Ambient Assisted Living joint programme (AAL JP)
The panel is chaired by former European Commissioner Meglena Kuneva. The public consultation is the first step towards meeting the target of doubling the take-up of independent living arrangements for the elderly by 2015 set by the Digital Agenda. The consultation runs until 1 July 2010.
Digital Agenda Commissioner Neelie Kroes said: "Information and communications technologies have immense potential to improve the quality of life and health of older people and other vulnerable members of society in very practical ways. Such applications are an important part of the Digital Agenda for Europe. I therefore encourage users, researchers and businesses to let us know how we can best improve the Ambient Assisted Living joint programme."
The Ambient Assisted Living joint programme, which involves both the European Commission and EU Member States, aims to ensure that ICTs permit a more independent and dignified life for elderly people who are socially isolated, frail, suffer from chronic conditions or have disabilities, and inter alia develops new solutions to deal with such problems as preventing falls and supporting sufferers of dementia. Such applications improve older and vulnerable people's quality of life, keep down the cost of social and health care and open new market opportunities for Europe's industry and service providers.
Examples of Ambient Assisted Living research projects include, for example, 'eldercare social robots' which can help perform daily tasks such as lifting or cooking, or set off an alarm if an in-built camera registers that a person has fallen. Another example is a 'smart home' environment, where smart cameras interpret the activities of people and can communicate changes in their behaviour to emergency centres. Advanced research is also being carried out to develop brain-controlled exoskeletons, external outfits that restore the walking ability of frail people by responding to nerve movement in the legs.
More than € 1 billion is being invested by the public and private sector in Europe in research and innovation for ageing well: some €600 million in the AAL joint programme (AAL JP), approximately €400 million in the EU's research framework programme and more than €50 million so far in the EU's ICT Policy Support Programme. The AAL JP initiative also targets innovative small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), with SMEs accounting for approximately 40% of AAL JP participants.
The AAL JP brings together 20 EU Member States (Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the UK), three associated countries (Israel, Norway and Switzerland) and the European Commission. It supports solutions that can be launched on the market in two to three years and become commercially viable. This brings new business opportunities and huge savings in the cost of social and health care. For example, telecare solutions can cut the costs of home care services by up to 30%.