Independent living in an ageing society

Nikola Benin

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Europe is facing a major societal challenge in the fact of a rapidly increasing ageing population. A key challenge is to find real solutions to ensure that our older citizens are able to live healthy, fulfilling and independent lives whilst keeping health and care systems sustainable. Exciting and groundbreaking EU research and innovation efforts look set to deliver these solutions.
With each passing year, Europeans are living longer. Although this is to be applauded, there will be increasing demands for health, social and informal care services over the coming decades. This will have real effects on how we live, work and shape our external and domestic environments – home, communities, cities and towns. Questions over who is (or who should be) responsible for health and social care will be at the top of political agendas and concrete answers must be provided. At the same time, the changing age structure of our society can also open up new opportunities for innovation in the digital economy and society.

Showcasing innovative solutions

This CORDIS Results Pack highlights how EU-funded projects are seizing the initiative. Each one has developed or harnessed new technologies or ICT solutions that address the pressing challenges of caring for and assisting European citizens in or approaching their ‘golden years.’

For example, game-changing advances in the rapidly evolving field of robotics. The SILVER project has mobilised joint Public Procurement of innovation across a number of EU countries to create a robotic, mobile personal assistant designed to help elderly citizens live independently at home. The MARIO project meanwhile is pioneering advances in Human Robot Interaction to support patients suffering from debilitating cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s. Finally, the ALFRED project has integrated robotic and online components, including a mobile, personalised Butler, into a fully functional system that will provide context-sensitive services related to social inclusion, care, physical exercise and cognitive games.

Other projects have created devices and solutions for the prevention and detection of falls. The FATE project set the groundwork for the commercialisation of a portable fall detector that can be worn on a belt with all user/device interactions carried out through an easy-to-use Android app. The IDONTFALL and ISTOPPFALLS projects have also provided solutions and platforms that will help to guarantee the physical safety of older persons.

The eight projects within this Results Pack have shown the way forward on how social and digital innovation have crucial roles to play in integrating health and social care and promoting social transformation.

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