Adaptable and age-friendly, smart solutions can help improve and support independent living throughout the life course, independent of age, gender, impairments, cultural differences and personal choices. A holistic approach that optimises peoples’ social and physical environments, supported on digital tools and services delivering better health and care improves not only independent living, but also equity and an active participation in society. The United Nations stated, with the Sustainable Development Goals (in particular Goals 3 and 11) that sustainable age-friendly environments represent the baseline for guaranteeing a better future for the whole population and for addressing most of the growing ageing population issues.
Many older adults, close to retirement age or beyond, are very efficient, experienced and competent professionals, who shall be empowered to continue their active working lives, as long as they wish, including with the help of digital health innovations, as mentioned also in the recently adopted Council Conclusions on “Human Rights, Participation and Well-Being of Older Persons in the Era of Digitalisation”.
In Europe, considered as the most ageing continent of the world, this concept is of great interest, as the vast majority of people prefer to remain in their own home as they get older and this can help to reduce pressure on the health and care systems. Also, people with chronic illnesses can benefit from telemedicine, smartphone apps, and biosensors for remote monitoring and diagnosis, enabling early detection of symptoms and better patient outcomes, but innovation often takes too long to be adopted and upscaled. A huge share of the building stock is also not adapted to permit ageing in place. In addition, bringing new smart home solutions to market is still challenging because of the absence of a common EU market and economies of scale.
EU wide action in the field of smart, healthy age- and work- friendly environments is needed in order to increase the visibility and credibility of the initiatives which already exist, nationally or regionally. Important actions have already been taken in the framework of the EIP-AHA Action Group on Age-Friendly environments and Independent Living, as well as on the ongoing work of SHAFE Stakeholders Network and of many EU-funded projects, such as Homes4Life, SAAM, GATEKEEPER, Reach2020, PHArA-ON, Smart Bear, NET4Age-Friendly. It also addresses challenges related to supporting well-being and health of ageing employees and employers in their working environments, as demonstrated in projects, such as: BIONIC, Co-Adapt, Ageing at Work, SeeFar, Smart Work, SustAge, Working Age.
These challenges of ICT, citizens and their communities, the building industry and urban planning and the health and care sector are interconnected. This platform will thus foster awareness and support to the creation and implementation of smart, healthy indoor and outdoor environments for present and future generations that will enable citizens to learn, grow up, work, socialise and enjoy a healthy life, by benefiting from the use of digital innovations, smart living, working and accessibility solutions and shared assistive models adaptable within the European setting.