The European Commission has announced that it is to invest more than €1bn on research into new technologies that can improve the lives of older people.
The commission said on Thursday that it had adopted a new action plan as part of its "Ageing Well in the Information Society" initiative.
The main goals of the plan are to raise awareness, establish enabling conditions such as regulations, technology and skills, promote the widespread take-up of ICT, and to prepare for future challenges through joint research, innovation and dissemination.
The plan is accompanied by a joint public-private research programme dedicated to "ambient assisted living". The new programme aims to foster the emergence of innovative, ICT-based products, services and systems for Europe's ageing population.
The commission said between now and 2013the EU and the private sector will invest more than €1bn in research and innovation for older people. Some €600m is to be invested in the ambient assisted living programme, while a further €400m is included in the EU's latest research framework programme. In addition, about €30m in research funds has been made available this year under the European Union's ICT Policy Support Programme.
By 2020, 25 per cent of the EU's population will be over 65. The Commission believes that ICT will increasingly allow older people to stay active and productive for longer; to continue to engage in society with more accessible online services; and to enjoy a healthier and higher quality of life for longer.
However, it notes that at present, 10 per cent of older people use the internet and that severe vision, hearing or dexterity problems frustrate many individuals' attempts to engage in the information society.
According to the commission, these new initiatives will help to address this and will contribute to allowing older Europeans to stay active for longer and live independently. It said that the action plan and research programme will enable a better quality of life for elderly people, make significant cost-savings in health and social care possible and create a strong industrial basis for ICT and ageing in Europe.
Furthermore, the commission believes that the initiatives could also help Europe become a lead market in ICT for the "ageing well".
"Europe's ageing population is a challenge for our job market and its social and health systems. But it is also an economic and social opportunity. ICT will provide new and more accessible products and services that meet the needs of older people," said Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for the Information Society and Media.
"These two initiatives will mobilise digital technologies that will improve the daily lives and social participation of older people and create new opportunities for Europe's industry," she added.
© 2007 ENN