According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), physical and social environments are key determinants of whether people can remain healthy, independent and autonomous long into their old age. Creating age-friendly environments is therefore one of the most effective approaches to respond to demographic change. To support this approach, the AFE-INNOVNET thematic network on innovation for age-friendly environments kicked off early February with the support of the European CIP ICT PSP Programme and will run for two years.
Objectives of the AFE-INNOVNET
The overarching goal of this thematic network is to support the D4 Action Group of the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing by setting up a large European wide community of local and regional authorities and other relevant stakeholders who want to work together to find smart and innovative evidence based solutions to support active and healthy ageing and develop age-friendly environments.
The consortium and supporting partners have joined forces to:
- mobilise a wide range of local and regional authorities and other stakeholders – industries, research centres, universities, civil society organizations – to link up, benefit from each other’s experience and work together to promote initiatives on age-friendly environments across Europe;
- develop methodologies to help local and regional authorities assess the socioeconomic impact of age-friendly environments and the benefits of involving older people in the co-production of age-friendly environments solutions;
- develop a repository of notable and replicable practices in innovative solutions for age-friendly environments with associated socio-economic evidence;
- launch an EU Covenant on Demographic Change to create the necessary political and technical framework to bring together in a more formal and long-term structure local and regional authorities – and other stakeholders - across Europe, using the model of the existing Covenant of Mayors on sustainable energy.
By enabling local and regional authorities, as well as other stakeholders, to link up and join forces, the Thematic Network will set up the necessary framework to mobilise and support an European wide uptake of smart and innovative solutions for age-friendly environments solutions which have demonstrated a positive socio-economic impact. It will help local and regional authorities to respond to Europe’s demographic challenge by stimulating investment and facilitating the deployment of innovative ICT and social solutions to help older people to age in better health and remain active for longer, lowering the pressure on social and healthcare systems and fostering longer working lives. This wide mobilisation should also help develop a European wide single market for innovative ICT based silver economy products and services.
What do we mean by age-friendly environments?
Creating Age-friendly Environments means adapting our everyday living environment to the needs of the ageing population in order to empower people to age in better physical and mental health, promote their social inclusion and active participation, support them maintain their autonomy and a good quality of life in their old age. They enable older workers to remain at work for longer, lower the pressure on traditional care and assistance and boost the economy through demand for innovative solutions.
This allows us to face Europe’s demographic change with a comprehensive approach. This will help lower the pressure on public budgets and will enable our societies to better cope with demographic ageing in a way that is fair for all generations.
A strong collaboration already exists with WHO thanks to the involvement of WHO-Europe in an advisory capacity into AFE-INNOVNET. In addition to that the technical proposal “Age-Friendly Environments in Europe” conducted by WHO-Europe with the funding support of DG Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion is very complementary to the work to be developed by AFE-INNOVNET consortium.
Composition of AFE INNOVNET consortium
The consortium is composed of 27 partners from 16 EU countries and includes 12 cities and 5 regions. The project is led by a Steering Group composed of AGE Platform Europe, CEMR (Council of European Municipalities and Regions), TNO (Dutch Research Centre), Polibienestar Research Institute – University of Valencia, PAU Education and the Louth County Council (Ireland). The project will run in close cooperation with WHO Europe.
How to get involved?
The project will open up to new partners in April. Interested? Please visit the project website. You will soon be able to subscribe to the AFE-INNOVNET monthly newsletter, contribute to the blog, and to join the Network.
You can also join the conversation on LinkedIn and Twitter.
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INTERVIEW: Christina Dziewanska-Stringer
Policy Adviser on Employment and Social Affairs,
the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR)
- In what way do you believe the AFE INNOVNET project is likely to bring about real innovative changes to address population ageing in Europe?
As a European network- bringing together different actors in the field of ICT-led solutions – there is a lot of added value to bring. Not only in terms of facilitating contacts between local/regional authorities and research partners, private sector and civil society, but also to give a platform for everyone to exchange on their experiences, ideas and innovations.
As a second point, this project will develop methodologies to help local and regional authorities assess the socio-economic impact of having an age-friendly environment. In the current context of limited resources and pressures on local and regional authorities, such help can provide a good catalyst for working towards developing an age-friendly environment.
- Why is it important for CEMR to be involved in this project? And what would be your role in the project?
For us, it is fundamental to be involved from the first stage in designing and developing EU tools that can help local and regional authorities advance their policy goals. Active ageing, demographic change are high on the agenda , and we believe by allowing them to have direct links with other players such as research institutes, civil society and future users, can help them to develop policies which match the needs and means on the ground. We feel we are best placed to accompany our members in such a process, which is therefore why we are leading the ‘mobilisation’ work package of the project; aiming to involve as many relevant stakeholders in this network as possible. Alongside this, the CEMR will provide ideas for developing a future Covenant on Demographic change, to enable the network to have a sustainable future, built on local expertise and experiences.
The CEMR has launched its campaign ahead of the European Parliament elections, with one of the priorities being to develop an age-friendly environment. Follow our campaign here and join the conversation using #myEUvoice