and said: ‘you can be young at eighty or old at 60’ and that I think says it all. We need to move past thinking about age in terms of chronological age – we can be young at 80.
But isn’t that idea different to actually being realistic that people do have real problems when they get to a certain age, mobility, chronic disease, etc. Some don’t, and we can increase those numbers, but isn’t that a separate issue? We are still going to have to deal with certain aspects of ageing as a problem to manage?
I think this is where the social innovation comes from, which is how do link the two? How do you make living more joyful? As you get to later years, yes you are going to need to support in various ways – you have probably a one in three chance of getting a long-term condition, but then your condition doesn’t define you, age won’t define you. If, for example, you have diabetes type 1 or type 2 at any age, there are ways of managing that and clearly you need to think about how you can manage it and what technology can do to support that. But you are not a diabetes patient, you are just someone who happens to have diabetes. That’s the mindset change, which is starting to come.
So it’s a big year next year with the European Year of Active Ageing and with the EIP coming into force. How do you see AAL fitting into the whole innovation picture in Europe?
It’s a great opportunity for the AAL JP. What we’re trying to do with the EIP is achieve the triple win, and try to move things closer to market in the innovation space, which I think is part of the space that AAL is occupying. We’ve just had our fourth call for proposals, so we’re a toddler, we’re finding our way a bit and we’re starting to think what can we do there and I think the language of the EIP is helpful - Active and Healthy Ageing, it’s a more positive outlook. I think that’s where AAL can start to come in and help with that. So as a partnership of 23 countries,
we need to think about how we can move this field on, how can we move past the pilots and the demonstrators. A lot of the things that EIP is trying to do, and the Year of Active Ageing 2012 also supports, is to raise awareness. The programmes may be known about within the community but we need to go beyond that now so it’s not just about information communications technology but about how we reach out to people in the health sector, the social sector, in housing sectors and every other relevant sector.
Do you have a vision for that?
That’s why I think EIP and AAL JP have an opportunity to bring all those people together. It’s only through a conversation and by involving people that we will have it, and we need to construct programmes so that people come together and identify the needs and then we can set the challenge for organisations to change, business to change and innovate, and we can then grow the SMEs. What’s interesting about AAL is that 40-50 per cent of organisations that interact with the calls tend to be SMEs and as SMEs grow then so will we. The other thing that’s interesting about
this agenda is that it won’t just be one organisation that delivers it. When you’re talking about support for people it will tend to be provided on a local and regional level – but as one speaker said, the principal thing we have for delivering care is our hands, and no matter what technology you have around, you are going to need people to deliver this, we are social beings. So we can build supply chains and build businesses but some of that will be realised locally with people on the ground.
You sound very optimistic about AAL and about us growing older as a society, is that true?
I tend to be optimistic anyway, but I think that ageing should be a joyful process and we can help make that happen, I think AAL can help to build the technology, the services and the systems and the companies which can take that forward. We do have work to do; the one thing we do know is that we have to change, but with change comes opportunity. Overall I’m positive, some people might
say we’re in a crisis so now is not the time to invest in this, but the thing is, I come back to the word tipping point or pivot, it’s not how do we do what we currently do, we’ll make that cheaper or better, it’s actually about what we need when we look at 2020, 2040 and so on – and all the statistics say we need to change. There’s always going to be a reason for
not changing now, but that will never get you to the point where you end up with what you need to end up with.
The AAL JP ends in 2013 and needs backing from the European Parliament, the Council, commitment from the Commission and support of its 23 member countries to carry on. Are you confident this will happen?
We are a programme until 2013 and actually some of the projects that have been funded will run out in 2017, so these things go on. We have an opportunity to
take that forward and we need to think about how things are changing. We’ve learnt much in the last four years in terms of what is it that we need to do, what it is we need to modify, what we need to do more of or less of and what to focus on. Now we have the opportunity to look at what should come next, and in my mind that’s not more of the same, it’s about how we drive forward in a way that will have impact, so we move past pilots and demonstrators and start to look at delivery and deployment. One of the measures politicians will
look for is economic impact. Everything may be fantastic, but they want to see that tax payer’s money is delivering jobs and income, taxes and everything else.
It hasn’t yet, when do you think we’ll see that delivery?
You’re starting to see things here - various people were talking about concepts last year, now we’re seeing things that can be realised. That makes sense – we were trying to find projects that would run for two to three years and now they were supposed to be two years from market, so in the next couple of years they will start to come through. It is a longer game. You’re right,
evaluation and impact assessment will be an important thing to show but most people agree if you’re investing in research and innovation you will drive things forward for the future. We need to show what that is and how we’ve achieved it.
I’ve spoken to several people who’ve got products here and I’ve asked have new jobs been created by this work and some of them have said yes, we are employing people to do this. They are making money.
Yes I think some of the connections are building, and it’s events like this that show it’s not so much about competing with everybody, it’s working with what you can collaborate on. With the amount of investment we’ve had, that is going to create jobs and so on. What we need to do now is make sure that it’s something sustainable. We all keep talking about sustainability in the context of the green agenda, I think in this space it’s all about social sustainability and I think that fits with some of the social innovation that taking place. Fundamentally though, and this is part
of the triple-bottom line that people refer to in terms of sustainability, it’s about economic sustainability, You’re right that politicians and funders in the 23 countries and European Commissioners all need to see that we’re delivering that, and we need to continue to take that idea forward and continue to deliver.
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