One of the many breakout sessions at the Forum 2011 The first EIP, planned to come into force at the beginning of
2012 has a focus on Active and Healthy Ageing, principally because the EC has recognised the compelling need for action to be taken to promote better ageing and the commercial opportunities this brings, particularly in the use of ICT. These are aims set out by the Commission with its vision for 2020 and it sees in AAL the success of pooling knowledge and resources in a collaborative approach. It represents a great opportunity for the AAL JP projects and participating SMEs. Areas being focused on in this partnership for Active and Healthy Ageing will be prevention, care and cure and active ageing and independent living. This promising new approach to the challenge presented
by our ageing society will need a commitment from a variety of actors to succeed and, the Forum was told, support by AAL was crucial. There is a need to work across silos, with the wide range of stakeholders and not just those in the health sector, in order for the elderly to remain active. It is vital, therefore, that more of what the AAL JP is doing is communicated across the whole innovation chain and that it gains support by all stakeholders. While the need for further commercialisation of results
to create impact, the need to remove barriers that exist for innovation and the need for an understanding of how innovative ICT solutions can be applied to the needs of our ageing population were all prominant themes, there was one phrase that strode over the Forum like a giant – social innovation. It is a phrase that encompasses much of what AAL is seeking to achieve and a concept that both started and ended the main debates. But what is social innovation and why is it important? In essence, when applied to the AAL context, social
innovation is simply a new way to organise and deliver new services to a changing society. It is not just about providing new technology to make people’s lives easier, although it may involve that, and it is not just about putting in place monitoring devices and warning systems to keep watch over the most vulnerable, though it certainly involves that, too. Social innovation goes deeper than that and is about people, society and creating new value that benefits the whole of society and not just the elderly. It is about connectedness and using our need for social relationships to keep us well and happy. Misha Pavel, Programme Director at the National Science
Foundation in the US, provided a good illustration of how products and processes should be linked to offer innovative solutions. When a sick person goes to the doctor, he said, the doctor sees the sick person and not the whole person. Technology enables the doctor to see the whole person through a collection of relevant data, while the data can also be used by patients to make decisions about how they live their lives. Social innovation is about creating an ecosystem that applies this technology to new services and processes throughout life so that the elderly generation (and not just today’s elderly, but all elderly generations to come) are able to live active and healthy lives. Social innovation is about changing our environment to make it more appropriate for
older people, it is about changing the attitudes and habits of old people, while at the same time changing attitudes to old people; it is about valuing the older person’s experience and providing him or her with a voice that can be heard. The message is clear from the Forum – social innovation creates social integration across the generations where the elderly are not just seen as a negative cost but also a positive asset. The Joing Programme is working on the solutions that make social innovation possible through technology, while at the same time exploiting the need we have for this innovation to create jobs and prosperity for the whole of European society. The Forum hosted five tracks and several side events
besides the main plenary sessions. The tracks examined in critical detail aspects of wellbeing and care of older adults with chronic conditions, the need for social interaction and promoting connectedness, how older people can benefit from the “self-serve” society and ageing in the global context. There was also a group of discussions that brought together the AAL community to discuss how they can influence future AAL JP calls, for example in the area of primary prevention and the development of better user interfaces, while another looked more closely at the European policy for ageing well. The side events also included information on and discussion
about topics like intellectual property rights (IPR), AAL in the built environment, social robotics, and platforms on social innovation and quality of life. One side event, organised by the AALOA association, included a technical oriented competition and award, this year on the topic “Indoor localisation and tracking for AAL”. The Forum also saw the Young Researchers Forum take
place, a side event that gave young researchers the chance to outline the work in which they are involved, present posters and discuss issues relating to their work with AAL. The Forum also saw its first annual project award, a
prestigious prize presented to the AAL JP project based on its level and quality of end user integration, the overall level of innovation and its market potential. The overall aim of the award was not only to reward what the judges considered to be the most valuable AALJP project based on those criteria, but to raise the overall awareness of AAL innovation as a whole. Shortlisted for the award were:
CAPMOUSE - a project developing truly handsfree interaction with the computer through a tongue- controlled mouse.
ExCITE - a project looking to enable social interaction through a low-cost audio visual device called the Giraff, a robotic telepresence operated by the carer.
HOPE – a project that looks to help elderly people in the home carry out everyday tasks, monitor their health and lead more independent lives.
IS-ACTIVE – a project developing inertial sensing systems for monitoring advanced chronic conditions and providing risk assessment.
The winner of the first AAL Forum prize was ExCITE and its
Giraff - see page 16 for more details. Finally, with its exhibition of successful AAL projects and
innovative SMEs working within the AAL JP framework, the Forum provided an insight into how technology is enabling support to older adults, while at the same time providing concrete evidence of the commercial viability of the solutions being demonstrated. From monitoring services to communication devices and from social media applications to combat loneliness to management services for chronic diseases, it is clear AAL is getting results and making an impact.
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