The number of older people in Europe is increasing rapidly. How do we tackle this social challenge? One of the answers is: with the help of technology.
The big European AAL Forum, which closed Thursday 26 September 2013 in Norrköping (Sweden), displayed many advanced innovations for the older adults: robot assistants; bicycles connected to Google maps; networked services to help socializations; video systems to prevent isolation to mention few.
“We want Active and Healthy Ageing to be widespread across Europe by 2020”, said Mike Biddle, President of the AAL Association. And he continued ”this will take time and it will require co-ordinated effort which is why I’m so pleased that the political process is now underway to define and develop a follow-up to our Joint Programme. This Forum was an ideal opportunity for us to think about how we can continue to work together and reach out to other stakeholders so that independent living can be truly the first choice for everyone – a reliable, affordable, ethical and pleasant choice”.
The AAL Forum is the largest annual event in the EU program Ambient Assisted Living Joint Programme and it was organized this year in Sweden. The Forum is not only a conference and an exhibition, but also a place for networking between European experts in the field. 800 participants from across Europe participated in the AAL Forum and some 46 exhibitors, among which 24 AAL JP projects, showcased in the exhibition area. During the Forum researchers, entrepreneurs, innovators and influencers have met from across Europe to discuss solutions to the future challenges of an aeging population. However, an ageing society does not only present challenges, but it creates also a potentially huge market opportunity. “We must prepare ourselves for an older population. First, we must work proactively so that the individual stays healthy longer. That is why we need to work in a different manner in care so that resources are sufficient, and in this context, new technologies could be crucial”, says Eva Nilsson Bågenholm, the government’s senior coordinator who participated at the opening of the AAL Forum at the Louis de Geer Concert Hall in Norrköping.
Highlights of the Forum were the AAL Award and the Young Researcher’s workshop.
The Award of the Forum was this year in its third edition and it brought three AAL JP projects (ConnectedVitality, IwalkActive and MobileSage) to the final “dragon’s den” of the Forum. The candidates pitched on stage during a plenary session, which was moderated by the Swedish TV journalist Catarina Rolfsdotter-Jansson. The panel of evaluation was composed of three renowned experts in different fields and the final vote, for the first time, took also into consideration the public. The winner of this year was IWalkActive, a “rollator” (wheeled walker) system that enhances mobility of older adults in various surfaces and it is integrated with additional services, that together greatly improve the user’s mobility in an pleasant and motivating way.
As part of the event a hackathon – during 36 consecutive hours – started on Tuesday arranged by Medea at the Malmö University in collaboration with Linköping University. Some 20 young scientists were commissioned to explore how the use of digital aids can increase older people’s ability to work after 65 years old.
In the closing session the location for next year’s Forum was announced: Bucharest, the capital of Romania, and it will take place in September 2014
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