The role of Health & Care ecosystems for an Active & Healthy Ageing Decade

UPDATE April 2023: the final report of phase 2 of the Eco-System Support Action is available here

While the AAL Programme’s focus has been on supporting innovation for active & healthy ageing through collaborative projects, the need for aggregating and integrating these individual innovation initiatives into the local socio-economic fabric of countries is of paramount importance. Such integration goes well beyond stakeholder consultations and networks. It calls for a wider system, in which actors regularly collaborate and compete – an ecosystem dimension.

Such health & care ecosystems already exist in various forms, shapes and levels of maturity in a number of European countries: from nascent, prototyped to developing and more mature health & care ecosystems. They are typically driven by combinations of players such as municipalities, care organisations/hospitals, universities or built around industrial clusters.

We believe that establishing hard facts about the innovation happening within these nascent and more mature ecosystems is necessary to achieve greater cross-fertilisation of innovation between local ecosystems, and the eventual up-scaling across many ecosystems in Europe.

Since 2019, the AAL Programme has worked to foster a dialogue between the members of our community and expanding the dialogue further in our activities through bringing together our stakeholders. In 2021, the AAL Programme launched a new support action with the aim to explore the already existing health & care ecosystems for active & healthy ageing while fostering open exchange for learning.

This support action aims to integrate AAL’s own experience and learnings on ecosystem building (see workshop at the AAL Forum in Aarhus, the initial internal thinking by the AAL strategy workgroup) with those from existing ecosystems within AAL member countries as well as from partner programmes such as EIPonAHA.

The ecosystem support action started off in early 2021 with a discovery phase to gain an overview of the already existing ecosystems around Europe and explore the different structures, sizes and functions that would allow us to create a common and grounded understanding of what can we consider an ecosystem.

We hope that this integration of evidence and learning will help to determine how to support continuous innovation for active & healthy ageing through health & care eco-systems.

This support action is timely. The current Covid-19 pandemic has particularly hit the older population in Europe and internationally, in terms of death rates, vulnerability and lock-down measures. Local health & care eco-systems play a pivotal role in testing, deploying and upscaling continuous innovation making use of the latest technologies, organisational or social developments. These ecosystems can provide an answer to the need for greater collaboration between countries, regions and communities, but also between different sectors, professions and simply citizens.

Close interaction with the AAL community in the different countries and regions will help to bring to light existing and new initiatives for supporting the older population. This was already showed in a special interactive workshop organised in May 2021 and consisted of parallel discussions that fostered debates with distinguished speakers on such topics on the potential design of more sustainable health and care ecosystems, ways to improve European collaboration, the future of e-health and more. The learnings of this workshop can be found via this link.

The enclosed ecosystem baseline report summarises our current understanding & learning about the role of health & care ecosystems in driving transformation within the Active & Healthy Ageing decade, declared by the WHO. Access the report by clicking here.

Further activities took place in 2022 to support collaboration between health & care ecosystems with AAL’s participation at the Health Valley Event in Nijmegen, the Netherlands in March 2022 and during the European Week of Active and Healthy Ageing organised by the AAL Programme and partners in Gdansk, Poland in October 2022.

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