Ageing during the digital revolution

Support for the ENTELIS cause to reduce the digital divide came from EC Commissioner Guenther Oettinger , who highlighted in his opening speech to the Summit on Innovation for Active and Health Aging (Brussels, 9/10 March 2015) the need for the development of digital competence among elderly in order to take full advantage of the digital revolution and the opportunities offered by e-Health and e-Care programmes . He said this to an audience of multiple stakeholders, all very active in the field of ageing, e-health and social care and what is called “the silver economy”.

The summit was characterized by good panel sessions and showcases of innovative technologies for the empowerment of the ageing population in order to offer senior citizens longer independence in their home environment and better qualities of life. Nevertheless some speakers complained about the lack of progress over the last years. Where the medium adaptation period to new technologies in some fields have shown an incredible reduction over the last 40 years, the health and social care sector seem more resistant to change. One reason might be, as someone put it,  that change in this market is not driven by the consumers, like in other markets. Frail elderly, coping with functional decline are probably not the most motivated learners of the functioning of new devices, remote services and applications. All true that assistive solutions need to be intuitive and easy to use, adaptable to the user, that staff has definitely to be trained to work in a new way, but at the same time efforts have to go into the digital skills development of all seniors. This links education and empowerment on the one hand to prevention and sustainability of care on the other hand.  “Don’t try to kill the elephant in one shot”, someone said, referring to the common truth that not all problems can be solved at once, but reducing the digital divide NOW, means reducing the impact of one of the killer factors of societal change and investing in a better and more sustainable future for all.