Low birth rates and higher life expectancy are transforming the shape of Europe’s age pyramid and Europe as a whole, with consequences for daily life for all Europeans. Very likely, the most significant change will be the transition towards a much older population structure, a development which already is well perceived in our society.
In with the ongoing digitisation of society, new opportunities arise to foster living and working environments that can assist citizens to live and promote a healthy, and independent life. However, single digital solutions are not the panacea to all issues and challenges within society. Citizens across different age groups also need personal human contacts and pandemic scenario is an opportunity for the digital revolution to be well thought and implemented.
A holistic approach is needed to optimise social and physical environments, supported by digital tools and services, that allow to provide better health and social care, promoting not only independent living, but also equity and active participation in society.
To tackle the issues and explore new approaches by promoting social inclusion, independent living and healthy ageing, a new COST Action is formed. NET4Age-Friendly which stands for: International Interdisciplinary Network on Smart Healthy Age-friendly Environments is supporting the creation and the implementation of smart, healthy indoor and outdoor environments for present and future generations.
“This action aims to promote Smart Healthy Age-Friendly Environments, to overcome fragmentation and several critical gaps that still exist, both at the conceptual and pragmatic levels of innovation, to address European research and policy challenges. The current Covid-19 pandemic brings social and economic consequences that will threaten the quality of life of the most vulnerable and, in this sense, NET4Age-Friendly can bring innovative proposals that tackle it and will be essential to keep these concerns at the top of the political agenda.” Says Carina, chairing the Action, thus capturing the very essence driving such an innovative COST Action.
The distinctive trait is multidisciplinary, and collaborative experience in addressing complex social and health needs, matured in the framework of the Smart Health Age Friendly Environment Network, (SHAFE).
The main approach of the Action is the establishment of local or regional ecosystems in each country involved, to work on health and well-being in an age-friendly digital world, all combined in an inclusive environment. These ecosystems include citizens, public authorities, businesses/NGOs and researchers.
Such interdisciplinarity is also reflected in the focus of the activities of the working groups. Several approaches are being studied such as:
- User-centred inclusive design of age-friendly environments and communities;
- Integrated health and well-being pathways focusing on policies, regulations and practice of integrated age friendly;
- Digital solutions and large-scale sustainable implementation. Smart technologies in co-creation;
- Policy development, funding forecast and cost-benefit evaluations;
The outcomes of the thematic working groups will be integrated through a fifth group in a single Reference Framework, which will be the main result of the project.
NET4AGE-FRIENDLY is an international network of researchers from 44 countries including Japan, Switzerland, Norway, United Kingdom and Georgia. The Action participants work with a broad range of stakeholders at all levels of society, such as citizens advocacy, universities, politics, public administration, entrepreneurs in different fields such as ICT, health, and social care, building and construction companies, urban planners/architects.
The network Vice-Chair, Willeke van Staalduinen, added “So many different researchers from East, West, North and South develop local and regional initiatives and may inspire many more areas in connected countries provided that they are connected. NET4Age-Friendly will support and stimulate the establishment of connected local and regional ecosystems for Smart Healthy Age-Friendly Environments”.
Net4 participants are currently focusing on iteratively building a shared knowledgebase, and on an ontology linking SHAFE domains, that will represent a valuable asset for participant ecosystems.
The NET4Age-Friendly community has also opened its webinar cycle with a workshop dedicated to explain the Smart Health Age Friendly Environment concept. During the previous event, the Action Chair, Carina Dantas, and the Vice-Chair, Willeke van Staalduinen, provided an overview of the core principles guiding the efforts and commitment of the broad NET4 coalition to address the societal challenges through innovative, multidisciplinary solutions. Watch the concept-explained presentation here.
View the COST Action website
View net4age website: www.net4age.eu/