Ageing and Technology

The purpose of Ambient Assisted Living (AAL) is to enable older adults to live their lives autonomously and to remain active as long as possible. The aim of TA is to integrate the needs of the diverse user groups into technology development at an early stage.

The population structure in Europe is rapidly changing. The proportion of older people is increasing. This may make up for a growing market for assistive technologies. But it also puts additional pressure on our social and health care systems. The economic allocation patterns currently applied within the EU will have to change in order to reflect these challenges: While the economic potential of this development may be enormous, it is also crucial to take social justice into account.

Broadening the focus of research

TA contributes to this notion because it examines the usability of technologies for older people. In the process it includes not only economical, but also ethical and practical considerations. Who are the winners and who are the losers of this ongoing development? In other words – who benefits under what conditions, who bears the costs and who the possible risks? One of the goals is therefore to develop methods to identify the users’ specific needs and to consider them throughout the development process.

The European AAL-Joint Initiative

European research policy has recognized the challenge of demographic transition: An EC-funded initiative provides numerous programs for research and technology development in the field of Ambient Assisted Living (AAL) at the national and the EU level. In Austria, the respective programme is named benefit. It is operated by the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG).

The ITA has conducted many projects on the topic of technologies for the ageing. With our current work we examine the collaboration of research and development from different perspectives. This is especially important because it helps to better address the ethical challenges of AAL.

For example, the ongoing project Value Ageing deals with how best to implement European values in applied ICT development for the ageing.

Innovations always involve momentum, because technologies are developed by more than one individual or entity. It is therefore just as important for TA to look into the future with eyes wide open and to take possible impacts of technology in various fields into account. The project Value Ageing contributes to this kind of responsible research: A number of future scenarios serve to identify main challenges connected to the use of AAL on an ethical and a social level. The results are then converted into guidelines for further development and research.

Daughter shows mother how to use a tablet computer The use of technology often poses a critical step for older adults