Digital health and care: listen to what older persons think!

Guest article by Julia Wadoux, Policy Coordinator for Health, New Technologies and Accessibility, AGE Platform Europe

Obviously, the topic of digital health and care in an ageing context is highly visible today: the only unit within the European Commission explicitly referring to ageing is in DG CONNECT (Unit H3 “eHealth, Well-Being and Ageing”), numerous projects funded by the European Union aim at developing new technologies to support ageing well and independent living and the recent Communication on the Digital Transformation of Health and Care makes a clear reference to ageing as one of the challenge to be met. So plenty of good reasons for AGE Platform Europe to get engage in this area, but what are we advocating for?

The work conducted by AGE in the area of digital health relies on two legs: first an active involvement in EU funded projects, like i-Prognosis, FrailSafe or Maturolife, secondly policy and advocacy work through initiatives like the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing or the eHealth Stakeholders Group, with strong interconnections between the two. Whatever the channel used, we do convey the same main messages:

  • Develop solutions with users and not for users in order to make the most of the experience and expertise of older persons. As stated by the WHO “Older people are the ultimate experts of their own lives” (Global Age-friendly Cities: A guide, 2007).
  • Take into account the triple A: Accessibility, affordability and availability. These criteria are crucial to close the digital gap and avoid creating further inequalities, including geographical ones. If the digitalisation in the health are can enhance access to health and care services, it can also further exclude persons in vulnerable situations.
  • Always include a human rights impact assessment to make sure that the developed solutions will respect key principles such as dignity, liberty and security, equality and non-discrimination.

 The testimony posted by our Vice-President José-Luis Tejedor on our blog for the Ageing Equal Campaign summarises well the objectives of AGE when it comes to digital health technologies:

“It’s true that digitalization can bring different ways to monitor health parameters of people staying at home but, surprisingly, no one has paid enough attention to know whether and how those people wanted to be monitored while their intimacy (no way to use cameras of any type!) and the privacy of their personal data may be at threat. The insufficient dialogue between researchers/suppliers and end-users/customer doesn’t help to optimize the design of future care models either. (…)

In short: people, regardless of age and digital literacy, can’t be ignored when designing and introducing new digital initiatives and tools. If we want human rights to be respected, the coming digital world must be designed with and for all citizens.

Ageing Equal Campaign – “Digital Society: A better world… for all?” Blog post by José-Luis Tejedor, AGE Platform Europe Vice-President



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