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The silver economy as a golden opportunity: making the Internet of Things work for older adults

The opportunities created by an ageing population and the expansion of the silver economy are often overlooked. AAL’s Smart Ageing Prize aims to highlight the transformative potential of the Internet of Things (IoT) by supporting IoT products and services for older adults to enter the market. Meet the fifteen finalists below and find out how their IoT solutions facilitate independent living, reduce social isolation and manage chronic conditions.   

The global population is ageing at an unprecedented rate. By 2060 one in three Europeans will be over 65. The challenges of this demographic shift are well known. Less talked about are the parallel opportunities presented by this demographic shift through the growth of the silver economy: recognising older adults as consumers as well as active economic contributors.

Many older adults report frustrations that companies selling products to them don’t treat them like the intelligent and discerning consumers they are. People are also ever more willing and able to embrace technological solutions to the problems they face as they age. This growing and unmet demand is creating an opportunity for innovative products and services that empower older adults to continue to lead independent lives and play an active role in society.

The Active and Assistive Living (AAL) Programme is a €700 million funding initiative focused exclusively on developing ICT solutions for active and healthy ageing. The AAL Programme has identified the Internet of Things as a transformative technology that could be harnessed for the needs and wants of older adults, but one that is some time away from becoming mainstream. To help bridge this gap AAL launched the Smart Ageing prize, a €50,000 competition to raise awareness of the economic potential of this market segment and to bring IoT devices for older adults to market within the next 12 months.

15 finalists have been selected and are being supported to demonstrate innovative uses of IoT, from facilitating independent living to enhancing people’s social life and ameliorating physical ailments. The winner of the €50,000 prize will be announced at AAL’s 2016 Forum.

Using IoT to facilitate independent living

Allowing older adults to stay at home longer and live as independently as possible, for as long as possible, presents a significant opportunity for IoT devices to positively impact everyday life. So it was unsurprising that independent living was the biggest trend amongst the finalists.

Kemuri has developed smart power sockets with inbuilt sensors that detect abnormalities in patterns of activity. While Alcove’s RIOT sends a nudge to an older adults via a wearable or in-home device when a change in normal behaviour is detected. Anne, your personal assistant, takes a different approach, using a virtual avatar on a screen to respond to and execute commands using speech recognition.

Within the limitless possibilities of smart home technologies, a number of services are already emerging that act as simple-to-use aggregators of IoT technologies. The RelaxedCare Cube allows older people to connect to the internet and integrates with other IoT services so they can be managed in one place. Similarly, TAVLA offers an app platform for care providers to upload their services and reach users more easily.

Another innovative use of the internet of things is tagging valuable objects to make them easily locatable, providing peace of mind for older adults living in retirement homes; this is the mission of Ubiquid.

Connectivity to reduce social isolation

Limiting social isolation can be as simple as packaging existing technologies in a format that makes them accessible to everyone. Flux is a video chat device with a very simple interface that connects older generations to their family and displays a photograph when not in use. In the workplace, CogniWin assists older adults to remain at work for longer by providing a number of tools to support wellbeing.

Technology to limit the impact of physical conditions

The final major theme is assistive devices supporting the management of physical conditions. Visual Assistant enables those with visual impairments to use their smart devices as well as to navigate around their homes or the wider world by enhancing the sight they have. GiveVision SightPlus enables people with sight impairments to see again by combining real time video augmentation with heads-up display technology. Talkitt focuses on speech impairment with a mobile app that translates unintelligible sounds into clear speech in real time.

Several of the finalists tackle memory loss. AlzhUp aggregates non-pharmacological therapies on to one digital platform to help users live with and delay the cognitive effects of Alzheimer’s. Memrica Prompt is a digital service that emulates the way memory works by creating contextual records of shared history to help older adults prepare for social events and journeys.

For older adults with conditions that mean they can’t exercise freely outdoors, Activ84 Health Explorer allows users to cycle indoors and experience the outside world virtually using Google Streetview.

To find out more about the Smart Ageing Prize and the progress of our finalists visit our website and follow #SmartAgeing on Twitter.

Photo credits: TAVLA, Flux


Pippa Smith

Pippa Smith

Pippa Smith

Assistant Programme Manager

Pippa was an Assistant Programme Manager in the Challenge Prize Centre, working on European prizes including the European Social Innovation Competition and the Smart Ageing Prize.

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