As previously mentioned on this blog, the European Union designated 2012 as the European Year for Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations (EY2012). Seven months after its official launch, the European Commission has published ´The EU Contribution to Active Ageing and Solidarity between Generations´. This 19-page brochure presents the EU instruments that can support an active ageing policy – EU legislation, EU funding through the Structural and Cohesion Funds, EU research and innovation initiatives, and EU level strategies to facilitate mutual learning between Member States and regions – but concludes that “most of the work will need to be done in the Member States, at the national, regional and local levels and through collective bargaining processes”. The report also highlights the important role that the transport and ICT sectors play in supporting active ageing.
As stated in the brochure, the private sector can also support and contribute to active ageing, specifically, technology sectors such as the ICT sector. But before we explain how the ICT sector contributes to active ageing, let us specify what active ageing is and why it is so important. Active ageing means that senior citizens age healthy and independently – rather than having to depend on the younger generations – and, therefore, can continue contributing to society. It is a very important topic nowadays because from 2012, the European working-age population will start to decrease, while the over-60 population will continue to increase by about two million people a year. The increase of retired people resulting from this change of pattern will pose a serious problem for the economic development and the sustainability of the welfare state (pensions) among others. However, this risk can be turned into an opportunity to create a more sustainable society. In order to achieve this, companies, NGOs, the public sector and the younger generations must realize that they can improve their particular objectives if they rely on active and healthy senior citizens. Once they are convinced of this, they will need to associate and work together to truly contribute to an active ageing society.
As mentioned above, ICT represent a key sector for promoting an active ageing population. Particularly, ICT is the key that allows senior people to improve their quality of life by having access to education, work, leisure or political and social life. Through social innovation –the development of ideas to satisfy social needs-, Telefónica is developing and working on numerous initiatives for the elderly, such as adding value to their experience through volunteering, rewarding organizations for managing diversity in a sustainable manner through “Ability Awards”, facilitating the deployment of new health care services at home through mobility and remote care services developed by the “e-health” area of Telefónica and integrating people with disabilities in the labor market through ATAM.
In addition, Telefónica has reached an agreement with AGMT, the Association of the elders group of Telefónica, to identify new business opportunities in the elderly world – in Spain alone, senior people account for almost 8 million people -. A good example of this is the “Aquí estoy” (Here I am) service of Movistar, the Spanish commercial brand of Telefónica, which was launched this year. This service allows customers to know at all times, from the web or via mobile phone, where their dependent relatives are located.
Last but not least, Telefónica also contributes to active ageing through its Network of University Chairs. Currently, there are two Telefónica University Chairs that are working on active ageing: CAPTA, the Telefónica University Chair for the improvement of the personal autonomy at the University of Alcalá, and ICT and Society Ageing, the Telefónica University Chair at the University of León.
We will keep developing initiatives for the elderly through social innovation in those countries where we are present.