The world is ageing, and fast. In 2025, there will be more than 1.2 billion people over the age of 60, and in 2050 this number will have reached two billion. More than 80% of them will live in developing countries, but the average age will be greater in developed countries, as well as in China. Prolonged life expectancy, and a general drop in birth rates, are changing the shape of the population pyramid. Barring any major disruptions, Europe will go from having 2.7 workers per retiree to 1.8 workers in 2025. And yet the «elderly» of tomorrow will look nothing like those of today. They will be in considerably better health, and their economic situation will be better on average. At 65, even 75 years of age, their life expectancy and their «functional capacities» will allow them to remain active, useful, autonomous members of society, and to create projects and carry them through. At the same time, older people are more often at risk of long-term illness and minor or major disabilities. The major point here, though, is that their condition – in terms of health, physical and mental fitness, revenue and assets, and social capital – will be much weaker than that of other generations.
The ageing population is at once a challenge, an opportunity, and a change in our society’s very structure:
- How can we, in the face of inevitable ageing, continue to live our social lives (in a fixed or mobile situation), remain autonomous, make plans, and participate in political life, in other words, how can we keep on being stakeholders in society?
- What role can technology play in this plan? How can it help?
Over the last decade or so, these kinds of questions have introduced the idea of “active ageing,” which the UN defines as «the ongoing process of maximising opportunities for good health, participation, and safety with the aim of improving quality of life during old age.” For the World Health Organization (WHO), active ageing is “the ongoing process of maximising opportunities for good health, participation, and safety with the aim of improving quality of life during old age. But in order that old age be a positive experience, it has to exist alongside prolonged good health, safety, and participation in society.” The EU’s Institute for Prospective Technological Studies has suggested a more ambitious definition, “enabling people, as they get older, to lead independent lives (socially and economically) and to make choices in every aspect of how they lead their lives.”