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17 July 2015

Interview with Anne-Sophie Parent, Representing Commitment '6901 – ICT-based Solutions to Support Participation of Older People in their City'

Could you describe your commitment in a few words?

The number of people in the EU aged 65+ is set to nearly double by 2060. At the same time, 80% of older people already live in urban areas. Both demographic shifts and urbanisation are major changes our societies are facing. These changes imply important challenges to be addressed to ensure and further improve the quality of life of all generations while reducing inequalities and combating social exclusion. Older people often face great challenges using public transport, ICT and are more affected by poor energy efficiency. These three areas are the ones specifically addressed in the European Innovation Partnership on Smart Cities and Communities (EIP-SCC).

Moreover, the EIP-SCC Strategic Implementation Plan states that citizens are insufficiently engaged, and that cities do not have a deep enough understanding of their citizens to actively and effectively engage them. This is particularly true for older people who often suffer from increasing social isolation as they age. AGE, CEMR and Polibienestar submitted a commitment to the EIP because we believe older people are a key target group for the Citizen Focus area and that cities cannot be smart if they are not age-friendly. 

What is the status of your commitment progress right now?

Our work on age-friendly environments is making very positive steps forward. We, as part of the AFE-INNOVNET Thematic network on innovation for age-friendly environments, are actively preparing the launch of the EU Covenant on Demographic Change. Inspired by the existing Covenant of Mayors on Energy, the Covenant on Demographic Change will gather all EU-based local and regional authorities committed to develop and implement action plans based on the WHO model of Age-friendly Cities.

The launch will take place on 7th December 2015 at the Committee of the Regions (CoR) and will be followed by two days of workshops on how to develop local age-friendly action plans, how to involve older people and businesses in the process and how to monitor and assess socio-economic and environmental impacts.

Moreover, we submitted a Horizon 2020 proposal last April. If our project is selected for funding, it will develop and test in eight pilot sites different ICT-based tools to support local/regional authorities and citizens to work together to improve their social and physical environments for all generations.

The new project will also seek to integrate the age-friendly approach into the broader context of smart urban planning and service provision.  We have carefully chosen pilot sites who are already working on smart urban initiatives in order to better link smart and age-friendly cities and communities.

What are the main strengths of your commitment?

Our joint commitment builds on the outcomes of three projects: the AFE-INNOVNET Network, the CAP4Access project and the MOPACT project. These projects are very complementary. While the AFE-INNOVNET Network gathers a very large community of interested stakeholders in the co-creation of age-friendly environments –more than 300 members now–, we benefit from the research dimension brought by MOPACT and the real-life testing and citizens’ engagement by CAP4Access.

Moreover, our efforts to build a bridge between the EIP SCC and the EIP on Active and Healthy Ageing is welcomed by the European Commission and the Committee of the Regions.

What are the main challenges your commitment is facing and how could the Market Place help you to overcome them?

The main challenge for us is to attract stakeholders who are currently either unaware of what can be done to address population ageing in an inclusive way or unconvinced of the added value of the age-friendly environment approach.

We believe that many stakeholders active in the EIP-SCC are also concerned by the impact of demographic change or are unconsciously working towards an age-friendly society and we would very much like to extend our age-friendly community to all members of the EIP. The Market Place is the perfect hub to share experiences, propose solutions and disseminate the latest news.

What are your next steps?

All members of the EIP-SCC are very welcome to join the AFE-INNOVNET Thematic Network and the launch of the Covenant on Demographic Change (7th December 2015) and the following workshops (8th and 9th December 2015) in Brussels (Belgium). The form to express an interest in attending is available here. We look forward to meeting you in December!


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