Active and Healthy Ageing (AHA) aims to extend healthy life expectancy, healthy life years and quality of life for all people as they age, which is one of the greatest social and economic challenges of the 21st century for European societies.
Ageing is one of the greatest social and economic challenges of the 21st century for European societies. By 2025 more than 20% of Europeans will be 65 or over, with a particularly rapid increase in numbers of over-80s. Because older people have different health and social care needs, health and social care systems will need to adapt so they can provide adequate care and remain financially sustainable.
The broad concept of active ageing was proposed by the World Health Organisation as the process of optimizing opportunities for health to enhance quality of life as people age. The word “active” refers to continuing participation in social, economic, cultural, spiritual and civic affairs. Furthermore, it covers also individually-relevant activities such as reading, enjoying music, being able to learn, beyond the ability to be physically active or to participate in the labour force (1) .
Thus, Active and Healthy Ageing (AHA) aims to extend healthy life expectancy, healthy life years and quality of life for all people as they age. Whereas it is a challenge shared by all European countries, at the same time it offers Europe an opportunity to establish itself as a global leader capable of providing innovative responses to the increasing societal and economic burden that demographic change will convey if not properly afforded at European, national, regional and local policy level.
An Action Group is an assembly of partners committing to work on specific issues related to ageing
To this aim, the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing (EIP on AHA) has been setup in 2011 building on the willingness to cooperate expressed by the European Commission and EU countries, regions, industry, health and social care professionals and organisations representing older people and patients towards the achievement of the overarching goal to increase the average healthy lifespan of Europeans by 2 years by 2020.
The EIP on AHA pursues a triple win for Europe:
• Enabling EU citizens to lead healthy, active and independent lives while ageing.
• Improving the sustainability and efficiency of social and health care systems.
• Boosting and improving the competitiveness of the markets for innovative products and services, responding to the ageing challenge at both EU and global levels, thus creating new businesses leveraging the so called “silver economy” opportunities.
Its priority areas for action have been identified in the 2011 Strategic Implementation Plan (SIP) and Operational Plan (OP) adopted by the steering group responsible for launching and implementing the partnership.
In February 2012, the Commission adopted a Communication on the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing in support of the SIP and stakeholders have started to work together in Action Groups to make this plan a reality.
An Action Group is an assembly of partners committing to work on specific issues related to ageing, by sharing the knowledge and expertise with their peers, giving added-value to their national and local experience and identifying gaps that need to be fulfilled at European level.
Stakeholders wishing to get involved in one of the 6 Action Groups set up so far were selected through an "Invitation for Commitment" application process. The initial Invitation for Commitment was launched upon the adoption of the Commission Communication on the EIP Strategic Implementation Plan (29th February 2012) and closed on 3 June 2012. 261 projects were submitted by groups of stakeholders spanning the public and private sector. The second Invitation for Commitment closed on 28th February 2013 involved 310 new projects or commitments. Lastly, the third call launched for 2016 asking to old and new partners to submit their commitment obtained an unprecedented response, collecting over 850 commitments and confirming the vitality of and interest in the EIP on AHA. Main achievements of the Action Groups are available for consultation in the EIP on AHA website.
More in detail, each Action Group focuses on a specific Action indicated in the SIP. At the moment, the following Action Groups are active:
- A1 “Adherence to prescription”: A1 main objective is to improve the quality of life and health outcomes of older people living with chronic conditions in at least 30 EU regions through enhanced self-care, personalized care, better adequacy of treatment, increased adherence to safe and effective care plans.
- A2 “Falls prevention”: The main objective of the Action Group A2 is to reduce falls by ensuring that new technologies to monitor falls enter markets faster, connecting research to innovation and strengthening procurement processes. The Group also supports the set-up of regional programmes for early diagnosis and the prevention of falls.
- A3 “Functional decline and frailty”: A3 partners committed themselves to the objectives of understanding the underlying factors of frailty, exploring the association between frailty and adverse health outcomes in older people and better preventing and managing the frailty syndrome and its consequences.
- B3 “Integrated care”: The organization committed to B3 Action Group work towards integrated care services that are more closely oriented to the needs of patients /users, multidisciplinary, well co-ordinated and accessible, as well as anchored in community and home care settings. Such models coordinate between levels of health services and align them with social care, along the whole health promotion and care chain.
- C2 “Independent living solutions”: The objective of the Action Group C2 is to develop interoperable independent living solutions, including guidelines for business models. This should boost the deployment of open and personalised solutions for active and independent living that are supported by global standards and new evidence on the return of investment.
- D4 “Age friendly environments”: The main objective of the Action Group D4 is to bring together partners from all over Europe who are committed to implementing strategies for the creation of age-friendly environments which support active and healthy ageing of the European population.
After six years, the EIP on AHA has reached a critical mass of public and private organisations as a movement across Europe
Repository of Innovative Practices
After six years working together, the EIP on AHA has reached a critical mass of public and private organisations as a movement across Europe, dedicated to develop, implement and up-scale healthy ageing solutions with a benefit for society, science and business. A wide range of good practices have been identified and shared thanks also to the setup of the Repository of Innovative Practices which is available in the EIP on AHA website and it represents the operational basic tool for the European scaling up strategy.
Last year, the AHA European community made another key step forward to foster innovation in health and care provision in our ageing society: called upon by Commissioner Günther Oettinger, policy makers, civil society, professional organisations and industry have developed a European Blueprint to address this challenge. As a result, three representatives officially handed over the Blueprint to the Commissioner at the second European Summit on Innovation for Active and Healthy Ageing (held last 5-8 December 2016): Regional Health Minister Encarna Guillen (Murcia, Spain), Christian Reinaudo (President of AGFA Gevaert) and John Dunne (President Eurocarers). They represented the initial group of 'Champions', i.e. public and private organisations that contributed to the Blueprint recognising that a shared vision is essential to mobilise investment and guarantee the commitment of all actors to a digital transformation of health and care for the ageing society. As stated in the document, the Blueprint is intended to “clearly identify particular users and market needs in the health and social care sector, aggregate actions to overcome fragmentation and define joint strategies to maximise the benefits for the citizen, the health and social care delivery systems and the economy”. The Blueprint actions are also designed to stimulate and support investments providing the European Union with an overarching clear political agenda able to “connect the dots” linking up diverse and complementary initiatives, promoting interactions and synergies in such a complex policy landscape and securing clear industry commitments as well as coordination with Member States and Regional strategies.
With this roadmap of aligning policies and mobilising public as well as private stakeholders towards a regional strategy for smart, healthy and sustainable societies, an important and concrete impact plan for EU citizens is established. Priorities in the plan are focussed on strengthening the intra- and inter-regional public-private collaborations, facilitating creative entrepreneurship, promoting the market uptake of good practices and innovative solutions by end-users as well as connecting investors to procurers with sound business plans. The EIP on AHA and the Blueprint are inclusive initiatives, reaching out to partners outside the European Union. Countries from all continents who share similar challenges with ageing societies, such as China, Japan, the Russian Federation, Canada, Brazil and Australia, showed a great interest for the EIP on AHA and the Blueprint approach.
(1) Bousquet J et al, Operational Definition of Active and Healthy Ageing (AHA): A Conceptual Framework, J Nutr Health Aging. 2015 Nov;19(9):955-60. doi: 10.1007/s12603-015-0589-6.
Valentina Tageo (Badalona Serveis Assistencials)
Nick Guldemond (Erasmus University Rotterdam)