Javier Ganzarain from AGE Platform Europe emphasised that AAL technologies are supposed to support older people in their everyday life, but the wants and needs of the users always have to be taken into consideration. Too often, AAL technologies are invented that older people cannot understand and therefore do not use. In general, older people as a group are under-researched, which is partially due to the defined age groups in research which often end at 60+ despite the fact that 65-year-olds have completely different needs than 80-year-olds.
Dr. Gerda Geyer presented the European AAL programme which, with a funding volume of more than 700 million euros, will have funded numerous AAL projects over several years by 2020. The focus was placed on financially funding small and medium-sized businesses and an effort was made to include the end users. More than 25 percent of the projects were then found to be relevant in the market after the funding phase. The expectation is that even after 2020, there will be a new funding phase and the AAL program will announce that in due time.
As a representative of the Austrian Institutes for Technology (AIT), Andreas Stainer-Hochgatterer presented the results of a current study titled “Users' Perspectives and Attitudes on AAL Technologies” which examined the obstacles end users experience when using AAL technologies. This study found that older people are interested in new technologies and, for instance, many of them have access to the Internet, smartphones and tablets. Monitoring in a private home environment using sensors is, in principle, welcomed by older people as soon as they realise it increases their safety and security. Interestingly, young people (20-30 years old) had a different view and were far more critical regarding technological surveillance in their private lives. AAL technologies will have to adapt to this increased data awareness in the future.
Developments and projects in various European countries and Japan were presented during the second part of the conference. Prof. Petra Friedrich from the Technical University of Kempten presented German AAL projects, Geja Landerveld from Zon Mw presented the Dutch projects and Andreas Stainer-Hochgatterer (AIT) presented the Austrian AAL activities. It became clear that, nationally, there are a number of funding projects, some of which have similar objectives. Closer cooperation and coordination between the European stakeholders would be beneficial to better utilise synergies and shared experiences. Finally, Prof. Haijime Yamada from the Tokyo University provided some insight into Japanese discussions on the topic of increasing the quality of life of older people and the significance of AAL.
The various presentations made it clear that the progressive demographic change in European countries will pose major challenges. AAL technologies offer central solutions to assist older people in their home environment and later in the context of nursing care in an active and mobile manner.
The AAL conference was held as part of the IEC/SyC AAL meeting which convened during the week at VDE|DKE in Frankfurt and works on global standards in the area of AAL. The next AAL event from VDE is the AAL congress 2020, which will take place in Karlsruhe from 22-23 October 2020.