The supporting role of standardisation for the ‘silver economy’

The supporting role of standardisation for the ‘silver economy’

Population ageing is one of the biggest socio-economic challenges of the 21st century European society. All EU countries and virtually every policy have to deal with it. According to an estimate, by 2025, the percentage of the European population 65 or older will have reached the threshold of 20%, with a very rapid increase in the number of people older than 80.

The ‘baby boom’ effect

The ageing ‘baby boomers’ are an important factor in this demographic shift. The term refers to people born in the period following the Second World War, when better expectations for the future boosted birth rates. That upward trend continued in Belgium well into the sixties and means that the percentage of elderly in society will continue to increase for many years.
The elderly have special needs, particularly in the areas of housing, health and safety, transportation, information, leisure activities and various services such as home care. At the same time this offers opportunities, through innovation, to meet the challenge of making a society in which the elderly can remain active and healthy. Soon it will become necessary to create customized services and technology for the rapidly growing group of elderly people.

The challenge for the economy and for standardisation

The concept of the 'silver economy' refers to a broad range of corporate and government activities that meet the needs of older citizens and customers. This new economic and industrial sector could provide in the coming years considerable economic growth and additional jobs.
In 2011 the European Commission gave a mandate to the European Standardization Committee (CEN) to incorporate the ‘Design for all’ concept into relevant standardisation initiatives. ‘Design for all’ has to do with accessibility: designing products, services and environments in such a way that they are accessible for a maximum number of people. The aim is to also take into account the capabilities of the elderly in the development of standards, in addition to those of people with disabilities, the visually impaired, etc.
In October 2013 CEN created a technical committee, TC 431 ‘Service Chain for Social Care Alarms’ to develop standards for social care alarms, which enable elderly people to stay in their homes for a longer period of time.

The ageing society is not all about being old and frail

The ageing society is not by definition dull and colourless. Within this evolution towards the ‘silver economy’ standardisation plays an essential part by contributing to the development of customized innovative technologies and services for the elderly. This allows them to stay independent and active for a longer period of time and to enjoy their life.