EC launches tech scheme for elderly

European research programme worth €1bn aims to improve the lives of older people at home and work

The European Commission has outlined plans to use technology to improve the lives of older people and create more personalised health and social services.

A €1bn (£675m) European research programme has been launched to develop tech to improve life for older people at home and work, helping them remain active and independent for longer.

The €1bn will be invested between now and 2013 by the EU, member states and the private sector.

The European Action Plan has been launched to support the Ageing Well in the Information Society initiative, which is part of the i2010 programme.

The use of technology is seen by the EU as allowing older people to remain active and productive and able to engage in society via more accessible online services.

The need to invest in this area is clear, with 25 percent of Europe's population forecast to be over the age of 65 by 2020.

At present many older people are not taking advantage of digital technology that could support their needs.

According to the EU, only 10 percent use the internet, and vision, hearing or dexterity problems mean many are being frustrated in their efforts to engage with modern technology.

The action plan will try to raise awareness of the need for technology specific to the older generation and establish best practice for new services that will be developed. It is also aimed at overcoming barriers to market development, and accelerating take-up of technologies by older people through pilot projects and award schemes.

Viviane Reding, EU commissioner for information, society and media, said the ageing population of Europe is a challenge but also an economic and social opportunity.

The plan will not only help mobilise digital technologies to improve the social participation and daily lives of the elderly but will create opportunities for European industry, Reding said.