“Human beings are not born forever on the day their mothers give birth; life requires that they be reborn, time and time again”
Gabriel García Márquez
Ageing in today’s population entails a challenge on the response that current society must give to improve the population’s life expectancy. New changes and transformations are necessary, involving accessible, friendly and liveable areas and surroundings for the elderly.
The idea of an elderly-friendly city is taken from the World Report on Ageing and Health of the World Health Organisation (2015) , which establishes the cornerstones required in an elderly-friendly world, as long as five parameters are met:
- Capacity to satisfy one’s basic needs. Physical, virtual, social and emotional surroundings play a crucial role in this regard.
- Financial security, housing and personal safety. The absence of financial security in one’s old age is a huge hindrance to healthy ageing and to reduce inequalities in health matters. This would involve the right to adequate housing, something more than just a place to sleep: suitable housing includes better mental health, less injuries, the ability to keep ties both with the home and the community, and more self-sufficiency and independence.
- Ability to learn, grow and to take decisions. This includes effort in continuous learning, applying the knowledge acquired, participating in problem-solving, furthering one’s personal growth and decision-making capacity.
- Ability to create and maintain relationships. Over time, for all of us long-term relationships are essential to our well-being. Better coverage and affordability of IoT and more accessible information, all constitute opportunities for social interaction.
- Capacity to contribute, which is closely related to one’s involvement in social and cultural activities.
The challenge before us should be seen as a chance to design cities for everyone; humanised and empathetic cities, conceived with citizen participation (rather than uninvolved citizens). This is the era of urban planning as an enabler, given that adequate urban planning may improve the quality of life. The full integration of the elderly into Spanish society does not only require a guarantee of decent living conditions and personal self-sufficiency, but also that our personal and collective individuality be recognised.
According to Subirats & Pérez, the older population is entitled to enjoy life as full citizens, participating actively and comprehensively in current society. This means that the elderly should not continue to be treated as mere objects of assistance and management. They should also be present in all the social and political dynamics of each city and community .
In order to project this statement into a specific action related to technology, we should refer to the “En Buena Edad” digital platform, launched by the Department of Health of the Regional Government of Andalusia. The portal enables communications between healthcare services and citizens, in order to encourage healthy and active ageing, in line with European Union and, even, World Health Organisation policies.
In this scenario, using IoT to improve the quality of life of the elderly has been seen as an opportunity, creating the www.enbuenaedad.es platform, which enables responsible decision-making in health matters and contributes to the wellbeing of the elderly population, at this stage in their life. This new channel also strives to become a meeting and interaction point between various healthcare agents, professionals, and entities promoting partnership and citizenship, which all work towards active ageing.
The ‘En Buena Edad’ digital platform, browser-friendly and accessible, is available in Spanish, English and French and offers a broad range of 220 contents, 64 of which are audiovisual recordings produced in collaboration with associations for the elderly in Andalusia. The themes discussed in these contents range from physical, material and emotional wellbeing; to the prevention of accidents and personal safety; individual learning; IoT and intergenerational relations; and means of social participation (volunteer work).
Enrolment on the platform provides members with up-to-date news; the place where the applicant resides may be selected, and activities, experience and opinions may be shared with other users.
The “Health” section provides information and tips on healthy eating, physical activity, emotional wellbeing and how to care for one’s health.
The “Safety” section includes recommendations on how to avoid accidents in the household and close surroundings. It also specifically deals with the need to encourage humane treatment and to prevent mistreatment of the elderly.
The “Activities” section gathers all initiatives, events and experience related to healthy ageing, held in Andalusia.
Through a map of Andalusia, all users may also navigate the site in a personalised manner, searching by province or locally.
The “Further Learning” section provides links to tutorials, on-line training courses on new technologies and healthy ageing, and information on recommended Apps. Citizens may also access resources, videos, materials and an on-line platform for continuous learning, which has been developed in conjunction with the Andalusian School of Public Health. This allows citizens to approach the digital world and carry out activities related to digital tools and the use of mobile devices.
Notwithstanding the foregoing, it is evident that this life stage is not homogenous. There are many different ways in which to age; there are limits on the wish to reverse the deterioration process and dependence; and it is still necessary to fight the effects of biological ageing through specialised activities and technologies (Debert, 1999). Today’s society should be conceived for all, free of obstacles that hinder one’s full development. Only in this way will we eventually guarantee a better quality of life and the future of the welfare state, in order to adequately provide for the elderly, in a scenario where longevity is gradually becoming the rule (Cabanillas, 2009).