· 22 June 2020

Silver Tech Ecosystem Urgency

The process of population ageing has been particularly rapid, as is known in Spain. In less than 30 years, the number of people over 65 has doubled, a process accentuated by the country's low birth rate, which began to decline in the mid-1970s. United Nations studies predict that Spain will be the country with the most elderly people in the world by 2040, with 40% of its population over 60. In two decades we will have surpassed the other rising countries in longevity: Japan, Switzerland and Singapore. Rounding off, 20% of the population is over 65.

The current pandemic situation, on the other hand, has shown several things:

  • Fragility: the pandemic has shown how the health of the elderly is more vulnerable, accumulating history and hidden damage. The elderly are more vulnerable to pathogens and more fragile.
  • Loneliness: we already knew that more than 850,000 people over 80 years old live alone, but we never imagined that we would read, with the impassivity that comes with getting used to horrible news during a pandemic, that 62 elderly people have been found dead in their homes in the city of Madrid during the hardest months of the COVID 19 crisis.
  • Ageism: we have read with blush how those over 70 have been discriminated against by age criteria in a health system to which they have contributed as citizens who have paid and continue to pay their taxes all their lives.

All misfortune hides some advantage: the good side of the disaster is that the issue of ageing is at the top of the table. Politicians, businessmen, social agents... Now, we are all talking about preventing and avoiding future disasters with the elderly.

Technology will undoubtedly be a relevant part of the solution. But, to do this, it will be necessary to create an Ecosystem for Silver Tech: a system that will encourage the creation, which is urgent given the above, of technology companies, innovation and technological lighting to alleviate the most relevant aspects of ageing. 

  • To implement the above, it is necessary:
  • To promote a system of risk capital. Stimuli for private investment in technologies for the ageing society are required.
  • Encourage investment and the creation of technology-based companies. For example, through Business Angels, investment funds, cooperatives, etc. 
  • Stimulate technological entrepreneurship with a high social impact, focusing on improving the quality of life for all, but specifically for the most vulnerable, including the elderly.
  • To promote technological development through the intra-enterprise of companies that are dedicated to other things, with all kinds of incentives.
  • Encourage public-private collaboration to generate the transfer of resources and knowledge between the two spheres.
  • Encourage the training of all generations in the need for an intergenerational life, fluid and without watertight compartments, combating ageism and forming part of this strategy, fighting the technological gap and promoting access to the Internet and the use of its advantages by all, regardless of age.

By effectively coordinating the above points, priority should be given to the following ten social priorities that can be improved by technology in the short and medium term:

  • The urgency of creating technologies to combat loneliness. The new call is called video call.
  • The implementation of home automation systems which, when connected, will allow monitoring of independent life but which will be supported by increasingly professionalised carers
  • The expansion of the use of artificial intelligence for multiple activities: from finding a partner and/or friends, to providing companionship through digital humans.
  • The development of the use of big data with a preventive purpose, outstanding in preventive medicine.
  • The development of fourth generation tele-assistance, focused on combating loneliness and proactivity.
  • The advances in telemedicine, which must anticipate the foreseeable collapse of health care through chronicity.
  • The effective management of home care with the use of all kinds of technological tools to amplify human capacities.
  • The development of robotics, which should be useful in combating Alzheimer's and other dementias.
  • The implementation of gene therapies and other therapeutic uses of biotechnology which, without doubt, will be a revulsive for the next generation: it will reach dependence later because we will manage to slow down, even reverse, ageing moderately if pandemics do not prevent it.
  • The expansion of e-commerce, marketplaces: a "phygitall" world where the elderly recreate themselves and satisfy their physical, spiritual or consumer needs through an internet that will be, increasingly, an internet of the senses and health.

In short: entrepreneurship, high social impact technology and public-private collaboration are the threads with which to make the protective net for our elderly in anticipation of an upsurge in dependency figures and demand for care in the years to come. If killing death remains an unattainable challenge, let us at least eliminate the penalties of its slow arrival, in recent years, with the help of technology, chemistry and the alliance between the two.

Under the framework of: Programa Operativo Cooperación Transfronteriza España-Portugal
Sponsors: Fundación General de la Universidad de Salamanca Fundación del Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas Direção Geral da Saúde - Portugal Universidad del Algarve - Portugal