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Involving older people in standards around ICT for active and healthy ageing

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The CEN-CENELEC STAIR-AHA (Standards, Innovation and Research platform* on Active and Healthy Ageing) held its first meeting at the end of October in Berlin, hosted by the PROGRESSIVE project at the premises of PROGRESSIVE partner DIN. The platform has been initiated by PROGRESSIVE to sustain and continue the project’s activities dealing with an increased focus on and involvement of older people in the standards development process and taking into account their views, expectations, preferences and challenges.

At the meeting in Berlin, thirty one experts on active and healthy ageing from 11 European countries (plus Australia) debated on how the standardisation system could improve the engagement of older persons. Participants represented several European national standardisation bodies, standard developing organisations, private companies, representatives of older people’s and consumer organisations and research organisations.

Questions addressed and discussed, included: How can standardisation help us to meet the demographic challenges? Which services exist and which ones are sought after by older people? How can products and services meet the three “A’s”, i.e. accessibility, affordability and availability? Is technology a barrier or an enabler? Attendees shared their experiences and explained how their organisations try to address these challenges.

The causes and consequences of the low level of participation of older people in the development of standards for AHA were investigated using a problem tree analysis. Some of the main causes detected were the lack of resources, the lack of awareness and information, as well as accessibility, language and technology barriers. This lack of participation has many undesired consequences. Standards have a high risk of not meeting the user’s needs and expectations, lacking relevance and legitimacy. It also increases the risk of ageism, i.e. stereotyping of and discrimination against individuals or groups on the basis of their age. On top of that, it hinders innovation and leads to a waste of resources.

Some standards bodies, as well as some private companies, have strategies to fill this gap and reach out to the end users. However, experience shows that, especially at national level, there is a need to improve the engagement of end users and older people in the standardisation process. The PROGRESSIVE project presented the “Guidelines for User Co-production in Standards,” developed to provide practical methodologies that may help to solve this issue. Attendees showed their interest in promoting this document to the European standardisation community. Complementing this approach, there was a debate “changing mindsets”, one of the main mantras of the PROGRESSIVE project. The feedback provided by the participants was aligned with the key ethical tenets described by the PROGRESSIVE project in its “Ethical Framework for Standards in the Context of ICT for AHA,” and will be subject of a future statement.

Other tools developed by PROGRESSIVE on Interoperability and on Smart Homes were also presented, and the attendees debated on the ways forward for the STAIR-AHA. Ways to improve the involvement of end users and the creation of sustainable ties with older people’s representatives should be topics to be explored, as well as the promotion of the user co-production guide and raising awareness on the mutual benefits of the inclusion of older people’s needs in standards, products and services.

The next STAIR-AHA meeting will take place the 31st of January at the heart of the European Standardisation system, CEN-CENELEC, in Brussels. Join us in this thrilling challenge!


*For more information on CEN-CENELEC STAIR platforms, see



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