Standards for ICT products, services and technologies that support active and healthy ageing (AHA) can contribute to better usability, quality and safety of those products and services, as well as to reproducibility and economic sustainability due to scaling effects and cost efficiencies. Usable and accessible products, services and environments will be used by people of all ages so economies of scale can be attained.
It follows that a clear ethical balance needs to be upheld when it comes to developing standards. Those standards need to serve the end users’ best interests and not just satisfy purely technical, economic or commercial goals. This also has repercussions on the standardisation process and asks both for inclusion of and co-production with those end users.
Through its work on standards and the standardisation process, the PROGRESSIVE project aims to influence the approach taken by manufacturers, researchers and policy makers. It is not just a matter for products and services around ICT for AHA to ‘work’ efficiently, it is also about their effectiveness and the broader potential impact that might be made on the attitudes and approaches of a range of stakeholders.
Standards (and the standardisation process) have often, at best, overlooked the needs of some older people, or, at worst, considered the needs of some older people as of less worth or relevance. Neither can be justified at a time when the demographic, social, political and ethical ‘dynamic’ that relates to the inclusion and empowerment of older people (as implicit in the AHA mantra) is gaining momentum.
Therefore, several key ethical ‘touchstones’ and issues have been identified that represent a particular focus for the PROGRESSIVE project:
- Accessibility and Usability
Particularly relevant for buildings and the wider environment, products and services – therefore assistive technologies, ‘Design for All’ and Age-Friendly communities.
Impacting on the ‘financial accessibility’ of products and services for people with limited means.
- Autonomy and Empowerment
Reflecting an imperative for products and services to be designed and configured in ways that engage with, afford choices and facilitate control by older people.
- Beneficence and Non-Maleficence
An underpinning principle in the context of any products or services. Relates to the way that risks of good or harm are assessed and addressed.
- Care, Protection and Support
With specific relevance for products or services provided for or used by dependent, frail and otherwise vulnerable older people for whom care is needed.
- Equality, Equity and Justice
Affirming the equal status and rights of older people to access products and services. Links with aspects of accessibility and affordability.
- Inclusion, Non-Discrimination and Social Impact
Supporting product and service approaches to challenge the disadvantage faced by older people through inappropriate and ageist practices and beliefs.
Embracing both technical (for ICT) and semantic interoperability in supporting products and services where consumer options and choices are enhanced.
- Privacy, Safety and Security
Recognising rights both in the context of ‘traditional’ ranges of products and services and the special considerations (e.g. for cybersecurity) in the context of ICT.
These tenets significantly extend the list of ethical principles put forward by Beauchamp and Childress and which are frequently cited in the context of care for older people (Beauchamp TL and Childress JF (2001) ‘Principles of Biomedical Ethics’ 5th Edition, Oxford University Press, New York). The wider frame of reference of the PROGRESSIVE project, therefore, begins to succeed in offering a framework relevant to ‘active and healthy ageing’ rather than supporting perspectives that are focused on the ‘fourth age’ of more dependent older people.
Such ethical tenets will underpin key outputs of the PROGRESSIVE project (incl. guidelines around co-production and guidelines around standards for age-friendly communities and age-friendly smart homes). They are envisaged as supporting the reform or modernisation of standardisation frameworks in ways that will take increasing account of the voices of older people. More importantly those outputs will help to change the mindsets of both standards bodies and the varied stakeholders involved in the standardisation process.