Although the European Commission funding for the PROGRESSIVE project has ended, considerable momentum has been established. This momentum reflects the importance of the PROGRESSIVE message about standards and older people. The focus of the project was, of course, on ICT standards and the extent to which they met the needs, aspirations and choices of older people. But there are, of course, messages from the project for all kinds of standards.
Generally speaking, the value of standards is incontrovertible. They give order to our lives and ensure that products and services we use are convenient and safe. Standards are largely invisible … but they are in the background when we catch a bus, use a cash-point or boil a kettle! And this is why we need to make sure that the voices of older people are heard when standards are developed for products and services. Older people are, after all, a force to be reckoned with. They represent one in five of the population with most being active in the economic, social and sometimes political lives of our communities.
This is why there is now active and ongoing dialogue taking place between PROGRESSIVE partners and CEN, CENELEC and ETSI (the three main European standards bodies). There is also consultation taking place with national standards bodies from Austria to Spain and Norway. The dialogue focuses on the potential to adjust the processes of standardisation to make sure that the voices are heard. This is nothing less than it should be. Standards bodies are, according to the International Organization for Standardization (the ISO), ‘documents established by consensus’ that in their development must bring together a wide range of stakeholders. Older people must, as is the case for other consumers, be seen within that range.
It is no surprise, therefore, that some of the PROGRESSIVE outcomes (ranging from the ethical tenets to the draft guide on co-production with older people) have struck a chord with standards bodies. We look forward, therefore, to continuing to make the case with them and support them as they explore ways to ensure that older people and their representative organisations, whether at European or national levels, can have easier access to standards; and routes to engagement in the standardisation process.