By 2060 one in three Europeans will be over 65 and total government spending on pensions, healthcare, long-term care, unemployment benefits and education will increase by almost 20 per cent. However, this new demographic reality could also be the basis for millions of new jobs and economic growth in the digital, healthcare, construction and travel sectors.

2 hands holding a globe with text European Summit for Active and Healthy Ageing

On March 9-10, at the European Summit on Innovation for Active and Healthy Ageing (#AgeingSummit), Commissioners Günter H. Oettinger and Carlos Moedas , MEPs, top thinkers, innovators and leaders from policy, civil society, industry and research, as well as national and regional authorities will discuss a strategy on how to seize this silver opportunity: how to generate economic growth and jobs from new products and services; how to make health and care systems more efficient, meeting the needs of an ageing population, and how to improve life for citizens of all ages.

The Silver opportunity

  • The Silver Economy is the third largest economy in the world , according to Merrill Lynch, with an estimated value of $7 trillion per year, growing to € 15 trillion by 2020 (Euromonitor).
  • Age-related government expenditure of 25% of GDP represents a major market opportunity for products and services e.g. improving the efficiency of health and social care.
  • Making 10 million houses age-friendly in the next 2-5 years means investments of €100-650 billion for the construction sector and tens of billions for the ICT sectors, with a potential 1,7 million new jobs across Europe, according to the ECTP: European Construction Technology Platform.
  • Employment in health and care (17.2 million jobs in EU28) is growing much faster (+8.1%) than overall EU employment.

At the summit, Commissioners Günther H. Oettinger and Carlos Moedas, together with the participants, will join forces to remove barriers and borders in the areas of active and healthy ageing. Commissioner Oettinger will call for action, to mobilise investments, to translate innovation in growth and jobs, to make health and care systems better meet the needs of ageing citizens, and to create the technology breakthroughs that put EU industry at the forefront in the global silver economy.

Growing the Silver Economy

To bootstrap the discussion several DGs from the European Commission have produced a background document on Growing the Silver Economy in Europe. It looks at how to boost investments, scale up innovations and create a competitive edge for Europe. The report also outlines ongoing national and EU success stories and points potential areas for future EU initiatives. For example:

  • An EU initiative on age-friendly homes and independent living. An estimated 70% of homes in the UK and 90% in Germany are not fit for independent living. Adapting these houses for an ageing population could boost sectors like ICT (including innovative SMEs) and public and private health care (including mHealth apps, services and wearables). Without this, far too many people will have to live too many years in institutions, which will impact their quality of life and the cost of health and social care in a negative way.
  • Many innovations that improve the life of many older people can also save public spending. Think remote management of chronic diseases, integrated care and independent living. However, take up remains limited, and markets are small compared to their potential. An EU initiative to scale up innovative services for active and healthy ageing across Europe could help break the barriers and help these innovations go mainstream. Building blocks could be cross-border twinning between regional authorities, developing interoperability specifications, joined up procurement of smart solutions and cross border Public Procurement of Innovation, supported by Horizon 2020.

Based on the outcomes of the sessions, sandpits and workshops, the  Commission will explore which actions should be launched, like a Silver Economy market study, a refocussing of H2020 instruments and the identification of possible initiatives such as age friendly housing or scaling up of innovative care services.

Silver innovation

Europe boasts an innovative ICT industry with large companies and many SMEs developing new products and services. At the Summit The Innovation Village showcases 17 EU (co-)funded solutions which can help adapt the kitchen,  the living room, the bathroom, the bedroom and the shopping centre for the ageing population. The C-walker for example, from the Dali project (Trento University) helps elderly with mild cognitive problems to navigate through public spaces. Also on show is a low-cost 'magic carpet’ which signals when someone has fallen and helps predict mobility problems. It was developed by researchers from Manchester University and members of the Fall Prevention Action Group of the Innovation Partnership for Active and Healthy Ageing.


The European Summit on Innovation for Active and Healthy Ageing is organised by the European Commission (DG CONNECT in cooperation with RTD, SANTE' and other services) together with European partners (the AGE platform, the AAL Joint Programme, the European Connected Health Alliance and Knowledge for Innovation). The European Commission is committed to creating the conditions that will enable Europe to benefit from the global opportunities of the Silver Economy. Through several funds in Horizon 2020 , innovative ICT solutions for active and healthy ageing are funded.

  • Via the Joint Programming Initiative (JPI) "More Years, Better Lives" coordination and collaboration is enhanced between European and national research programmes related to demographic change.
  • Through the Active and Assisted Living Joint Programme (AAL JP) the Commission is working together with the Member States to foster the emergence of innovative ICT-based products, services and systems for ageing well
  • To accelerate the journey of innovations from idea to market reality, the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing (EIP –AHA) and EIT-Knowledge and Innovation Community on Health brings together 3000 stakeholders from government, care, industry and users across borders to scale up innovation and bridge the gap between seller and buyer, producer and user.

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