The 'silver economy' covers a host of different but interlinked strands; together these can improve the quality of life and inclusion in society and involvement in economic activity of the ageing population through developing innovative policies, products and services to meet their needs, bringing more growth and jobs. The concept has been emerging over the years, and recently gathered momentum with the European Commission's first paper on the topic.
The population in the EU is ageing due to increasing longevity and low birth rates. The Commission's 2015 Ageing Report forecasts that the EU will move from having four working-age (15-64) people for every person aged over 65 years in 2013, to just two by 2060. Whilst population ageing brings challenges, it also presents opportunities. Euromonitor forecasts that the global spending power of those aged 60+ will reach US$15 trillion by 2020. Annual age related government expenditure on older people (currently nearly 20% of GDP in the EU) is forecast to rise by 1.8 percentage points by 2060.
The silver economy concept seeks to look holistically at ageing and the opportunities it presents, bearing on the future direction of a broad range of polices such as those on the built environment, 50+ employment, life-long learning and preventative healthcare. Moreover, it seeks to embrace new technologies (e.g. health monitoring, smart homes, driverless vehicles, and care robots) and use them to lower the costs of ageing and improve the lives of older citizens whilst simultaneously helping to boost the economy.
The 'silver economy': A recent European Commission paper suggested that 'The "Silver Economy" can be defined as the economic opportunities arising from the public and consumer expenditure related to population ageing and the specific needs of the population over 50.'
eHealth: There is no single definition, but essentially it refers to information and communications technology (ICT) tools and services for health used by healthcare institutions, health professionals and patients. This global term can encompass, overlap with, or be a synonym for, several other terms: 'Telehealth' which relates to the remote monitoring of physiological data; mHealth (mobile health) where medical and public health practice is supported by mobile devices; Telemedicine or the provision of healthcare services e.g. teleconsultation, teleradiology, telesurgery, etc. at a distance; and Telecare, which concerns remote care provision through the use of ICT, e.g. the use of care alarms in the home for the elderly to enable more independent living.
Smart homes: Central solutions for controlling, monitoring and automating functions in the home, often via the web or mobile apps. This can include healthcare and assisted living systems.
Background information / Suggested reading around the Silver Economy