The European Commission has recently created a new platform called Futurium, and one of the working groups there is on Active and Healthy Living in the Digital World. This group is further divided into sub-groups focused on specific aspects of active and healthy aging:
- Wellbeing and health promotion
- Ecosystems and deployment
- International cooperation
- Silver economy and health tech
- Age-friendly environments
- Digital Health Literacy
It is an online space, where EU citizens, elderly people, health and care providers, government authorities, innovators, researchers, civil society and policy makers can discuss, exchange and disseminate innovations, policies and challenges related to active and healthy living and aging with digital tools.
The ICT 4 the elderly project is dealing with digital literacy and digital inclusion of older adults. It is highly relevant to topics on the platform, and has been featured as a good practice in the Digital health literacy sub-group: https://futurium.ec.europa.eu/en/active-and-healthy-living-digital-world/digital-health-literacy/best-practices/ict-4-elderly.
One might ask why projects such as ICT 4 the elderly are important for digital health literacy. Digital solutions for health can increase the well-being of millions of citizens and radically change the way health and care services are delivered to patients. Digital technology can support the continuity of care across borders and can support the transition to new care models, centred on people’s needs, while enabling a shift from hospital-centred systems to more community-based and integrated care structures. However, to be able to use digital solutions for health, people need basic digital literacy and skills to navigate the technology, but most of all, to overcome their fear of using technology. This is especially true for older adults who are generally more prone to thinking that technology is not for them and that by default they are more apt to do something wrong.
Currently, in the field of Digital Health Literacy, the focus seems to be on increasing the digital skills of health-care workers. E.g., the University of Porto has included a new course on Digital health for future healthcare workers (pharmacists and biomedical scientists), promoting entrepreneurship and health innovation, and updating health workers on their daily challenges. Another example of e-health services is the Personal Health Folder (PHF), launched by the Basque country government in 2013. It allows citizen’s secure access to their health data or records and enable communication with professionals. In 2020 the 1,310,857 users accessed the Health Folder. Basque women access the Personal Health Folder more than men, and regular users are middle-aged, 40 to 60 years old followed by those over 60 years of age.
We do agree that all of this is very important. But it’s not enough. There is another side of the coin, which ICT 4 the elderly addresses – elderly people – the end beneficiaries of digital healthcare services – need digital skills just as well. Otherwise, the services designed for them, will not be used to their full potential.