Guest blog: Healthy Aging Innovation Will Require A Lot of Collaboration, Testing and Strategic Long-term Thinking

Guest blog written by Tjaša Zajcwho moderated the IN-4-AHA final conference.

Tjaša is an internationally recognized digital health moderator and speaker focused on global healthcare digitalization. She is the founder and host of Faces of digital health podcast, which is consistently ranked among the top digital health industry podcasts. She also works as business developer at the healthcare IT company Better, and is a patient advocate.

The rapid aging of the global population is unquestionable. At the same time, innovators working on solutions for active and healthy aging often face struggles in getting funding and partnerships. Startups need to know the healthcare economics, policy and regulation well, and health and social care providers need to be open to testing, creating living labs and uptake of solutions. These were just a few conclusions mentioned at the closing conference of the 2-year IN-4AHA project, which took place in Tallin on 7 December.

The innovation Networks for Scaling Active and Healthy Ageing (IN-4-AHA) project runs from January 2021 until December 2022, and is funded under Horizon 2020. It connected key European stakeholders who looked at opportunities and challenges in the AHA space related to the current policy landscape and the environment in the EU.

Innovators in the field of healthy aging or healthy living – may it be startups, healthcare or social care providers – face many barriers in their success. In Europe, healthcare systems are fragmented and diverse, making it very difficult for solutions to scale across borders. Because the field of healthy and active aging is severely underfunded, public funding mechanisms play an important part in encouraging new ideas.

The IN4-AHA project looked at three aspects of innovation for healthy aging: investment readiness, innovation scale-up model, and long-term investment plan. “You can’t google your way into the market,” said Andreas Palm, Management Consultant at CIVITTA, a leading independent management consultancy in Emerging Europe, about why collaboration and networking are important for companies when trying to succeed in the market.

In the introductory keynote, Piret Hirv, IN-4-AHA project leader and Manager at Tehnopol/Estonian Connected Health Cluster, emphasized that for solutions to see an uptake on the market, they need to be based on co-creation & person-centredness – meaning that they look beyond the needs of the individual but encompass her broader values, mindset, and motivating factors. With the rising amount of data and its strict regulation, governance is becoming a key issue for many organizations, was discovered through the project.

One of the outputs of the IN-4-AHA project is also a data governance guidebook.

In the closing panel, speakers discussed the future of aging and healthy living. Some of the final policy recommendations of the IN4AHA project include: boosting smart and more accessible funding covering all innovation stages, more harmonized regulatory and reimbursement frameworks to support AHA innovation, support and innovation development approach based on co-creation and participatory design in real-life environments, boosting trust & awareness for health and care professionals and citizens, better connect AHA innovation community, making the most of existing platforms and initiatives.

In 2020, life expectancy in the EU was 83 years for women and 78 for men. The number of healthy life years at birth was estimated at 64.5 years for women and 63.5 years for men in the EU. So on average, women spend almost 20 years with disability, and men 14 years, according to eurostat. There is much room for improvement in reducing the years with disabilities.

Nele Labi, Vice-chancellor for Innovation, Estonian Ministry of Social Affairs, encouragingly said that while we live in very uncertain times, trends around migrations, lifestyle, and aging are known, which should be encouraging for those invested in changing healthy living.

Blog: IN-4-AHA at European Week of Active and Healthy Ageing 2022 (Gdansk)

Ageing - the only true democracy

IN-4-AHA presence at EWAHA 2022

The European Week of Active and Healthy Ageing (EWAHA) is an annual event organised as part of the AAL (Active Assisted Living Program) co-financed by the European Commission. 

The EWAHA is an initiative of the AAL Programme, which aims to improve the quality of life for older people and to strengthen the industrial opportunities in the field of active and healthy ageing through the usage of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT).

EWAHA 25-26-27 October 2022 was the final edition of the European Week of Active and Healthy Ageing, building on 14 years of legacy of the AAL Association’s AAL Forum, sharing knowledge and showcasing innovation at all levels in the active and healthy ageing sector. 

The event was hosted in the beautiful city of Gdańsk. The IN-4-AHA team presented an exhibition booth and met with stakeholders within the active and healthy ageing community, among which several interesting startups with innovative solutions. This was also a great opportunity to share some of the outcomes from the IN-4-AHA project toolkit and roadmap for scaling.

The programme of EWAHA 2022 consisted of interactive workshops, discussions, plenary sessions, exhibitions, and match-making activities. The focus of this final conference was to reflect and evaluate the last decade of the AAL legacy but also open the door to the future and see how we can address tomorrow’s challenges in the European agenda for ageing.

The Mayor of Gdansk, Aleksandra Dulkiewicz opened the event at the European Solidarity Centre, followed by an unexpected appearance from Lech Wałęsa, the former president of Poland, a Nobel piece laureate and the man who spearheaded the Solidarity movement in the 1980s.

The pandemic has changed the landscape in which we all work permanently. The advantages of digital solutions have now been verified and made of use by necessity, and we no longer live in a world where people must be persuaded of the benefits of digitalisation.

At the IN-4-AHA booth we met with many innovative solutions to simplify active and healthy ageing. One example was Robert Huber, CEO for Bellurbis, presented how a clean homescreen provides you with an easy to use smartphone, without excluding the apps you want and need. An additional feature for insecure smartphone users is the possibility to install Easierphone assistant, to provide support remotely on someone else’s Easierphone. Robert has been using Easierphone himself for the past two years, to make sure that this is not only an app for the elderly but also includes all functions needed for everyone.

Another company was German Xtrpy were Michaela Stauch has come up with a fall detection that has a nice design and looks more like jewelry or fit bit, which helps increase the usage of automatic fall detection. 

Both are examples of  simple solutions but clever ideas how to improve the lives of elderly and their caregivers.

Niclas Forsling, working for the Nordic Welfare Center is exploring solutions how to keep the Nordic welfare model up to speed by adding digital solutions built into infrastructure in the less populated parts of the Nordic countries. Start – HEALTHCARE AND CARE AT DISTANCE (

Ageing is something that affects us all“the only true democracy”, as one speaker put it. The final plenary session, hosted by AAL’s Nicola Filizola, focused on the legacy, bringing perspectives from across the board and hinting at how the themes carried for so long by different programmes will be carried forwards in the coming years. One theme that has developed and risen in prominence through the years is the so-called ecosystem approach, which is now taking a central position in discussions about how to bring our health and cares systems forward into the future so that they can help people live happy, active, and independent lives as they grow older. This concept has reached maturity at just the right time as the AAL Programme starts to wind down. The ecosystem approach recognises that silos must be broken down and deeper collaborations are encouraged.

Lech Wałęsa, former President of Poland, speeching at EWAHA 2022
Monica Yngwe and Christina Bergstrand, EIT Health Scandinavia
Iván Rarís, Cluster Saúde de Galicia
Written by: Christina Bergstrand, EIT Health Scandinavia