Motivation and rationale Print

Motivation & Rationale

Age and disability are strongly correlated: 15% of the EU population has a disability; 70% of them will be over 60 by 2020.
There exist two main trends in the 21 century. One is the rapid development of ICT, which has affected all areas of life of people and radically changed the way- people live and tackle many activities. People have entered into digital times. The other is the trend of aging population, which has attracted attention from government as well as business firms. Potential business opportunities exist exactly at the crossing point of these two trends.

Ageing population

The older population is growing at a considerably faster rate than that of the world's total population. In absolute terms, the number of older persons has tripled over the last 50 years and will more than triple again over the next 50-year period. In relative terms, the percentage of older persons is projected to more than double worldwide over the next half century, to expand by more than three times, to reach nearly 2 billion, in 2050.
This rapid expansion in the older population affects practically all regions of the world and is increasing. Currently, the annual growth of the older population (1.9%) is significantly higher than that of the total population (1.02%).
In the near future, the difference between those two rates is expected to become even larger, as the baby boom generation starts ageing in many parts of the world, including Europe. By 2025-2030, projections indicate that the population over 60 will be growing 3.5 times as rapidly as the total population (2.8% compared to 0.8%). Even though the growth rate of the over 60s age group is expected to decline to 1.6% in 2045-2050, it will still be more than 3 times the growth rate of the total population (0.5%) by mid century (See figure 1).
Figure 1: Average annual growth rate of total population aged 60 or over, world, 1950-2050


ICT and the elderly

The profound, pervasive and enduring consequences of ageing population present enormous challenges as well as enormous opportunities for Information and Communication Technology. A typical example is the Internet that - according to many analysts - has become an enabler of social inclusion.
Social isolation is a common problem for senior people. Fortunately, the Internet offers new tools to address the problem. Internet users acknowledge that going on line is a good and convenient way to contact the outside world. Senior people can walk out of loneliness, through sending e-mails to family members and friends all over the world, chatting in forums to exchange feelings and ideas, etc. Indeed, many senior people are already benefiting from the Internet.
Based on the data provided by Pew Internet & American Life Project, 72% of people at the age group of 51-59, 54% of those at the age group of 60-69, and 34% of those over 70 are Internet users in the US (See figure 2).
Figure 2: US Internet Use by Age 2006
Data related to other regions are reported in the following tables



Internet Users in 200218-2930-4950-6465+

United States80785620
Great Britain72633010
Internet Users in 200518-2930-4950-6465+

United States8183
Great Britain89


Table 1: Internet users in 2002 and 2005

OASIS aims to utilise ICT and other key technologies in order to provide holistic services to the elderly to support their physical and psychological independence, stimulate their social or psychological engagement and foster their emotional well being. In doing so, OASIS thus addresses key areas of their activities encompassing: independent living and socialising, autonomous mobility, and flexible work-ability.

Independent Living

"The World Health Organisation defines independence as the ability to perform the activities of the daily life with little or no help from others. It is generally regarded as having a positive impact on quality of life. Health, impairment and functioning are very important determinants of independent living...

...The goals of independent Living Applications or Services are to maximise empowerment, independence and productivity of individuals and their integrations and inclusion into the mainstream of society. Keeping links to the social networks and placed where older have progressively built their lives is crucial for healthy ageing...

Barriers to independence are numerous. Frail physical and/or mental health, housing conditions, lack of transportation facilities, community information and communication services and low income levels are the main ones for older people." .

These statements come from the Institute for prospective Technological studies for the European Commission and we firmly agree with them. These words have inspired most of the objectives of OASIS and we are putting all of our effort to making them a reality.

The last paragraph is especially interesting. Frail physical and mental health are the main barriers that can lead a person to lose their independence. Two options arise here. First to provide aids to mitigate the loss of independence and second empower the conditions that make a person to continue being independent. This second approach is the one adopted by OASIS in SP2: Independent Living applications.

How does OASIS address this?

OASIS will address the maintenance of the conditions that allow a person to live independently by means of:

  • Placing attention to the nutrition habits of the elderly (WP2.2).
  • Increasing the level of physical activity of the elderly (WP 2.3).
  • Ensuring that the person maintains his/her cognitive skills (WP2.4).
  • Empowering and encouraging the social relationships of the elderly (WP2.5).
  • Monitoring the elderly users' health status (WP2.6).
  • Assisting the elderly to manage their home environment efficiently (WP2.6).


Elderly socialisation is impeded by many factors, some of which are mentioned below.

  • Most people are looking for a happy retirement during which they will have plenty of free time to do whatever they like. However, many people feel lonely after their retirement because they have fewer places to go to or loose their links with the society and also have difficulties in finding ways to participate in social activities, such as going to elderly meetings or meeting relatives, peers, friends face to face. This problem is most critical when the elderly would like to stay in touch with distant family members.
  • Older people can be easily subdued to boredom due to the lack of social contacts, become gradually socially isolated, leading to depression, and in the worst case to suicidal behaviour.
  • Socialising also implies that names and faces of people can be remembered, as well as that important facts from conversations can be recalled to avoid repeating the same stories over again. Here, again older people are faced with memory loss, which gradually worsens when no memory exercises are being undertaken.
  • Depression in old age may be triggered by adverse life events including: bereavement; loss of health; threat of bereavement or loss of health in a loved one. Being often single and having no close friends makes older people more vulnerable to such losses, leading to prolonged and unnecessary misery and, in some cases, to death from suicide or physical illnesses.
How does OASIS address this?

Older people who meet friends and family regularly (through the supported autonomous mobility) or stay in contact with them virtually through the OASIS platform may protect themselves from the effects of social isolation. The stimulation of communicating and undertaking social activities through the social relationships platform (WP2.5: Social relationships and recreation platform) aims to further strengthen the psychological state of the elderly, and limit the possibility of depression and isolation. Equally, elderly users will be offered the chance to acquire news whenever they want, and share their experiences and thoughts with others (A2.5.3: Collaborative Web Experience, and A2.5.4: e-learning and Infotainment, A2.5.5: Recreation for the Elderly), whereas the brain and skills trainer of WP2.4 will further protect them from dementing diseases caused by isolation and mental inactivity.

Autonomous mobility

As a whole, transportation services and facilities are part of a package that allows the active elderly to perform important functions, including moving about at will, engaging in social and recreational activities when desired, as well as reaching business and social services when needed.
However, currently major deficiencies exist in assistance to the elderly in the transportation modes that are hampering their social and working activities. In addition, stereotype views about the elderly (such as that it is safer for them to be accompanied while on the move or that they should not be supported to have a fast and efficient transportation as time is not critical to them), which are either no longer valid or totally false, interfere with the society's ability to increase access for the elderly to community activities and support them to live an independent, quality life.
Whether the elderly provide their own transportation in private vehicles, by walking and cycling, or in taxis and on transit using the public transport, a number of barriers are omnipresent and provide major obstacles to the elderly. Some are indicatively mentioned below:

Public transport

  • Many of the public transport means are still largely inaccessible (steps too high, no seats close to the entrance, etc.).
  • During peak hours (morning and evenings), the elderly are often confronted with an overcrowded public transport system, that causes them problems in terms of comfort and safety.
  • If a multimodal transport trajectory has to be undertaken, elderly often become frustrated and have difficulty in organising such rather complicated travel itineraries.
  • Adding to that, public transport means often still do not indicate what stop is being approached, while older people often have trouble to orientate themselves and to know where to get off or, simply, they are unaware of the actual route.

Own private transportation means (car)

  • It is often the case that older people cannot easily find an address because they are unaware of the actual route to destination and have increased difficulty in orientating themselves, or because they are confronted with changes in the street plan (changes in directions) that cause confusion, anxiety, and frustration.
  • Finding parking space at busy areas can be frustrating for drivers of all ages yet it can become particularly cumbersome for older people.
  • Traffic jams further add to the increasing anxiety of the elderly drivers, who are often being subjected to aggressive behaviour of impatient drivers, hence adding more stress and anxiety.

Own private transportation means (on foot)

  • Older people often become disorientated, even when on foot, as they are either unaware of the route, or simply because their capability to orientate themselves has considerably diminished.
  • Furthermore, they would benefit from good and safe pedestrian streets where they do not have to be confronted with hectic traffic, uneven surfaces and obstacles.
  • In addition, points of recognition and good signage often help elderly not to get lost.
How does OASIS address this?

OASIS is in fact offering the elderly a plethora of means so that they can travel independently, whether they use public transport means, their own car or on foot (SP3: Mobility and Smart Workplaces Applications). SP3 furthermore provides older people with customised transport information (WP3.2), enabling them to fully prepare their trip, as well as being accompanied while travelling in the provision of localised and optimised data. Multimodal trip information and planning services, and especially the route guidance systems (WP3.3), provide elderly users with the certainty that whatever means they use to travel, they will always receive guidance by OASIS in order to reach their destination, or even to simply find their way back, in a personalised manner (WP3.4: Personal mobility). OASIS equally supports elderly drivers driving their own car, providing a whole list of driver support services.


The ageing of the European population and other societal factors oblige an increasing number of people close to retirement to continue working longer. However, due to the lack of appropriate retraining, lifelong learning activities, and tele-working infrastructure, senior workers are often confronted with unemployment. Expertise and experience of senior employees is often of crucial importance, and must be transferred to the younger generation. However, mobility and other problems often force older employees to stop working, hence causing significant loss of competences and organisational knowledge.

According to the statistic forecast presented in Leppänen et al. in "Defining the needs and wants of elderly workers", in 2015, the EU countries will have the oldest work forces in their history, the "middle" age of their work forces falling between 45 and 54 years of age. Demographic evidence presents a scenario of an increasingly ageing population in Europe against a background of fewer young people available to enter the labour market. The younger employees are starting later in the working life, due to their longer training and education. Therefore, it is pertinent to keep as many as possible elderly workers well integrated into the workforce.

However, it is not only necessary from a long-term point of view, it is economical too. A study in Finland  proved that the time and funds to qualify a young aircraft engineer is 5 times higher than the cost to properly equip and keep an elderly engineer integrated in the workforce, over a 5 year period.

There are of course also social reasons to promote the workability of the elderly, such as their notion of belonging in a team and having a goal in life, being useful and productive to the community; all of them leading to a much better Quality of Life.

It should be noted that we cannot simply talk of older employees' reduced abilities, but we should take into account the compensational and experience-related factors, that play an important role in keeping up and increasing their ability to work.

Thus, although several abilities of elderly workers are decreasing, others remain the same and yet others increase. It is important for elderly workers to remain active in their work.

On the other hand, one of the most often mentioned problems of elderly workers is the use of information technology. Thus, although new technologies may help them to become remote and part-time workers, they have to be properly adapted to be usable and accepted by them.

OASIS builds upon the accumulated knowledge on the needs and wants of elderly workers from their workspace and working environment from projects RESPECT and CREDIT, aiming to develop the necessary supporting technologies and tools, within its WP3.5, to widely meet them.

How does OASIS address this?

Through the smart workplace environment (WP3.5: Smart workplaces applications, A3.5.1: Design of smart workplace environment and infrastructure), elderly users are given the opportunity to perform a large part of their work at home, or on the move, through e-working services offered by OASIS, allowing the users to remotely access e-mails, files stored at the office PC while also using a wide range of possibilities for (a)synchronous communication offered by OASIS (A3.5.2: Supported tools and Technologies for flexi-work of elderly, A3.5.3: Implementation of smart workplace applications). Furthermore, the platform will also support the teaming up (virtually) of an elderly employee with a younger one, offering the means for cross fertilization between different age groups who have different but complementary areas of expertise.

Getting the services

Beneficial as these services may be to the elderly user, they do not come for free. Not only there is a purchase, installation and maintenance cost, but they also need to be integrated and interoperable. Typical users have no multiple Internet connections at home, cannot learn to operate 5 different devices for controlling their environment and cannot trust the system that supports them only in some locations and areas or that is based on static and thus unreliable sources of information. The extensive segmentation of the assistive market into smaller niches has so far resulted in keeping it at infancy stage.
Either de jure (i.e. konnex bus initiative for the home), or de facto (i.e. ASK-IT ontological framework with hundreds service providers connected) standardization efforts have helped but are still far from covering the breadth of the market.
New standards and ontologies are bound to emerge and challenge previous efforts. Fully integrated, transparent and interconnecting services and applications, holistically and integrally supporting the needs of the elderly living alone, remain a costly exercise.

How does OASIS address this?

OASIS intends to revolutionise the market by proposing an innovative and open Reference Architecture (WP1.2) that will allow nearly automatic connection of existing and emerging ontologies and will combine the merits of the Linux open architecture concept by allowing service and ontology providers to easily hook-up by means of the WP1.3 tools, with those of the Wikipedia concept, by enabling elderly users to rate services and communicate their findings (i.e. routes and POIs) to their peers, using the intelligent agents of WP1.5; all enhanced by self-adaptable user interfaces and interaction elements (WP1.4), and according to the devices used, context of use and personal user preferences, as well as a wealth of connected applications (those of SP2 and SP3); Already displayed support from the bulk of the Industry (PHILIPS, SIEMENS, MOTOROLA, VODAFONE, FIAT, PTV, MIZAR,...) renders the OASIS endeavour both credible and feasible and proves that this vision is both realistic and beneficial to all.
To conclude, the OASIS new Reference Architecture, platform and connected applications will allow the integration of all these technologies and services that are needed to fulfil the social, emotional and psychological well-being of the elderly.