The Silver Economy – the market represented by senior citizens – will form a sizeable part of the digital economy going forward, as providers seek to help elderly people to retain their independence, maintain social links and find entertainment.
In a world where people are living longer, better and in relatively good health, we need to alter our views on ageing. It is an unfortunate fact that human societies tend to perpetuate myths about the ageing process which can lead to elderly people being marginalised, forced into solitude and all too frequently left in despair.
In her celebrated book La Vieillesse, (published in English as ‘The Coming of Age’), Simone de Beauvoir wrote regarding the elderly that ‘their unhappy fate is an indictment of our entire civilisation’. Nowadays, however, this segment of the population is being viewed in a whole new way and there is an increasing number of initiatives underway focusing on their economic, social and creative potential.
Senior citizens becoming more active and more connected
So who exactly are these senior citizens? Serge Guérin, a sociologist who specialises in the Silver Economy, speaks of the “economy of longevity”. He explains: “The idea is all about adapting supply to demand so as to meet the requirements of a public that we call ‘senior citizens’, i.e. people who are now over 60. A very small proportion of these people are physically or mentally frail, but the vast majority of them just need to make some adjustments so as to go on living their lives as independently as possible.” This assessment is confirmed by a recent survey, among some 7,200 people aged 50 or over, conductedby the French Institute for Senior Citizens (IFS) on behalf of Domytis, a French company that runs serviced residences for elderly people. The survey results revealed that these older people are often still in excellent form. In fact, eight out of every ten respondents said they were satisfied with their “state of health and their relationship with their family.” Moreover, around 58% “do not regard themselves as senior citizens” and 92% “do not regard themselves as old”. Nevertheless, the survey report underlines that “72% of them stated that they felt anxious about their future”, especially as regards becoming dependent on their families, mentioned by half of the respondents, and their state of health, mentioned by eight out of ten. These are precisely the issues that have prompted a number of entrepreneurs to take an interest in what happens to elderly – and not so elderly – people, at a time when the ageing of the population is driving structural changes in our society. Figures published by France’s Institute for Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE) project that “by 2050, mainland France will have between 61 and 79 million inhabitants, depending on the accuracy of various hypotheses regarding fertility, mortality and migration rates. Close to one person in three will be over 60 years of age, versus one in five in 2005.
The Silver Economy, a concept which was first put forward several years ago, is all about coming up with innovative services designed to improve the quality of life of senior citizens, providing them with greater independence and helping to maintain
their social links with family and friends. Going beyond this, by drawing on the new digital technologies, a further aim is to alleviate their anxieties by helping them to stay in good health and providing them with new kinds of entertainment. In fact, contrary to common prejudice, the senior citizens of today often make considerable use of online tools. The IFS survey mentioned above reveals that “68% of all seniors (even 55% of the over-75s) are on Facebook and more than half use Skype.” This is a key indicator, showing their strong desire to keep up social contacts and family ties.
According to the latest Ipsos barometer for the Cercle des Epargnants, the majority of French people have a positive vision of retirement, associated with new life and leisure. But their main fear towards aging well is to lack resources their retirement serenely.
That's why since 2010 BNP Paribas Cardif has been offering an information area dedicated to retirement. His vocation:
- To give the keys to understand the functioning of the pension system,
- To provide useful tools to take stock of one's personal situation,
- and to be able to decide, in full knowledge, actions to take to prepare for retirement and live well, once the time comes.
Overcoming dependence and boosting social links
The new digital technologies thus appear to be valuable aids in preserving senior citizens’ independence, with two particular needs at the forefront: health and social contact. Recent advances in home automation (known as ‘domotics’), based on connected objects for the home, are tending to make day-to-day tasks easier to perform, improving both wellbeing and basic autonomy among the elderly. Items of household equipment, increasingly linked to the Internet and to each other, are becoming more automated and programmable, enabling senior citizens to remotely control window-blinds, the washing machine and the ambient temperature. If older people are determined to stay on in their own homes, then the house itself will need to adapt to their needs, even to the extent of becoming a connected service hub that is fully personalised to individual requirements. This is indeed the case with the automated house created by Cluster senior, a group of companies and service providers in Northwestern France that has been designed from top to bottom with the goal of enabling older people to remain in their own homes. This revolutionary home
provides two key added benefits: safety and security; and adaptability. It is highly adaptable to the decreasing mobility of its residents and is equipped with sensors designed to detect a fall and alert the family or carers.
The last thing the Silver Economy technicians want to do is shut up our aged parents in a gilded cage and increase their dependency. On the contrary, their aim is to give them greater autonomy and enable social contact. Under this approach, elderly people are also encouraged to take responsibility for self-manage their health and following treatment. In this regard, Virtual Reality tools can serve as a loyal companion. An example of this is Prévichute (‘Preparing for a Fall’),a serious VR game created by French remote assistance specialist Arkéa Assistance to enable elderly people to understand, in a fun way, why and how they might have a fall and prepare themselves in advance for such an eventuality. In a slightly different vein, MédiMoov draws on Virtual Reality to encourage movement and physical activity that will help people to age well. Finding information, preventing and anticipating problems, and obtaining assistance in a fun, entertaining way – this is the purpose of the VR tools that are beginning to flourish in the fertile landscape of the Silver Economy. However, Serge Guérin warns that “the Silver Economy will not fulfil its aims if it tries to work on behalf of senior citizens. It will only succeed if it works together with them. It’s also vital to grasp that their financial means are not inexhaustible. This market is becoming ever larger but, at the same time, senior citizens’ purchasing power is limited. So some adjustments will be needed in order to ensure that these ways of doing things are accessible from a psychological point of view and also economically affordable.”
How to look after its health from home? It is what BNP Paribas Cardif France proposes with a tele-monitoring offer for seniors.
Génération Care is a program developped in partnership with doctors to improve and maintain elderly persons' health thanks to their relatives' involvement.
The principle is simple. The idea is to collect patient's datas from 3 instruments - a scale, a tensiometer, a podometer - which send information thanks to a tablet computer. According to these medical information and the limits previously defined by the referring physician, the tablet computer sends advices to the patient and text messages to relatives. A medical platform accompanies the elderly person in taking care of his health. In the event of a deterioration of health conditions, the platform receives an alert and takes over the elderly person.Thanks to those information, it is possible to conduct efficient preventive actions to avoid or postpone the loss of autonomy of the patient and the beginning of his dependency.
BNP Paribas Cardif strive to make insurance accessible to the largest possible number of people. Thanks to this initiative, BNP Paribas Cardif supports the well-aging through a tablet computer application adapted and designed for elderly persons.