The Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development, Global Coalition on Aging and Harris Manchester College, Oxford University Map Strategies to Maximize the Benefits of the Digital Economy for All Ages

OXFORD, ENGLAND (23 September 2015) – The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the Global Coalition on Aging (GCOA) convened on September 1-2 an expert consultation on Active Ageing in the Digital Economy in partnership with the Harris Manchester College, Oxford University. International experts from industry, ageing, technology and public policy mapped strategies to prepare for the changes that accompany a rapidly evolving digital economy. They agreed that only by adapting our approaches to education, work policies, and skills development as well as raising trust in the use of information technologies, can we keep senior people engaged in their workplaces and communities longer and ensure an inclusive labor and living environment in which all ages can prosper.

The over-60 population in OECD countries has been steadily increasing over the past several decades. Currently 22 percent of the OECD population is 60 or older, and by 2050 this ratio will rise to 32.5 percent. Many OECD countries will be over 40 percent as birth rates continue to plummet and longevity is extended.

“21st-century longevity will add 30 years to the average lifespan and we will see the population of 60+ grow to one billion by 2020. Many are relatively new to digital life and often their integration into the rapidly evolving digital economy is more challenging than for younger cohorts,” said Michael Hodin, CEO of the Global Coalition on Aging. “But there is a huge opportunity here to harness the digital economy to create innovative solutions and smart policies for a healthy and active ageing process that will ensure economic growth and vitality as the global population ages.”

There is a growing consensus that countries that are able to adapt to the changing needs and abilities of their populations will see better economic outcomes, and that the silver economy as a pathway for growth is possible, but not inevitable. It requires critical public policy changes as well as a profound cultural and attitudinal shift. One of these shifts includes integrating all ages into the digital economy. Telehealth and telemedicine are examples of the applications of innovative technology that open huge prospects for a healthier and active ageing.

“In order to unlock the silver economy, we must address how ageing populations currently interact with new technologies in order to prepare them for the future of work and life in a rapidly evolving digital world,” said Elettra Ronchi, Senior Policy Analyst in the OECD’s Directorate for Science, Technology and Innovation. “At the OECD, it is our objective to bring the growth and innovation potential of the digital economy and Internet to the forefront of policy discussions. This goal cannot be achieved without accounting for how ageing populations across the globe fit in this changing environment both as users and as recipients of its benefits.”

“Harris Manchester College, Oxford University has been a leading academic institution in the themes discussed at this consultation and has long been proud to be a College for ‘Mature Students’,” said Ralph Waller, Principal of Harris Manchester College and Pro-Vice-Chancellor elect of the University of Oxford. “The College’s interest in medicine and economics are additional reasons why we have pursued a long-standing relationship with the OECD and GCOA, and encourage open dialogue on how best to ensure that all generations are included in, contribute to and benefit from the digital economy.”

The participants focused discussion on ways to foster a common understanding around the contribution of the digital economy, and how to create the enabling conditions for new jobs, appropriate skills, inclusiveness, and innovation.

Critical needs outlined during the workshop include:

  • Improving the evidence base to more effectively measure populations’ readiness for and progress towards a silver economy.
  • Understanding where there is a skills mismatch, including digital skills, strategies to address it, which will promote lifelong learning and active ageing.
  • Facilitating access to e-learning and other smart services for seniors addressing the new needs of senior customers.
  • Encouraging the development of the right ecosystem and cross-sector partnerships to foster innovation.
  • Identifying incentives for promoting age-friendly workplaces.
  • Building tools and services and adopting policies that promote active ageing in the home and urban environment.
  • Creating public-private partnerships to develop robust privacy and security standards, appropriate IP regimes, and coordination that fosters a level playing field while ensuring the incentives for innovation.

This consultation follows a three-year effort with the OECD Science, Technology and Innovation Directorate to articulate the challenges and opportunities of rapid population ageing and to set a positive agenda for the silver economy as a driver of productivity, wealth creation, and social value. The outcomes of this work will help feed into the agenda of the June 2016 OECD Ministerial in Mexico City on the “Digital Economy: Innovation, Growth, and Social Prosperity.” It will contribute to ensuring that the billion over 60 will be fully included in high-level discussions planned for 2016.

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