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Seminar Report: Active and Healthy Ageing: Research and Innovation Responses from Europe and Japan

EU News 515/2012

26 October 2012

As many countries and regions around the world experience demographic change and an expansion in the number of senior citizens, the social, technological and economic issues surrounding this topic are increasingly being discussed and debated.

Given the high topicality of this issue, the Delegation of the European Union to Japan, together with the EU-Japan Centre for Industrial Cooperation and the European Economic and Social Committee hosted a two day event in early October to explore the policy and research agendas on healthy ageing.

The conference brought together high-level policy makers from the EU and Japan who explained the broader context, before allowing the foremost experts engaged in research on the topic to provide insights from their research. Over the course of the two days there were 41 speakers and over 200 participants.

Specifically for the second day talks were given over to exploring how research, technological development and innovation can contribute both to quality of life and long term health, with presentations spanning cardiology, epigenetics, information and communications technologies, regenerative medicine, social aspects of ageing, and robotics.

Despite this broad diversity of research, some common themes to emerge were the costs and challenges that will arise from ageing societies; the potential role that the elderly will play as consumers of new products and services; the need for interdisciplinary research that spans natural, engineering, social and medical sciences; and the need for internationally collaborative research able to draw upon and incorporate different perspectives and experiences.

In the first session on life without comorbidity, which is a term used to describe the presence of numerous consecutive diseases, we heard of the dramatic impact of age-related diseases on individuals and societies, as well as prospective measures for understanding and reducing such diseases. Likewise, in order to reduce or lessen the factors that may aggravate heart failure and reduce muscle wasting in the elderly, some of the targeted interventions that have been introduced to improve muscle and cognitive function were explained. The conference also explored some of the environmental factors that may shape healthy ageing, such as the exposure to infections, nutrition, temperature, socioeconomic status, lifestyle, and parental age. The opportunities presented by the use of cell sheet tissue engineering to regenerate organs was also described.

In the second session we learnt of the importance of social innovation for healthy ageing, with Dr Karim Berouk from the Commission providing the background context and introducing EU efforts in the area. On the topic of interventions we heard of research on Kusatsu town in Gunma Prefecture where it is suggested that interventions have had a positive influence in decreasing frailty of the elderly when compared against national and prefectural averages. Other presentations looked at how engineering and robotics can be used for extending recovery for stroke patients and maintaining the health and functional capacity of the elderly.

For the break between sessions, we were joined by a robot, with the appearance of PARO the therapeutic seal. The subsequent session then covered how ICT and information society research is providing tangible benefits, particularly through the role, scope and adoption of robots. In other presentations we heard of the use of hybrid assistive limbs or ubiquitous networked robots.

In the final session we heard from the perspectives of health research. Here we learnt of research to reduce incidences of diabetes, which recognised the importance of tea consumption. The importance of biological clocks and sleep patterns was also discussed.

Wrap up comments were provided by Dr. Rudolf Strohmeier (Deputy Director General of the Directorate General for Research), and the Ambassador, Mr. Hans Dietmar Schweisgut. Both recognised the quality of the talks as well as the liveliness and engagement of participation at the event. The need to expand cooperation between the EU and Japan in the health field was also acknowledged, and the possibility for networking and extending collaborative contacts was provided through a reception at the end of the day.


Presentation materials:

Opening session

  • Mr. Yasuhiko Taniwaki, Deputy Director-General of the Information and Communications Bureau, Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC) (PDF)


Healthy Ageing: a Life without Comorbidity

  • "EU Support for Polymorbidity Research"
    Dr. Karim Berkouk, Deputy Head of Unit, Medical Research, Directorate General of Research and Innovation, European Commission  (PDF)
  • "Investigating Co-morbidities Aggravating Heart Failure" (EU Project SICA-HF) 
    Prof. Stefan D. Anker, Professor of Cardiology & Cachexia Research, Charité - Berlin University of Medicine, Germany (PDF)
  • "Prevention of Geriatric Syndrome"
    Dr. Takao Suzuki, Director, Research Institute, National Centre for Geriatrics and Gerontology   (PDF)
  • "Developmental Determinants of Aging and Longevity" (EU Project IDEAL) 
    Dr. Ingrid Meulenbelt, Leiden University Medical Centre, Netherlands (PDF)
  • "Cell Sheet Tissue Engineering" 
    Prof. Teruo Okano, Director, Institute of Advanced Biomedical Engineering and Science, Tokyo Women Medical University (PDF)


Social Innovation for Healthy Ageing

  • “EU Support for Social Innovation Research to the Benefit of Healthy Ageing”
    Dr. Karim Berkouk, Deputy Head of Unit, Medical Research, European Commission's Directorate General of Research and Innovation (PDF)
  • “Prevention of Frailty and Healthy Ageing: a 10-year Community Intervention and Outcome.”
    Dr. Shoji Shinkai, Team Leader, Tokyo Metropolitan Geriatric Hospital and Institute of Gerontology (PDF)
  • "Innovative midlife intervention for dementia "(EU project In-Mindd)
    Dr. Kate Irving, Lecturer, School of Nursing and Human Science, Dublin City University, Ireland (PDF)
  • "Innovation of Health Engineering for Happy Aging Society" 
    Professor Zhiwei Luo, Kobe University
  • "Novel Technologies to Rehabilitate Stroke Patients" (EU Project Rehab4life) 
    Prof. Michael Lawo, Professor for Applied Computer Science, University of Bremen and Managing Director of TZI and the Mobile Solution Group GmbH, Germany (PDF)


Success Stories in ICT/Information Society Research for Active and Healthy Ageing 

  • "The European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing" 
    Dr. Barbara Rhode, Minister Counsellor, Head of Science and technology, EU Delegation in Japan (PDF)
  • "Multi–role Shadow Robotic System for Independent Living" (EU Project SRS) 
    Dr. Renxi Qiu, University of Cardiff (UK)  (PDF)
  • "Presentation title TBC" 
    Dr. Takanori Shibata, National Institute for Advanced Industrial Science and Technology
  • "Advanced Robotics Systems and Intelligent Environments in Real Scenarios for Ageing Population" (EU project ROBOT-ERA) 
    Dr. Filippo Cavallo, Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna, Italy (PDF)
  • "Leading Edge of HAL (Hybrid Assistive Limb) and Clinical Applications for Supporting Ageing Society" 
    Dr. Yoshiyuki Sankai, Professor, University of Tsukuba
  • "Ubiquitous Network Robots for Life Support" 
    Dr. Takahiro Miyashita, Group Leader, Department of Network Robots, ATR Intelligent Robotics and Communication Laboratories (PDF)


Active and Healthy Ageing : A Key Role for Health Research

  • "A new molecular target for prevention of diabetes mellitus by food factors"  
    Prof. Hitoshi Ashida, Kobe University (PDF)
  • "Benefits of Circadian Rhythm and Sleep for Healthy Ageing: A View from Clock Gene" 
    Mr. Norio Ishida, National Institute for Advanced Industrial Science and Technology