Healthy ageing & Senior care

The Netherlands has been long known for its research and innovation in Healthy Ageing. The European Union has designated the Northern Netherlands as a reference region for active and healthy ageing. An important element of success for this has been the quadruple helix of government, industry, universities and citizens. Similar to Japan, The Netherlands is investing in innovations for Healthy Ageing.

The Dutch Life Sciences and Health sector have jointly published a new knowledge and innovation agenda in which we have identified a number of missions. The most important is that our overall mission is to create 5 additional healthy life years by 2040 and decrease the disparity between people from lower compared to higher social-economic classes.

Combining technological and social innovations

Achieving Healthy Ageing is not an easy task. It requires a multi-disciplinary and cross-societal approach. Healthy Ageing innovations combine advanced technologies like Artificial Intelligence and robotics, with social innovations, changing the design of the physical and social living environment. A Dutch consortium of public and private partners aims to stimulate coorporation in the field of Healthy Ageing with Japan, by focusing on government-to-government, knowledge-to-knowledge, and business-to-business cooperation.

With the Healthy Ageing domain, three areas have been identified to potentially focus on:

1. Healthy Lifestyle: Sports, Vitality and Nutrition

Promoting an active and healthy lifestyle is an important part of Healthy Ageing. This includes sports and exercise, but it also means providing a safe, healthy environment for people to walk and cycle as well as offering them attractive outdoor meeting places.

Obesity is a growing health challenge in the world. Diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and several forms of cancer are linked to food intake. Stopping the growing number of chronic diseases earlier in life, requires a general change in diet, including the effects of culture and environment on food intake. This means making adjustments in the food chain and partnering with restaurants, supermarkets and other environments that can help citizens make a healthy choice.

2. Long term (elderly) care

Despite the wide array of health services, older adults do not always receive appropriate and coherent care. This often leads to adverse drug events, difficulties with participation in treatment, and even treatment errors. Consequently, health care systems need to be transformed.

Integrated care models promise to provide a solution to control these healthcare challenges, to enable the elderly to live at home as long as possible in good health. A part of this process is bridging the gap between formal and informal care and providing citizens with the right tools as well as knowledge to be able to live at home until old age.

Solutions that enable people to live longer independently in their home environment include care robots, but also tools that increase physical mobility, help regain function and freedom or aid with medication. An important part is played by eHealth solutions, with many Dutch companies developing cutting-edge digital health products and services.

One interesting initiative to highlight is a platform set up by Philips, Amsterdam University Medical Center and Radboud University, providing online coaching to elderly people in order to strengthen their health.

3. Digital Health to enable Personalized and Connected Health

Innovations in digital health empower citizens to gain more control over their health. Increasingly, citizens are using digital health products such as wearables, health apps, and domotics at home. Integrating data and using artificial intelligence are core themes in this domain.

Personalised medicine addresses the challenges of common medicines not being effective in treating large numbers of patients, and rising healthcare costs due to more prevalent chronic diseases and an ageing population. Tailor-made prevention and treatment strategies for individuals or groups enable patients to receive specific therapies that work best for them.

The development of Big Data initiatives offers ways to provide personalized health. Using existing information about the outcomes of treatment in patients with comparable characteristics, the treatments that offer the best outcomes for the patient can be chosen. Public health institutions and organisations in the social field could also benefit from combining and analysing the data from the various sources they manage. This way, different risk groups in populations could be distinguished. By linking this information to data about healthcare use, the healthcare prevalence for a certain area can be predicted.