What is NET4Age-Friendly?

International Interdisciplinary Network on Smart Healthy Age-friendly Environments

CA19136 - NET4Age-Friendly


The main aim of NET4Age-Friendly is to establish an international and interdisciplinary network of researchers from all sectors to foster awareness, and to support the creation and implementation of smart, healthy indoor and outdoor environments for present and future generations.

NET4Age-Friendly further aims to overcome fragmentation and critical gaps at both conceptual and pragmatic innovation level on responsive, age-friendly and sustainable environments in order to address the research-policy future requirements of Europe.

The main approach of NET4Age-Friendly is the establishment of new local or regional ecosystems or by expanding existing ones in each European COST country involved, to work on health and wellbeing in an age-friendly digital world.

The ecosystems will consist of citizens, public authorities, businesses/NGOs and research and will be supported by four thematic Working Groups:

  • User-centred inclusive design in age-friendly environments and communities
  • Integrated health and well-being pathways
  • Digital solutions and large-scale sustainable implementation
  • Policy development, funding forecast and cost-benefit evaluations

The outcomes of the five thematic Working Groups will be obtained in the work of a 5th one, creating a synergised output - the Reference Framework.

NET4Age-Friendlywill be used as a connector for involving and hosting regular themed sessions with local and regional stakeholders and users’ representatives from various countries and backgrounds, as well as for fostering the knowledge creation and sharing among researchers. Particular attention will be devoted to promoting the involvement of Early Career Investigators, entrepreneurs and participants from COST Inclusiveness Target Countries.



Beyond the State of the Art

The main strength of this COST Action relates to the interdisciplinary and comprehensive composition of scientists from socio-economic, health and ICT sciences that will closely cooperate with other experts and stakeholders across each thematic WG. Members of each WG, starting from the already known state-of-the-art research, will share policy initiatives and measures, demographic and economic developments and user perspectives in the related field. WGs will also focus the activities on measuring and examining the progress of activities and address questions reported at the different levels.

During the lifetime of the COST Action, NET4Age-Friendly will jointly search for opportunities to embed the international interdisciplinary network into joint brands, service models or a more formal structure or institutionalisation. This will assure a strategy oriented to the future, with room for new initiatives for the whole duration of the Action, developing a pathway for its future implementation of the Action with ECIs and entrepreneurs in continuing to further expand the network and knowledge.

The Challenge


  1. What knowledge is available on SHAFE?
  2. What is the best conceptual approach for understanding SHAFE?
  3. What are the impacts of SHAFE in the welfare and health system and the community development?
  4. How is ICT, health and age-friendliness developed and integrated within the WHO domains of outdoor places and buildings, housing, transportation, social participation, respect and social inclusion, civic participation and employment, communication and information, and community support and health services?
  5. How to increase the user-centred approach, understanding, awareness and knowledge among different stakeholders (researchers, entrepreneurs, policy makers, citizens and professionals)? 

This COST Action is formed by different members of working groups on age-friendly environments. Its main aim is to establish an interdisciplinary and pan-European network to foster awareness, and to support the creation and implementation of smart, healthy indoor and outdoor environments for present and future generations. The network will pursue this aim by improving chances for Early Career Investigators (ECIs), entrepreneurs, public authorities and citizens to develop critical mass of knowledge and holistic solutions for age-friendly environments, paying special attention to COST Inclusiveness Target Countries (ITC). These environments will enable us to learn, grow up, work, socialise and enjoy a healthy life, by benefiting from the use of digital innovations, smart living and accessibility solutions and shared assistive models adaptable within the European setting. SHAFE will be then the facilitators in which all are enabled to easily manage their own lives, according to their specific needs and wishes, following an inclusive design approach.

Disparate knowledge on SHAFE means that much existing European policies, user-centred design approaches and practices have little connection to citizens’ needs (demand) and to the entrepreneurs who are empowered to create new solutions for the future age-friendly (digital) market (supply). The ‘Tallinn Declaration' [24] calls for actions for efficient and inclusive digital public services to all citizens and businesses. The programme should ensure support for the ‘User-Centricity principles’ across all public services, while ensuring the respect of fundamental rights. It should be used to facilitate the deployment of simpler, more transparent, effective and interoperable administrative procedures across Europe.

This is compounded by the absence of a comprehensive conceptual framework to pursue a collaborative work to design, implement and monitor SHAFE policies, practices and programmes. The majority of digital solutions and outcomes from the EU-funded frame programmes (e.g. FP7 and H2020) are mostly tested within pilots and the difficulty to scale-up to markets [25] and to integrate between interdisciplinary research areas represent some of the main obstacles in boosting the creation and deployment of SHAFE. All these solutions are developed isolated and the challenge of integrating all of them along with the design of future solutions following common standards for their optimal integration with other solutions is the goal ofNET4Age-Friendly. The reasons behind these prominent issues are: inappropriate evidence-based co-designed digital-based solutions, lack of awareness across European stakeholders on validated good practices, cost/benefit concerns on commercialisation aspects and weak cross-sectoral cooperation and coordination in the European market despite the wide promotion of the “silver economy” concept [26].

To achieve the Action main aim fragmentation and critical gaps need to be overcome at both conceptual and pragmatic innovation levels to address the future European research-policies requirements. This will be reached by connecting and stimulating a multidisciplinary, international team of scientists, researchers and entrepreneurs that will foster knowledge, improve holistic strategies and support the development of user-based (users, caregivers, authorities) solutions for realising SHAFE.

This NET4Age-Friendly Action is inclusive as it welcomes participants from COST Countries, COST Near Neighbour Countries (NNC) and COST IPC. The network encourages end-users (citizen advocacy organisations, public authorities), expert researchers, ECIs, researchers from industry sector, healthcare, stakeholder associations, NGOs, policy makers, with backgrounds from a variety of complementary disciplines to cooperate in a two-way process with citizens, entrepreneurs and public authorities on the effective integration of SHAFE. The inclusion of citizens’ representatives in networking activities, multidisciplinary collaboration, exchange of knowledge, and scientific excellence, as well as the expertise of local and regional stakeholders will address the successful implementation and upscale of the age-friendly environments paradigm across Europe. Through exchange of practices, networking and the creation of open access inclusive and innovative contents and dissemination activities.


NET4Age-Friendly will:

  • Learn from interdisciplinary and transnational approaches from involved countries and the involvement of local and regional stakeholders in understanding what are the good practices for the integration of SHAFE which are currently in place, particularly where, why and how they work, what barriers and successes they meet and what is the associated role of different stakeholders.
  • Collect and share knowledge among different disciplines to promote future collaborations addressing the design and implementation of SHAFE.
  • Give a boost to local and regional stakeholders (citizens, research, public administration and companies) to design and implement SHAFE in urban, rural and remote settings by providing a holistic approach composed of inclusive designed frameworks for enhancing awareness on existing guidelines and standards (as mentioned in the state of the art).
  • Actively contribute with indicators as results of the working groups to shaping call programmes relevant to ageing into smart and healthy environments, embedding the inclusion of the need for interdisciplinary cross-national research and markets creation into complex societal issues affecting the whole population, endeavouring to shift the current focus from viewing ageing primarily as a context factor.