Creating scenarios for the future of ageing and new technology

Society and policy makers are faced with many collective choices, and the latter need to handle sometimes conflicting priorities when developing their policies. The outcome and the implications of their choices may be difficult to anticipate. Our scenarios on ageing did not try to predict the future and did not purport to encompass all aspects of a possible future. Instead, they presented sharply distinct alternative futures that one might expect to arise from discrete policy choices, highlighting the challenges, dilemmas and conflicts that could occur in order to spur discussion.

It is a challenge to write up scenarios that are considered relevant for a broad group of countries and regions because of how diverse the reality of health-care systems and use of technology are. Immigration, distribution of technology and digital literacy are generally perceived

figure 7.1 The PACITA scenarios for the future of ageing

table 7.1 Content of scenarios on the future of ageing

very differently in different countries. Therefore, instead of dealing with concrete technological solutions, we structured ours along two axes of 'social patterns' and 'organization of health-care services'. This more generic approach ensured that all countries could recognize parts of their own reality, but at the same time the scenarios told stories that stirred debate among the stakeholders.

The three scenarios, 'One size fits all', 'Freedom of choice' and 'Volunteering community' describe futures where health-care services are organized and financed in different ways and where health-care service may be affected by increased government control, a stronger private sector or a better organized volunteer community.

Designing national scenario workshops

The main activity in the PACITA project on ageing was ten national scenario workshops organized by the project partners. They all followed the same method: [1] critiquing, discussing and giving feedback on the three scenarios, and in the end formulating visions and recommendations for policy makers. The participants at the workshops were broad groups of stakeholders from academia, the health-care sector, policy makers, public administration, industry and senior organizations.

The results from the workshops were collected in national reports that describe the response to the scenarios and the future recommendations. [2]

While all countries agreed that there is potential in using technology in the health-care sector, several differences became obvious when it came to describing possible barriers and challenges related to implementation and use. These national peculiarities reflected cultural and social aspects in the respective countries and regions and also reflected to what degree the debate about technology and ageing had been prominent or not. In this way, the differences across countries reflected different values and worldviews with regard to the use of technology in health care and social innovations. In many countries, there were no established arenas beforehand where stakeholders could come together and discuss current and future policy developments. In this way, our experiment was very successful in terms of facilitating dialogue and knowledge exchange between stakeholders that were otherwise unconnected.

  • [1] Barland (2013).
  • [2] Country reports are available at
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