Smart cities for ageing societies

 – multidisciplinary seminar

The aim of the on-line seminar is to analyze the concept of smart cities in relation to active ageing. The rationale behind is that ageing is the major challenge faced by cities today and onto the future, in particular in combination with the current and possible future pandemics and the climate change. We want to analyze interactions within the ageing city, which is the first step for planning new policies of motivating and enabling elderly people to work and to remain an active part of a community. In order to do it, we offer a series of research seminars, in which students and scientists interested in ageing and smart city can meet and discuss problems they are investigating, show their work, identify potential research problems and listen to the presentations of invited experts.


Schedule for the academic year 2020/2021:


The seminars take place on Wednesdays, from 9:30 till 11:00.


November 18th, 2020


Hans-Werner Wahl

Heidelberg University

Beyond Virology: Psychosocial Aspects of Aging in the Corona Pandemic



After some hope during this summer, COVID-19's Second Wave is challenging us now in the fall and wintertime once again and possible even stronger than in spring - as researchers, as citizens, and societies. As a psychologist with interest in lifespan development and aging as well as in the role of smart/digital technology, I will follow two goals in this presentation. First, I will concentrate on issues of psychosocial adaptation (e.g., life satisfaction) during the Corona crisis, always driven by an age-differential point of view. Overall, as it seems and although older adults are marked as "the" risk group, they seem to get better psychologically along with the crisis than younger age groups such as those in mid life. However, those in long-term care deserve quite a different view and have seen risky social isolation in many countries in the first lock-down phase, the consequences of which (all-cause mortality, cognitive deterioration, apathy etc.) are still hard to evaluate based on sound data. In parallel, linking the Corona issue still closer to the "Smart Cities for Ageing Societies" theme, digital technologies, (artificially) intelligent media, and robotics have seen a strong momentum internationally as a helpful and totally underused means at different levels in the Corona pandemic, such as a direct infection protector (e.g., assistive robots helping in meal services without risk of infection), social connector and social isolation counteracting force (with family, friends, health actors), and relief for professional and informal care providers (e.g., robots doing COVID-testing at clinic entrances or even in public areas). I hope to serve with this input a general discussion in differentiating in how smart technologies may help coping with the pandemic versus what still is unrealistic and wishful thinking.


Presentation slides


December 2nd, 2020


Magdalena Kubecka

Vice-president of On-site Foundation (Fundacja "Na miejscu"), Project "Toilet for me too" Coordinator in Poland

“Accessible toilets and the matter of dignity of elderly



One of the things that stops older and disabled people from going out is the lack of toilets that are publicly available and accessible. The accessibility of flexible and smart toilets in the (semi-)public space is crucial but still limited in many countries. In general, people need to use the toilet 4 to 8 times each day, including when they are out of home. Half of us needs to use the toilet immediately (in 1 to 5 minutes). Older and disabled people need to use the toilet even more often. The project I am going to present addresses the needs of such people and their caregivers when using the toilet outside their homes in semi-public places by providing a supportive ICT-enhanced toilet adapting to the individual user's needs. We are working on a toilet system with ICT-based, adaptive physical stand-up and control support with integrated safety features. It will allow people with movement or mobility restrictions, who currently require human assistance, to use the toilet independently and safely. This is the next step towards barrier-free toilets in public spaces for the disabled and elderly.


The project T4ME2 is funded in part by AAL and national research funding agencies. AAL is the funding association behind Toilet For Me. AAL is a European programme funding innovation that keeps people connected, healthy, active and happy into our old age. They support the development of products and services that make a real difference to people's lives – for those facing some of the challenges of ageing and for those who care for older people if they need help.


December 16th, 2020


Giancarlo Manzi

Università degli Studi di Milano, Italy

“The elders' urban mobility in Covid-19 times: the case of the "BikeMi" bike-sharing service in Milan, Italy”



In the modern “smart” transportation framework, the sharing mobility is becoming more and more popular in all its forms. Among shared micro mobility services, fixed bike-sharing is (re)gaining popularity as a mean of transportation both convenient and environmental-prone. Consequently more and more cities around the world are developing bike-sharing systems in urban areas to solve congestion problems and to let citizens be ‘greener’. Less has been said about the relationship between senior people and bike sharing mobility systems, especially when faced to an increasing number of technology innovations for their use. The Covid-19 emergency has spread even more controversy about the interpretation of the elders’ usage of bike sharing systems to avoid contagion. Increasing senior usage of bikes and, more specifically, bike-sharing systems is part of the developing of a greener, smarter and safer city, especially in those societies where (i) there are no “ideal” cultural roots for a wide use of the bicycle and (ii) the number of elders exceeds by far that of youngsters. In this talk we will present a data analysis of the docking station-based bike-sharing system “BikeMi” in Milan, Italy in the period of the Covid-19 pandemic, focusing on the usage behavior of senior people and their technological gap when using the service.


January 13th, 2021


Grzegorz Kula

University of Warsaw

Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, and the sustainable development of cities… in the (post) COVID-19 era



Today, more people live in urban than in rural areas. Hence, the main challenges of our time relate to cities and their sustainable development. Due to the collection of Big Data, the development of Artificial Intelligence algorithms, 5G broadband data transmission technology, the Internet of Things, and mutual communication between machines, cities are becoming more and more intelligent. The vision of a future in which millions of devices, cameras, and sensors constantly monitor, analyze, and regulate city life is by no means a distant prospect. Indeed, some of its elements were already introduced to cope with COVID-19 pandemics. The use of technology allows for the improved connectivity of rapidly increasing urban populations, promotes the creation of smarter and safer modes of transportation, and promises better traffic, congestion, energy and water management.

Technology alone is not enough to make a city better – its use must meet the real needs of urban residents. Nor should technology be exclusive, for not everyone has access to the internet or can use it. Ensuring greater social integration and inclusion, i.e., involving all citizens in the benefits of modern technologies, is a big challenge. It is also important to define an ethical framework for devising solutions that use Big Data and Artificial Intelligence to reduce the risk of unauthorized use. In the context of the rapid ageing of the EU population, increased access and affordability of services aimed at seniors is of great importance. An important barrier to the development of this type of technology is that of the still high costs and lack of regulation. Low deployment costs (also in the environmental-impact sense) are a key factor for the sustainability of smart city solutions. Such solutions also need to be safe, reliable, scalable, inclusive, and transparent to citizens. The smart city may therefore offer a number of benets in the management and optimization of traditional public services.


Presentation slides


January 27th, 2021


Sion Jones

HelpAge International

“Older peoples voices in urban communities”



Drawing on research conducted in Mexico City, Delhi and Nairobi, HelpAge International will share insights from focus groups and survey work with older people in low income communities – what are their experiences of ageing in an urban environment, and how do they differ according to intersecting identities? The session will look at the challenges and priorities highlighted by older people themselves living in income poor communities across the world.


Presentation slides


March 10th, 2021


Elisa Pozo Menéndez

Researcher in group ABIO (Universidad Politécnica de Madrid), architect and urban planner specialized in Sustainability and Environment.

A methodology for sustainable urban renovation for healthy ageing. UNI-Health Project.



Health has become a major issue in the last year, but the truth is that Covid-19 impact is "just" highlighting the major inequalities in our territories. A methodology for developing healthy urban environments adapted to the Spanish context will be presented. In this sense, urban design needs to address two major challenges that are closely connected with health: climate change and ageing societies. The presentation of the project UNI-Health (EIT Health BP2019) will show a theoretical approach for a vulnerable neighbourhood in the South of Madrid and the opportunities for innovation to improve quality of life.


March 24th, 2021


Carla Jung-König

International Building Exhibition, Heidelberg

Masterplan PHV – Ageing and Social Justice



Carla Jung-König will focus on the new urban district "Patrick-Henry-Village" in Heidelberg. The process of creating a "dynamic masterplan" was supported by the IBA Heidelberg (International Building Exhibition) since 2019. The Masterplan is a set of tools to create a livable city for a variety of people. Elderly people and the ageing society were not the "main target group" when the masterplan was first written. But the topic of an ageing society was integrated in the process of planning in the meantime. The change in society is getting more obvious day by day – knowledge needs to be transferred to a younger generation, elderly people need to work longer. Health issues, loneliness or lack of money need to be addressed. So the speech asks: What can urban planners do, when thinking of an ageing society? Is it enough to integrate elevators in every building, or can planners address other topics as well?


April 7th, 2021


Silvia Turzio

VillageCare (CEO & Founder)

“Ageing society: social impact and business opportunity”



The ageing population presents several challenges at the economic and social levels, with significant implications in the urban environment. Private and public solutions are necessary to address these issues.

VillageCare is a start-up in social impact and ageing services, the first national digital portal in guidance, advisoring and search assistant solutions for families caregiver taking care of elderly people.

It provides a range of care advisory services to both individuals and business to business such as corporate welfare systems, insurance, health, employee training an coaching, focused on improving caregivers work-life  balance and well-being.


May 5th, 2021


Anna Schlomann

Network on Aging Research, University of Heidelberg

“How “smart“ is older adults‘ everyday life? Empirical findings and conceptual approaches”



The remaining schedule for this academic year will be published as soon as possible. If you are interested in sharing your research or experience with us, let us know.

Organizational information:


The coordinators of the seminar:

- Chiara Del Bo (UM),

- Grzegorz Kula (UW),

- Emmanuel Raju (CPHU),

- Christiane Schwieren (HU)


If you want to attend the seminar, send an e-mail to Grzegorz Kula:


The links to the on-line seminars on ZOOM will be sent via answering e-mail.


For some meetings the recordings will be available. If you want to see them, send an e-mail to Grzegorz Kula:


Students from 4EU+ Alliance, who want to treat this seminar as a course, should check the information here.



This seminar is organized within the framework of 4EU+ Alliance.