Senior citizens and the ethics of e-inclusion

The ageing society poses significant challenges to Europe’s economy and society. In coming to grips with these issues, we must be aware of their ethical dimensions. Values are the heart of the European Union, as Article 1a of the Lisbon Treaty makes clear: “The Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity…”. The notion of Europe as a community of values has various important implications, including the development of inclusion policies. A special case of exclusion concerns the gap between those people with effective access to digital and information technology and those without access to it, the “digital divide”, which in Europe is chiefly age-related. Policies to overcome the digital divide and, more generally speaking, e-inclusion policies addressing the ageing population raise some ethical problems. Among younger senior citizens, say those between 65 and 80 years old, the main issues are likely to be universal access to ICT and e-participation. Among the older senior citizens, say those more than 80 years old, the main issues are mental and physical deterioration and assistive technology. An approach geared towards the protection of human rights could match the different needs of senior citizens and provide concrete guidance to evaluate information technologies for them.
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