EU cash to turn baby boomers into silver surfers

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - EU baby boomers were given help on Thursday to live more independent lives in their old age when the European Parliament agreed to fund research into using technology such as the Web to keep the elderly in touch.

The European Parliament voted to devote 150 million euros ($234 million) from the EU’s budget over the next five years to a new research program known as ambient-assisted living.

The 27-nation bloc’s ageing population will see a nearly 40 percent jump in the number of people aged 65 or older between 2010 and 2030, the European Commission has said.

“We need to make the Internet more accessible and make training available and allow elderly people to stay socially connected and to perform daily activities which can be facilitated, such as shopping, paying bills and making appointments,” said parliament member Neena Gill of Britain.

EU states have given their nod to the cash.

The European Commission hopes the research into information technology for older people will foster telemedicine, where people obtain a diagnosis and other medical advice online, and other aids such as turning all but one light off when going to bed.

Technology can also be used to check for water and gas leaks and making sure windows and doors are locked when leaving the house.

Countries participating in the program will have to contribute at least as much as they will receive from the research program.

Reporting by Huw Jones; Editing by Janet Lawrence