Smart, adaptable and inclusive solutions can help improve and support independent life throughout the course of life, regardless of age, gender, disabilities, cultural differences and personal choices.

A holistic approach that optimizes social and physical environments, supported by digital tools and services, allows to provide better health and social care, promoting not only independent living, but also equity and active participation in society. This approach follows the United Nations’ line-up, with the Sustainable Development Goals (in particular Objectives 3 and 11), stating that sustainable environments for all ages represent the basis for ensuring a better future for the entire population and addressing most of the growing issues of the ageing population. The challenges of different sectors, such as ICT, the building industry and urban planning and the health and social care, as well as those of citizens and their communities are interlinked. Responding to these challenges will foster awareness and support for the creation and implementation of smart, healthy and inclusive environments for present and future generations that enable them to learn, grow, work, socialise and enjoy a healthy life, benefiting from the use of digital innovations, accessibility solutions and adaptable support models in the European context.

The community is the physical, social and cultural ecosystem closest to people, built on relationships of trust, sharing, solidarity and intimacy, where people find social, cultural and identity references, socialise and live their daily lives. The objective conditions of the environment (pollution, accessibility, mobility, safety, comfort) affect the quality of life and wellbeing of citizens, particularly in the context of climate change and thus affect the whole community circle.

Thus, we foster actions that promote partnerships between technological and digital innovation, architecture, urban planning, social studies and health sciences to design and simulate communities of belonging that leverage on the potential of each sector to promote the existential dignity of all persons, regardless of their age, gender, health, social, educational, economic, cultural and identity conditions, as well as the levels of development of the region where they live.


A new concept was created since 2017, based on the desire to implement Smart Healthy Age-Friendly Environments (SHAFE) across Europe, fostering happier and healthier people in all communities. This idea took shape and became a solid movement.

SHAFE began as a Thematic Network,  proposed by Cáritas Coimbra and AFEdemy, approved by the European Commission, to draw policy makers, organisations and citizens’ attention to the need of better alignment between health, social care, built environments and ICT, both in policy and funding and delivered a Joint Statement and a Framing Paper in December 2018 to the European Commission and Member States.

After this, SHAFE evolved to a European Stakeholders Network, which currently has over 170 partner organisations and is coordinated by Carina Dantas and Willeke van Staalduinen.

It is working to achieve better COOPERATION and IMPLEMENTATION, as the major challenges for the next period, as stated in the Position Paper released in 2020, with recommendations that aim to promote healthier environments for all citizens and make environments accessible, sustainable and reachable for all, with the support of ICT.

The pandemic has uncovered the major opportunities and benefits of turning digital. However, single digital solutions are not the panacea to all the societal challenges. Citizens across different age groups also need personal human contact; they need to meet, to talk to each other, to hug and to love. Digitalization cannot replace this human need but can be a powerful vehicle to support people. The scenario during 2021 is an opportunity for the digital revolution to be well thought and implemented, if all the adequate challenges are well considered and tackled.

The Smart Healthy Age-Friendly Environments Network thus focus on the narrative, debate, disclosure and knowledge translation of solutions to optimize the physical and social environments of individuals in a concerted manner.

From the early concept, several projects have been implementing SHAFE in the field: NET4Age-Friendly is one of the most recent.


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 NET4Age-Friendly approach is the establishment of new local or regional ecosystems or by expanding existing ones in each 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-Friendly will 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.

NET4Age-Friendly is a COST Action, co-funded by COST (European Cooperation in Science and Technology), a funding agency for research and innovation networks.

Framing Paper
Joint Statement
Position Paper