Extending healthy life expectancy


Innovage took the goals set by Horizon 2020 concerning the demographic challenge facing Europe, the necessity of improving lifelong health and wellbeing for all and the promotion of social innovation, and also that of the European Innovation Partnership pilot initiative on Active and Healthy Ageing (EIPAHA), to raise the average healthy life expectancy in Europe by two years by 2020. Innovage was developed specifically to make a substantial contribution especially to this main goal of the EIPAHA.

The focus on extending life expectancy and reducing mortality was relevant while deaths from infectious diseases and maternal mortality were high. Most European countries had substantially reduced premature mortality and mortality rates even those in late old age were falling.

Emphasis therefore moved to ensuring the quality of life at older ages and many national and European policy agendas emphasised this. Nevertheless the gain in healthy years must outpace the increases in life expectancy to ensure a decrease in unhealthy years. This was not happening in a number of European countries.

The healthy life years indicator showed that the health gaps between European countries (a difference of 14 years of healthy life at age 50 for men and women) exceeded the gap in life expectancy (a difference of nine years for men and six years for women at age 50) and that these gaps were driven by the low life expectancy and HLY in Central and Eastern European countries.

We needed to find new ways of increasing the likelihood that these extra years of life are spent in good health rather than affected by life limiting illness or disability. Social innovation provides a way to meet this increasingly urgent need through the process of developing new ideas, services and products that are social both in their ends and means; they simultaneously meet social needs and create new social relationships and collaborations that enable active ageing and increase healthy life expectancy.

The project had dual aims: to develop a new understanding of active ageing in terms of social innovation and healthy life expectancy, and to deliver step-changes in understanding of and access to information about social innovations which extend healthy life expectancy and improve wellbeing. This work was at the core of the Innovage project, and drew on all the other Innovage activities to ultimately develop a new formulation of active ageing.

Presentations from each of the Innovage forums:


There were two key work areas for this task.

  1. The creation of a database of exemplar social innovations which support healthy life years and wellbeing by:

  • Collecting of examples of social innovations to support healthy life years and wellbeing in later life.

  • Developing and applying an assessment process to evaluate the viability and sustainability of the social innovations.

  • Creation of a web portal to display the best assessed social innovations (the exemplars) and additional relevant material.

  1. The development of a method to assess the impact of a social innovation on healthy life years, by:

  • Creating a taxonomy of outcomes for social innovations , corresponding with the measures that underlie HLY measurement.

  • Developing a system which would, from the input of effect sizes of innovations, generate an estimated impact on HLY, by linking risk factors for disease to disability (and thus disability free life expectancy).


The first output from this activity was a report outlining the development and application of a balanced scorecard assessment process to evaluate the viability and sustainability of relevant social innovations, and a summary of the first tranche of exemplar social innovations generated through this process.

Read more about our work on social innovations

The second output from this activity reported the development of a method to assess the impact of a social innovation on healthy life years, by connecting social innovation outcomes to risk factors for HLY.

Download the report (PDF, 324KB)

The third output was a report drawing both these strands of the project together supplemented by information about barriers to social innovation and the specific challenges of the new member states. The report proposed a new transformational approach to understanding and evaluating the impact of social innovations on active ageing, and for the first time to measure the consequence on health and wellbeing of older people. It represented a substantial step forward in the understanding and scaling of social innovations in this field.

Download the report (PDF, 3.6MB)