Europe’s population is aging. For Spain, in particular, it is estimated that as much as 30% of the country’s population will be aged over 65 by 2050. As young people move to bigger cities in search of more opportunities, how can rural towns cope with these demographic shifts? More importantly, how can we create silver linings in the so-called silver economy?

Since 2000, global creative company Loftwork has provided customized solutions for clients in industries ranging from manufacturing to mobility. Along with FabCafe, its ever-expanding network of fabrication labs, the company has helped create, facilitate and boost creative hubs all around the world. In recent years, through collaborations with government, academic and tech sectors, Loftwork has made strides in its research on aging societies in Asia, with focus on emerging opportunities in the space. Now, the company plans to take its expertise to address similar issues in Europe.

Loftwork Global Marketing Director Christine Yeh and FabCafe Barcelona CEO David Tena Vicente met with government officials from the Zamora provincial council.

Photo via LaRazon news media

Loftwork Global Marketing Director Christine Yeh, together with FabCafe Barcelona CEO David Tena Vicente, headed to Spain’s Zamora province to meet with Francisco José Requejo Rodríguez, president of the Zamora provincial council, to discuss the implementation of technology in Spain’s rural locales as a way to tackle the aging crisis. With Yeh flying in from the company’s headquarters in Japan, it was a moment of rare international exchange under Covid conditions.

Aging Zamora Gets Tech Facelift

Rural flight from Zamora, located in Spain’s northwest, is leading to major demographic shifts.

87% of Spain is becoming depopulated through rural-to-urban migration, with whole towns becoming abandoned in some instances, according to David Tena Vicente.

“The people who do stay in these towns are normally the elderly who do not want to leave the towns in which they’ve lived their whole lives. Younger relatives have probably left for bigger cities to find better job opportunities or to study,” he says. “Even some critical jobs like in elderly care centres are lacking enough younger people to work there.”

Despite being just over an hour’s train ride from Madrid, Spain’s northwestern town of Zamora is, like many of its European counterparts, facing a crisis of rural flight and a subsequent aging population. It’s a predicament that warrants urgent action; with some estimates showing Zamora potentially topping the list as one of Europe’s most aged regions in the next thirty years, its local government is working hard to not only revitalize the community, but also realize the economic opportunities of the ‘silver economy’ – innovating products and services that specifically target the over-50s market.

A sneak peak of Zamora’s new Aldehuela Technology Park development project.

Central to the plan is the development of the Aldehuela Technology Park, which will act as a hub for startups to launch silver economy projects, with focus on innovation in areas such as IoT devices, digital fabrication and robotics. Loftwork and FabCafe Barcelona have been invited to join the park, heralding the establishment of FabCafe Zamora as a key stakeholder.

Technology and Expertise, from Japan to the World

Japan is not only a leader in tech, but also aging. Home to the world’s oldest population, the country has been a leader in research on aging societies. As a result of this, Japan has paved the way in developing services and products for the silver economy, according to Christine Yeh.

“There is a lot of innovation, experiences and technology that Japan can share with the world,” she said.

Francisco José Requejo Rodríguez showed great interest in the innovation behind Japanese projects such as Arque, a wearable robotic tail that gives users greater balance and mobility. Aque was specifically developed as a response to the country’s aging population, led by a team of university researchers – one of whom was the winner of Loftwork’s YouFab Global Creative Awards in 2018. 

Photo via
David Tena Vicente added that the YouFab awards has produced a plethora of innovative works that would have practical and beneficial applications in the silver economy market. Using the example of the 2020 Special Prize winning work City Glider, a ‘next-gen’ footwear that uses a pneumatic mechanical system inside the shoe to ease the act of walking, it is a product that can effectively aid the elderly in mobility – whether it is worn by themselves or by their carers. 
MTRL Tokyo, located on the second floor of the Loftwork headquarters in Shibuya, Tokyo.

Christine Yeh and David Tena Vicente also outlined plans for incorporating MTRL, a materials-focused platform, as part of FabCafe Zamora. As part of the global Loftwork umbrella, MTRL is the company’s material design and innovation lab for creators and manufacturers. Working with materials ranging from traditional to cutting-edge, MTRL has supported companies, research institutes and local governments in developing new products and applications. It is hoped that FabCafe Zamora’s MTRL corner will be able to not only showcase new and innovative materials, but also act as a bridge for craftsmanship between Spain, Japan and the world.

FabCafe Zamora and the technology park are scheduled to open late 2021 to early 2022. Stay tuned for more news, as Loftwork continues to kick off design challenges and gather innovative leaders for a better future.

Our global network is growing. To find out more about how you can take part, contact: global@loftwork.com

About Loftwork

Loftwork Inc. is a global creative company, which designs programs, spaces, services, communication and websites through collaborations. We are located in Hong kong, Taiwan, Tokyo and Kyoto . We also operate various owned media and platforms. Digital craft cafe “FabCafe” , and material design lab “MTRL” , the online creator platform “AWRD”, and an open community bio lab “BioClub“.  Loftwork is dedicated in building a global community of innovators. Through the design process, we create good impact to society.

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