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Novel Empowering Solutions and Technologies for Older people to Retain Everyday life activities

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Empowering older people to live independently

EU researchers have developed innovative technology that delivers personalised advice and support to older people, potentially extending the number of years that can be lived independently.

Digital Economy

Ageing populations are a challenge to many Western countries, in part because of their impact on healthcare systems. This demographic change is driving demand for earlier diagnoses and disease detection, as well as solutions for monitoring and following up chronic conditions to allow for more independent living. “More broadly, active and healthy ageing means optimising opportunities for health, participation and security in order to enhance quality of life as people age,” explains NESTORE scientific coordinator Giuseppe Andreoni from the Polytechnic University of Milan in Italy. “Current solutions include wearable technology, and devices dedicated to measuring various body functions.” While these technological applications can help older adults to live safely in their homes, their uptake has been hampered by their usability. “These system are often more technologically driven than user-driven,” adds NESTORE project coordinator Cinzia Mambretti, also from the Polytechnic University of Milan. “This impacts their acceptability. This is just a first step however – motivation and engagement are also needed.”

Co-design approaches

The EU-funded NESTORE project sought to boost the uptake of active and healthy ageing technologies with the development of an innovative, multidimensional, personalised coaching system. This was achieved by first adopting a more integrated and participatory design process. Potential users were involved in both the design and validation stages. Co-design activities enabled developers to identify user needs. Choice and data privacy, for example, were identified as critical requirements. “Our technology is based on the experiences and current real-life situations of elderly people,” says Andreoni. To encourage greater uptake, the project team next focused on developing a highly modular technology platform. The aim here was to make the service as personalised as possible – again based on user feedback. “Technology needs to target what individual people want,” adds Andreoni.

Encouraging active ageing

From this starting point, NESTORE, an intelligent cloud-based system, was developed. The system is designed to deliver targeted advice and coaching to healthy older people. Unobtrusive wearable sensors collect information on the user’s emotional and physical well-being. Advice is then delivered via a smartphone or similar intelligent object, according to the user’s preferences. This advice might include healthy nutritional suggestions or physical coaching, or involve social interaction to prevent cognitive decline. Personalised advice and coaching is based on an understanding of the user’s stated preferences. Indeed, a key innovation is the design of what the project team calls ‘pathways of interest’. These provide hints and services according to the user’s preferences, while ensuring that the user’s overall well-being and health status is maximised. The knowledge gathered in the NESTORE project has helped to advance our understanding of how the uptake of technological approaches to achieving active and healthy ageing can be increased. These findings are now openly accessible, and have been made available for further research. The successful development and trial of NESTORE also demonstrated that combining several devices and functions into one service was possible. The project team has since begun exploring how the project’s scientific and technological outputs can best be exploited. “The NESTORE system now needs to be clinically validated in real-life scenarios, and at scale,” notes Mambretti. “This will help to fully demonstrate the efficacy and impact of this innovation on society. Several specific exploitable results have been identified, and project partners are currently exploring the best strategies of how to make these a reality.”

Keywords

NESTORE, ageing, disease, health, technology, elderly, cloud-based, cognitive

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9 March 2020