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Models for Ageing and Technological Solutions for Improving and Enhancing the Quality of Life

Final Report Summary - MATSIQEL (Models for Ageing and Technological Solutions for Improving and Enhancing the Quality of Life)

The rapid expansion of the old and in particular the old-old population is a western phenomenon. While there is much interest in the social, political and economic challenges of population ageing, attention is being drawn to the importance of quality of life in later life. Much of the research on quality of life in old age has given strong emphasis to the domain of ill-health as experienced by the older population. There is also a growing body of work which suggests that older people themselves consider other domains to be key determinants of quality of life. Among these is the ability to self-care, to experience independence and to have real opportunities to achieve optimal functioning and therefore to value life. The focus of this project’s work was to apply multi-disciplinary expertise to analyse various aspects of the ageing process and the factors determining or influencing this process. The project put forward a planned programme to support international exchanges between researchers internationally and, importantly, in a distinctive and unique combination of disciplines. The project includes specialisms from mathematics and statistics, physics, computer science, psychology and sociology, nursing and health. The work was done by experienced researchers (ER) and early stage researchers (ESR). This promoted enhanced multi-disciplinary and international co-operation regarding an important issue of global concern.
The aim of the project was to accumulate the expertise for mathematical and computer modelling of ageing processes, including forecasting models for prevention and rehabilitation, and examining assistive technological solutions which could contribute to the improvement and enhancement of older people’s quality of life, and assessment of the impact of factors, such as demography, mobility, health, lifestyle, and others to the ageing process. The main objectives of the project were: Using expertise, observations and knowledge accumulated by the partners, establish factors for ageing related to this programme; Investigate associations between factors, including associations between cognitive and physiological factors; Evaluate appropriate techniques for mathematical and computer modelling of selected ageing processes; Using expertise, observations and data accumulated by the partners, develop models; Establish requirements for visualisation and develop appropriate software tools; Implement models into technological solutions and use feedback and observations to improve the models; Study the impact of these solutions for improvement and enhancement of quality of life; Educating, training of early stage researchers and further development of experienced researchers; Disseminate results and good practice widely including health communities and patients communities. The aim and objectives of the project were realised through six work packages (WP): WP1. Modelling of Ageing; WP2. Visualisation and Software Tools; WP3. Ageing Performance, Physiology and Psychology; WP4. Technological Solutions and Implementation; WP5. Quality of Life; WP6. Training and Dissemination.
The project achieved most of its objectives with the main research achievements as: (1) Development of time series models to physiological systems in cardio- and cardio-respiratory context, and specific tools for the analysis of such systems, investigation of scale invariance, criticality, adaptability and early-warning signals in this context; (2) Complexity analysis of sleep based on actigraphy and alterations with insomnia; (3) Data mining models of post-stroke mortality and analysis of risk factors of stroke patients admitted to hospital within 24 hours of suffering a stroke. A pilot study was completed from a very large public data set from Mexico to investigate the effects of nutrition on obesity and health; (4) Delay differential equation models of insulin-glucose regulation and stochastic delay differential equation model of the lac operon; (5) An extension of Generalised nets (GN) framework to telecare and telehealth and development of a series of GN models including: telecare call centre with different system architecture and device mixture; telehealth devices (sensors) for monitoring the rehabilitation programs for patients living an independent life at home; telecare/telehealth services describing the indirect communication between patients and medical doctors from a telehealth centre; telecommunication processes, processes in telecare/telehealth services; choosing the appropriate rehabilitation and exercise programs; normal blood flow in the upper limbs and analysis of possible dysfunctions leading to immobilization; age-related changes of the upper limb musculoskeletal structures; lac operon regulation. Visualisation of the processes using the GN apparatus; (6) Enhancing understanding of how training interventions can be used to assess their effect on physiological functions. This was achieved by assessing the performance, physiological and psychological responses of older population groups in response to complex physical and mental challenges; (7) Further insight of how multiple system modelling is used to analyse physiological and brain activity and performance during exercise. This was achieved by analysing the data generated during experimental testing in collaboration and synergistically with the collaborators of the proposal and the models developed; (8) Further insight gained to service models for adoption of assistive technology. A unique opportunity was created for multidisciplinary teams to analyse the contact data that was generated through interaction between a North East England telecare service and a cohort of service users. Statistical analysis and mathematical modelling of this data generated understanding of usage patterns across the sample and that of subpopulations and furthered understanding of the user with telecare services; (9) Development and implementation of pilot projects, ethnographic studies, and teaching innovations with emotional robots in Australia, Germany and the UK. These studies highlighted the acceptability of these robots from younger people to older people with dementia: (10) Cross cultural exchanges concerning the utility of telepresence robotics in the context of health and social care services for an ageing population; (11) Further insight to the role of assistive technology in the context of international ageing and policy/service responses.
The results were disseminated in 16 journal papers, 20 conference proceedings, 7 book chapters, and over 80 presentations at international conferences, workshops and seminars. Members of the network were keynote and plenary speakers, and their work acknowledged in the media. Training and dissemination was reflected in PhD completions, Masters and undergraduate training and reports to experts, practitioners and users communities via journal publications, conferences, workshops and training activities. Several courses and research seminars at Bachelors and Masters levels were delivered within the nodes of the network, where new tools and techniques developed within MATSIQEL were presented and discussed.

The project successfully completed 80% of the planned secondments. 84 person months of secondments were completed. 21 ESR and 49 ER researchers took part in the secondments and benefitted from the project.

The project achieved its planned milestones. The following summer schools, conferences and workshop activities were hosted by the network participants: Quality of Life Workshop: Edinburgh and Newcastle, UK, 11-14 March 2012; Complexity and Multidiscipline: New Approaches to Health: Conference and workshop, Mexico City, Mexico, 16-19 April 2012-07-17; Mathematics of Human Biology LMS regional Meeting and Workshop, Newcastle, UK; 6-8 June 2012; Welfare State Technologies and their impact on Service Provision and Well-Being of Frail Older People- International Experiences Conference, 12 June 2012, and Summer school 11-14 June 2012, Frankfurt, Germany. A major highlight was the project final conference, Models for Ageing and Technological Solutions for Improving and Enhancing the Quality of Life: Insights from Low and/or Middle Income Countries, 4-6 September 2013, Cape Town, South Africa, with more than 50 participants and speakers of international standing which celebrated the achievements of the project. These very successful meetings provided excellent networking opportunities for collaboration and dissemination of results within the network and to external participants including academics, practitioners and health providers.

Among the socio-economic impacts of the project was dissemination of the latest research, service models and policy/service responses in the context of international ageing to practitioners and health providers and training activities. Under the auspices of MATSIQEL an international emotional and social robot network was established and co-ordinated by members of the project. Through the project, statistical analysis and mathematical modelling of the interaction between a North East England telecare service and a cohort of service users generated understanding of usage patterns across the sample and that of subpopulations and furthered understanding of the user with telecare services. The findings have potential to optimise efficiency and outcomes of these services. It is still too early to assess the true impact of the new mathematical models, techniques and tools, which need to be applied to wider sets of case studies and data. The project teams and collaborators have secured additional funds with substantial grants through ideas derived from the MATSIQEL collaboration.