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Mobile Age

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - Mobile-Age (Mobile Age)

Reporting period: 2017-02-01 to 2019-01-31

Mobile-Age was a Horizon 2020 project running between Feb 2016 and Jan 2019. It explored, co-created and implemented accessible digital services for older adults. This addresses the facts that while internet usage increases significantly, Europe’s growing segment of older citizens do not use the internet as younger generations do, and while electronic access to government services and open data has expanded, they are not always designed with older citizens in mind.

Mobile-Age’s overall objective was to explore the possibilities of open government data, mobile technology, and the provision of public services in relation to Europe’s growing elderly population. To do this, Mobile Age adopted a situated, practice-based understanding of accessibility, mobility and usability of services. This approach attends to the specificities of what older adults do and seek to do in specific settings. We set out to co-create meaningful services with (rather than for) older adults. We committed to developing innovative digital services in each of the four European countries. Further, we sought to develop a Mobile Age platform that supports the development of technological solutions for older adults. Through reflecting on our co-creation interventions, Mobile-Age sought to develop a co-creation good practice guide and co-creation evaluation methodology to engage older adults effectively in the development of digital services.
Over the 36 months, Mobile-Age undertook in-depth situated practice studies in four European locations. The aim has been to develop services that are meaningful and accessible to older adults, to identify existing open data sets and to open up new open data, and to develop demonstrator applications that can be exploited. This led to more than 310 older adults actively participating across the four field sites along with 36 collaborating organisations (government, not for profit and private sector). This resulted in innovative mobile demonstrator apps being developed across four countries. In the UK, a loneliness and social isolation service assists older adults to participate in social events and volunteering opportunities. The app provides information about weather and hours of daylight, age-friendly maps showing benches, bus stops and accessible toilets, and links to relevant bus and train timetables. In Germany, a digital guide provides multi-media information about the district such as nice walks and points of interest. In Spain, collaborative maps co-created with older adults allow them to access and use open spatial data to become more familiar with their neighbourhood and make proposals for its improvement (i.e. reporting problems for repair). In Greece, an app provides data about hospitals, doctors and chemists, their locations and opening times, out-of-hours health services and appointment booking.

A further key outcome has been the development of a conceptual framework and guide to creating pathways to meaningful access to services for all older adults. This comprises of first identifying what is meaningful by studying what older adults do or seek to do, and once established, creating pathways to access meaningful services. Opening and joining up data about transport, benches, toilets etc. can support pathways to accessing services. Recognising that older adults might not be independent users of technology, the strategy also focused on mediated access to services. This approach contrasts with the long established approaches that focus on training older adults to “catch up”.

The Mobile-Age Development Environment represents a key innovation. It enables efficient development of apps specifically for older adults. It includes: a data search component for app developers to discover and integrate open government data sets; a semantic annotations component for online collaboration to annotate these to generate five-star datasets or knowledge graphs; an analytics component enabling collection of data on both digital and physical user interactions across apps, to better understand and refine app interactions; and a concept lookup component linking dictionaries or glossaries to apps.

We created an interactive co-creation good practice guide. It documents the Mobile-Age co-creation methodology, good practice examples, methods and resources. A key component is the evaluation framework, which distinguishes between short-term outputs within the co-creation project timeframe from outcomes and impacts that take place subsequent to co-creation. We developed a methodology to identify pathways to impact as part of a co-creation project. A co-creation management platform enables structured monitoring of co-creation, automatic generation of analytics, and access to resources.
Mobile-Age has advanced a number of state of the art developments that will benefit practitioners, policy makers and science. In relation to furthering understandings of access to digital services, our ‘pathways to access’ framework directs attention away from technology itself to identifying how older adults seek to access digital services and how information might support this. We distinguish between pathways that older adults can access independently, with support, or not at all. We also developed a framework whereby meaningful access can be integrated into the co-creation process. The co-creation methodology, guide, resources and platform offer an innovative resource for practitioners who intend to collaborate with older citizens to co-create digital solutions for improving service delivery. Crucial to the co-creation methodology has been the development of the pathways to impact framework as a means to maximise the long term benefits of co-creation projects.

The demonstrator digital services support community participation, access and social inclusion, and are already in use by government organisations in Germany, Spain and the UK. A private sector organisation in the UK also uses the app to support social housing clients. Further pathways to impact are being explored in all four countries. The accessibility enhanced maps represent state of the art as they provide enhanced perceptibility in terms of contrasts and font-sizes (for outdoor use) when compared to existing maps. Finally, the development environment provides a unique combination of analytics, annotations and search components, enabling the more efficient development of future apps specifically for older adults. This has already been adopted by another H2020 project and a university.

Engagement comprised of meetings with politicians, public, third and private sector staff. Six policy briefs have been distributed at meetings and conferences. This cumulated in being invited to present the policy implications at the European Parliament. Mobile-Age has had considerable national and local television, radio and news outlets, international, national and regional print and digital news publications. The findings have been presented to the scientific community at conferences and through articles.