‘Co-creation helps to better connect with the reality of practice’

With the FreeWalker project we work together with Dutch and European partners on being able to use safety zones in a more flexible and practical way. Consultant Henk Herman Nap: ‘We want to have a first version ready for October which we will then test in the Netherlands, Switzerland and Austria.’

Care organisations are already using static safety zones within the buildings and GPS tracking outside. ‘That already provides a lot of freedom for our clients,’ says Matthieu Arendse, innovation advisor of Dutch care organisation ‘TanteLouise’. ‘Now the safety zone only runs to our front door. If older people want to go outside, we can follow them with GPS technology, but for example, clients are not notified when they deviate from their usual route. However, this is possible with the dynamic safety zones we are currently developing.’

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Co-creation for real added value

In the Netherlands, Vilans arranges co-creation sessions, the evaluation and the execution of the research. TanteLouise is involved in the co-creation process as a care organisation. In 3 meetings, informal carers and care professionals thought about which requirements the technology should fulfil. Arendse: ‘Some people think that care organisations should only focus on the implementation of care. But when a care organisation is involved in development and innovation, it can really ensure that the technology also has added value. It prevents developed technologies from being left unused.’

Reality of practice

Co-creation is also important to correspond with what else is going on in a care organisation. Arendse: ‘If FreeWalker will be the only notification on a smartphone from a care professional, that will of course work fine. But a caregiver has more to do. You need to take into account when a care professional also receives another 20 notifications from other digital applications. Through co-creation you better connect with the reality of practice.’

Online portal

Arendse mentions another important insight gained. ‘During the co-creation sessions, care professionals indicated that it can be difficult to work with dynamic safety zones when you have to keep an eye on several older people at the same time.’ Nap: ‘As a partnership, we are currently developing an online portal that meets this need.’

Testing with people with dementia

The dynamic safety zones can soon be used for older people in a nursing home and older people living at home. Nap: ‘From March 2020, we will be testing the dynamic safety zones on people with dementia. This will happen in the Netherlands, Austria and Switzerland. We are going to see to what extent FreeWalker enlarges their living environment. And to what extent this really has a beneficial effect on the quality of their lives.’

Another challenge

Arendse: ‘FreeWalker is tested within our residential department. At a care organisation in Austria this happens in home care. It is quite a challenge for us to select the right people for this. When people are admitted, they are in a somewhat more advanced stage of dementia. The tests will show which participants are sufficiently capable of expressing what they really think.’

International knowledge

Although there is still a way to go, FreeWalker has already yielded a lot. ‘International cooperation has helped us well with this,’ Nap emphasises. ‘For example, we needed knowledge of a learning system that was not available in the Netherlands. By working together with Switzerland and Austria, we are developing a technology that can later also be used there. FreeWalker will soon be suitable for both urban and mountainous areas.’

Remain critical on added value

‘The advantage of international cooperation is indeed the optimal use of knowledge,’ says Arendse. ‘It is nevertheless important that we remain critical about the added value. Sometimes the distance and cultural differences can also be a barrier. This requires regular consideration as to whether there is enough benefit to bridge those differences. It is not necessary to work together for all parts of the project.’

About FreeWalker

FreeWalker is an AAL project, a joint financing program that comprises 13 countries including Spain, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Norway, Romania, Poland and Slovenia. Together these countries are developing projects to respond in time to demographic developments, with ageing in particular. The aim is to develop innovative, ICT-based solutions for older people and their environment.

Contact for this project:
Henk Herman

Senior advisor