There are many different technological solutions for older people who want to live independently for longer. Often the products are only available separately and hardly connect with one another or not at all. The European I-evAAlution project is changing this by combining technologies. Where are we right now? What are the benefits and, above all, what are the advantages for older people?
Henk Herman Nap, adviser at Vilans: ‘I-evAAlution merges a number of separate systems. Think of a GPS watch with call function and fall detection, a tablet with games and communication functions, home automation and a social platform to get in touch with other people. This can really help older people to live at home independently and safely for longer. For example, they can turn on their lamps via the tablet or illuminate their “pass water route” at night. The GPS watch increases their freedom of movement. For example, the tablet and the watch have been made extra user-friendly through voice control. The entire package can also be used in residential care.’
Better response to needs
‘Our main motivation is of course that we want to increase the happiness of older people and the enjoyment our employees get from their work.’ says Saskia Timmermans, a policy officer at participating care organisation Tangenborgh. ‘We have already been fully engaged with technology in residential care. Now we want to know how we can use technology to support our older clients living at home. I hope that at the end of this project we will know which technology really supports people, what their needs are, and how we can better respond to them. I also hope to find out what people are willing to pay for this. A kind of social business case so that our clients know what we have to offer, what it costs them, and what results to expect.’
Going outside, feeling safe
Mirjam van Blanken, policy advisor from participating healthcare organisation Lyvore: ‘From previous co-creation sessions with residents, a very important wish has emerged. They also wanted to be able to use their alarm button outdoors. An unsafe feeling often hinders people from doing their own shopping or taking a walk; and self-cooking is difficult without groceries. A very understandable wish with major consequences for their independence. And for us, an important reason to participate in this project. Another reason is the use of speech-based home automation. People who are less mobile or have problems with hand function can benefit greatly from this.’
Well-functioning technology is important
Van Blanken hopes that technology will contribute to the quality of life and living at home independently for longer, but she also has some personal wishes. ‘I am very satisfied if the technology works well, if people are able to experiment with it and if they enjoy participating. I am still a little bit apprehensive about the technique. The tablet originally answers people’s questions in English. The translation into Dutch does not yet work properly. We are now working hard on that.’
Thorough evaluation in Europe
The package is being tested this year with a total of 405 older people in 4 countries: Italy, Austria, Slovenia and the Netherlands. Vilans is a project partner and responsible for the research. This includes collecting and reporting on data and recruiting the participants. Nap sees a great deal of added value in European cooperation. ‘The watch we have developed together is a unique Austrian product. It has a dashboard where you can link different technologies, which is also interesting for companies in the Netherlands. And from EURAC Research Center in Bolzano (Italy) we learned a lot about thorough evaluation. For example, we are also looking at the effects on people who do not get this package, the so-called control group.’
Eware is an AAL project, a joint European 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 and market innovative, ICT-based solutions for older people living at home and their environment.