The importance of international cooperation on eHealth technology for the elderly

The aim of Active and Assisted Living (AAL|) is to develop and market innovative, eHealth technology solutions for older adults and their environment. This will help them to live at home independently – safe and happy as long as possible, even if they suffer from physical or mental limitations. AAL is a joint financing program that includes 13 countries, among which are, the Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Norway, Romania, Poland and Slovenia. As a knowledge centre in long-term care, we are currently engaged in multiple AAL projects

eHealth technology supports people with dementia

Every year we focus on a number of different themes for AAL, for example, the use of eHealth technology for nursing homes or to support people with dementia. Half of the cost of each project is financed by the European Commission (EC), the other half by a governmental funding agency of the participating country (for example, ZonMw for the Netherlands). But why is this international cooperation so important? Six reasons:

eHealth technology for older adults: 6 reasons for international collaboration

  1. Many countries, including the Netherlands, do not have enough opportunities to fully develop the wide variety of eHealth technologies themselves. This is why we increase these possibilities through international cooperation. If there is a larger sales market, it is worthwhile for the EC to invest in this because more older adults can benefit.
  2. It is difficult to market eHealth applications because of the silos in care. By silos, we refer to the reality which sometimes makes it difficult to bridge the gap between care and different financial flows, and create one integrated system. This problem occurs in many countries. The AAL-funding is a solution.
  3. Through international cooperation we make optimum use of available knowledge. There are many excellent programmers and developers in certain EU countries and we can take advantage of their knowledge. For instance, Austria is at the forefront of GPS and fall detection. And the University in Ljubljana, Slovenia is very knowledgeable in terms of impact and research.
  4. In Europe we face the same problems, such as ageing and a shortage of staff, but we also share the same opportunities. Sometimes the problems differ but the solution remains the same. For example, countries with a relatively low population density, such as Scandinavian countries, are dealing with large distances. This differs from the challenges faced by countries with a high population density. However, for many of these problems eHealth applications can be part of the solution.
  5. We can increase the pace of development by enabling greater possibilities, for example, through scaling up eHealth technology.
  6. International collaboration encourages a positive and open culture across Europe. After all, we need to do it together in order to increase the chance of positive results, and this in turn, enhances the level of cooperation.

An AAL-example

The AAL-project, eWare is a result of international collaboration. It combines and integrates lifestyle monitoring and social robotics. Lifestyle monitoring provides information about the daily life patterns of an older adult with dementia through a network of motion sensors in common areas in the home. In this way, informal caregivers and healthcare professionals are also able to keep an eye on someone from a distance. But with lifestyle monitoring there is no mouthpiece to the client. Combining lifestyle monitoring with the robot (named) Tessa, creates technology with many more possibilities because this robot can transmit spoken memories and messages. And vice versa: Tessa becomes smarter by getting information about the client via sensors. Read more about eWare.

Focus on the importance for elder people

In every AAL-project we look at the elderly, their needs and their goals first. Then we check if the technology matches these criteria. Robert Paauwen, founder of Tiny bots, also emphasises the importance of this order in the video, ‘Integrated care and technology’. In this video, professionals share their thoughts on the importance of eHealth technology.

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Contact for this project:
Henk Herman

Senior advisor