Right here, right now

Five years ago, under the hallowed dome of the Royal Albert Hall, the idea of Agile Ageing began.

As Fatboy Slim's 'Right Here, Right Now' kicked off the BBC's inaugural 'Ibiza Proms', we saw how culture, technology, and a new generation of older adults were blurring generational lines.

More older adults would become actively engaged in planning the living spaces in which they age, and thrive.

Technology would not be considered the preserve of the young, or something to fear, but an enabler to more independent living through building smarter homes and neighbourhoods.

To support such change, new networks would be needed to connect existing and emerging players in the ageing space, while measuring the impact of innovation on society and our health.

It’s Networking

Fast forward to today and SHAPES is one such network - a four-year, EU-wide research initiative exploring interactions between people and technology to help cultivate age-friendly multigenerational environments.

This large-scale piloting campaign aims to engage +2k older individuals, in 15 pilot sites across 10 countries.

Its aim, to establish an EU-standardised open interoperable platform integrating smart digital solutions to collect and analyse older individuals’ health, environmental and lifestyle information, identify their needs and provide personalised solutions that uphold the individuals’ data protection and trust.

The ambition; to facilitate long-term healthy and active ageing, and a high-quality standard of life, while reducing the cost of delivering healthcare, hospitalisations and institutional care.

You can learn more about SHAPES here, where you’ll also learn of another network – our partnership with the International Standards Organisation (ISO) to enable members of the SHAPES consortium to contribute towards development of an ISO standards framework for smart multigenerational neighbourhoods.

Mirror Mirror

As we reach the end of SHAPES’ first year, this month’s news review is dedicated to some of the innovative tech now in action across those member states.

We begin with Spain's Arco Research, who are collaborating with Clínica Humana and El Salvador Nursing Home to explore the potential for virtual portals to deliver remote rehabilitation.

Using sensors and a ‘smart mirror’, users can be guided through their prescribed exercises in front of the portal, and even speak direct to a caregiver.

By monitoring a user's routine and tracking their progress Arco hope to improve quality of life, support healthy ageing (particularly those with memory disorders), and find a long solution to delivering care during COVID-enforced distancing.

With mirrors now touted as the future of online clothes shopping, it’s great to see they will be able to offer us slightly deeper benefits too. You can watch the smart mirror in action here.

Question Time

From their base in Palma de Mallorca, Clínica Humana are working on developing their smart virtual nurse to better support older adults with multiple chronic conditions.

Currently, their chatbot 'ROSA', can remind users about medication or the next appointment, check biometrics, answer common concerns, and alert a doctor when necessary.

Thanks to SHAPES, ROSA can now work alongside technologies by partners Vicomtech, TREE technology, Science For You (SciFY), PAL Robotics, and Kompai Robotics to create a more “natural interaction between technologies and people”.

This collaborative approach will allow “a smarter virtual nurse that is able to predict exacerbations, communicate with voice, play cognitive games with the user, help in gait rehabilitation and even offer face-to-face interaction with robots to humanise technology”.

Ironically, in this effort to humanise tech, they have observed one of ROSA’s strengths is that no one minds asking a robot the same question over and over or worries about what questions they can ask. It is a genuine strength, and one less barrier to comprehension.

Robots Rock

Within this collaboration, the robotics experts are looking at how they can adapt their models to answer the issues of today.

From Barcelona, Spain, PAL robotics are deploying their TIAGo and ARI robots to “help with mobility and rehabilitation exercises, engage in social activities, explore the use of the robot manipulator, and to be able to assist in specific tasks”.

Their aim is to “deliver cognitive games as well as aid in other assistive tasks among older people” by integrating multiple SHAPES software such as ROSA, SciFY’s games and TREE’s emotion recognition system.

From France, Kompaï Robotics has met the challenge brought by COVID by adapting their robot to now repeat the message “Don’t forget to wash your hands” whenever it detects someone, while also providing sanitiser.

This is in addition to its daily duties of helping reduce falls by acting as a walking assistant, managing medical parameters, connecting with healthcare professionals, offering interactive entertainment and even the capability of talking with relatives.

Robots will never replace genuine human contact, but their versatility suggests their significant capacity to fill gaps.

Good Call

How older adults feel about the increasing use of tech in our everyday lives is the focus of our final piece.

From Dresden, Germany, SMEs MedicalSyn and Carus Consilium Sachsen are working to help those with a fear of technology by adapting their GDPR-compliant video call service already in use by patients and medical professionals.

As part of SHAPES, their service will be offered to older people living independently in rural or urban environments to help them overcome any fears they may have of digital solutions to their needs.

Through end-to-end encrypted connections they will now be able to make video calls to friends and family, while avoiding the dangers of COVID.

Many may assume that just because services like Zoom are now readily available, they’re used freely by all. But this isn’t necessarily the case, and how secure they are is a different matter altogether.

Through the testing of accessible, robust technology like these, SHAPES will hopefully offer equitable and effective means to support older people to live fuller, more independent lives.

Not tomorrow, but right here, right now!

That’s it for this month, until the next be sure to follow us on Twitter and #BeAgile.

To find out more about SHAPES progress follow this link.

Image used with permission. Copyright Dmytro Demianenko.