AAL-WELL Ambient Assistive Living Technologies for Wellness, Engagement and Long Life

Abstract

As people across the world live longer, there is a growing need to support active ageing so that the extra years of life can be lived as well as possible. The potential of technology to assist people in all aspects of their lives is increasingly being recognised. Ambient Assistive Living (AAL) technologies refer to items that people can use in their everyday lives to make life easier and help them manage their daily activities. To enable the maximum number of people to benefit from current and future AAL technologies requires not only a good understanding of the needs of older adults but also a comprehensive analysis of how they view technology, their attitudes towards using it and how they make decisions about purchasing and using technology. Social and cultural factors can influence these issues and so this project aims to work with older adults across three different countries to explore their needs, attitudes and behaviour towards novel technologies.
The project team brings together experts in gerontology, engineering, occupational therapy and psychology from the UK, Canada and Sweden to work with older adults to address their current and future needs for technology to support them to live their lives as well as possible. The project comprises several complementary elements that will be carried out in parallel within the three countries. The first element is a user needs analysis to examine the older adults' requirements in relation to AAL technologies, including those people who need support with cognitive activities, physical activities or motor activities. The findings from this stage will determine the development of novel AAL technologies in the next stage to address various aspects of daily life, such as shopping or cooking, supporting people with activities they need to remember, such as taking medication and keeping in touch with people. These novel technologies will be piloted with older adults in each of the three countries to examine how they respond to and explore them to inform future developments. Additionally, we will look at how to support people to learn to use new technologies and incorporate them into their lives to help them live as well as possible.

Planned Impact

Who will benefit from this project and how will they benefit?
The beneficiaries of this project fall roughly into two groups - (i) academics concerned with supporting the ageing population to live as well as possible and (ii) potential end-users of the research including current and future generations of older adults, policy makers and industry involved in the manufacture and marketing of assisted living technologies.
The benefits to academics are discussed separately.
End-user beneficiaries fall into four groups - older adults, future generations, service providers and industry.

Older adult participants: It is intended that substantial numbers of older adults, including those with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) will be recruited in each of the three partner countries at the start of the project to collaborate with the research team at all stages of the research. They will be active partners in the project with an opportunity to directly influence the direction the research takes. In addition to feeding back on their experiences of adopting current technologies, they will be the first to try the novel AAL technologies developed during the project.

Future generations: The scientific and technical innovations that will result from this project will have significant impact on the wellness of older adults and their families in the future. The resulting technologies will have the potential to support people to remain in their own communities and homes and directly impact on life lived without disability. The benefits of AAL will apply to older adults across the spectrum of cognitive abilities, including those who already have a cognitive impairment for whom technology can mitigate their difficulties.
Policy makers: To ensure lasting and effective impact, the proposers will work with those who are responsible for determining the policies that support health and social care for older people to support quality life. The proposers will also work with organisations that represent older people and their interests and bring these groups together. The proposers are well placed to achieve significant impact through the project partners and through their existing connections.

Service providers:
The project will also influence health and social care provision by furthering understanding of how AAL technologies, and potentially other technologies, can be incorporated into services to promote healthy ageing and support people to live as well as possible for as long as possible. Additionally, the project will assist service directors and budget holders to better understand the motivators and decision-making processes of older people in respect of AAL technologies.

Industry: The team will carry out innovative research and development to extend the boundaries of AAL scientific research with a focus on transferring research into innovative products and services to support people to live and age well. The key aim is to develop practical outcomes that include new systems, products and devices to improve the wellness and quality of life of the ageing population. The proposers will work with technology developers to help them integintegrate the project results into their future products. The emphasis on practical outcomes will be realised through collaboration with all stakeholders to develop effective business models for deployment in terms of commercialisation and introduction of technology-based services for older adults.

Publications

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Description The major findings of AAL-WELL relate to identifying the priorities, wishes and needs of older adults living with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI).
We are currently developing technologies for this group and an evaluation framework for assessing the impact of these on the MCI population.
Exploitation Route The findings to date could be used to tailor interventions to support people living with MCI. Our technologies will hopefully inform others interested in developing for this population. We hope that the evaluation framework will have application for both technology and non-technology interventions for people living with MCI.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Healthcare

 
Description AAL-WELL set out to explore the potential of Ambient Assisted Living technologies for supporting people with Mild Cognitive Impairment to live as well as possible. Key outputs include improved understanding of what people with MCI value and where they seek additional support to maintain their activities. This work is influencing discussions with service providers, including memory clinics, about new ways to advise and support people who receive an MCI diagnosis.
First Year Of Impact 2016
Sector Healthcare
Impact Types Policy & public services

 
Description AAL-WELL Knowledge cafe 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Knowledge cafe addressing attitudes, barriers and facilitators towards home-based technologies to support ageing in place.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Technology to support older adults with memory problems 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact Around forty people attended, including clinicians, researchers, and people with memory problems. The aim of this event was to find out how people with memory problems incorporated technology into their lives, and how existing technologies might be able to help people manage memory difficulties in the future. First, we gave participants a range of technologies to try out and discuss how easy to use and useful they were. The second activity was 'show and tell', in which people brought along a technology they love, and one they have abandoned, to explain their decision-making on technology use. Finally, we displayed some cutting edge technologies being developed by our collaborators - including robotics, voice-activated home control systems, and electronic games - to explore the potential of these types of technology for supporting people with memory problems to live well.
Talking to our participants gave us some incredibly valuable insights about how and why people use technology to support their day-to-day activities. All our participants had stories about how technology had supported them or improved their lives - from GPS-tracked key fobs to smartphones and bread makers. They also enjoyed trying out the technologies we displayed - The Zeno robot, in particular, generated some lively discussion among the group. On the other hand, participants raised important points about the limitations of technology, the propensity for technology to rapidly become outdated, and the need for technology to support, not replace, human-to-human systems of support. In other words, while technology has tremendous power to enhance our lives, we should be mindful of making sure people are getting the right support - technological or otherwise - to fit into their own lives.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description What is MCI? 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Sparked debate and discussion about Mild Cognitive Impairment and how best to help people

Requests for further information and potential collaboration
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014