Hur kan jag leva ett aktivt liv när jag blir äldre och behålla mitt självbestämmande så länge som möjligt? Genom forskning  med starkt användarinflytande har man vid Lucerne University iHomeLab tagit fram lösningar som skapar möjligheter för äldre personer att leva ett mer aktivt liv med större självbestämmande.

I veckans blogg av Prof. Dr. Andrew Paice, Head iHomeLab, at the Institute of Electrical Engineering, Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts, beskrivs några av dem. Andrew Paice lyfter också behovet av att se över såväl forskningens finansiering som hur dessa lösningar ska nå fler.Idag saknas resurser för forskning och utveckling, särskilt med delaktighet från äldre – hur kan vi ändra på det?

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Funding must support research AND participation

Prof. Dr. Andrew Paice

Participative innovation to assist the elderly in living an active, self-determined life

The iHomeLab has been active in the European Joint Program Active Assisted Living (AAL) since the beginning. With over 20 successful projects, we have a proven track record in developing novel solutions for supporting the elderly to maintain independence and a high quality of life. In this time, we have learned to apply the principles of user-centered design to ensure the success of our projects and relevance of our solutions. By paying careful attention to the needs of not only the elderly, but also their entire support ecosystem, we have been able to develop solutions, which have proven their acceptance and usability in field tests. Some examples (see also here):

  • Sam‘n‘Me: This is a robust curated system which addresses isolation, by facilitating social contact and improving community involvement, and is based on a virtual Butler, Sam. A prototype solution was successfully proven in the Community Willisau, Switzerland.
  • Anne: over the course of several EU projects, e.g. Living Well with Anne or Ella4Life, we have worked with the Dutch company Virtask and other partners to develop the technology behind the Avatar “Anne“. She is a robust solution facilitating several aspects of structuring daily life activities for the elderly via a natural voice and touch interface.
  • Cabinet: In this project, we developed a community oriented software that supports neighbors and local service providers in matching the needs of the elderly with locally available offers. This was successfully piloted in Lucerne, Switzerland.
  • Home4Dem: A Smart Home IoT System for measuring activities of daily living & making estimates of potential health issues. Similar technological solutions have been applied for supporting burn-out patients in their recovery, or supporting doctors in their diagnosis and dosing of medicine for Parkinson’s Patients.

There is a huge research potential in three main areas. Firstly, in generating monitoring solutions to ensure the safety of the elderly and appropriate interventions in the case of an incident. Such systems may be reactive, but also predictive – for example using machine learning. Secondly in ensuring support from the care ecosystem of the elderly – family, friends, informal and professional caregivers and medical personnel. These solutions are often information exchange platforms increasingly using speech recognition, machine learning, and other innovative interfaces to ease the integration of the solution in the lives of the elderly. Finally, there is a large field of opportunities in developing health monitoring solutions based on using personalized health technologies with new sensors to provide specific support and prevention solutions for the elderly. These solutions may be transferred to or from personal health solutions for younger generations.

There are however problems in the future of research funding. Over the years there has been a surprisingly low rate of conversion from successful prototypes to products introduced on the market. This is partly due to the high fragmentation of the market due to demographic, cultural and language differences, not to mention the completely different health systems in each country. Another major factor is of economic nature – who pays for these new technologies? The elderly themselves? Their families? Health organisations? It is not always clear who has the benefit, who can afford it, and even who is aware of an innovative solution in the first place.

Recent Calls (opportunities to make research project proposals for funding) have been focussing more on supporting the transfer of technologies into the market, rather than on creating better innovative solutions. Furthermore, the few solutions that are developed and introduced to the market are very specific, e.g. offering only fall detection without other monitoring functions.

To avoid this, we suggest a participatory approach where the elderly are activated and educated, and so become able to co-create their own solutions and care for themselves and get what they really need – that is, not just health and safety solutions, but also solutions which improve quality of life – leisure, pleasure, interaction and meaning. We need to provide attractive solutions that the elderly choose while still cognizant and capable, and not when they become fragile.

To achieve this, we believe that funding should enable the involvement of the elderly in the development, field testing and dissemination of results. Thus, we can ensure the involvement of the elderly and their care-ecosystem in such a way that the market becomes more attractive for the realisation of commercial solutions.


Paice Andrew_a_small (kopia)

Prof. Dr. Andrew Paice is Head iHomeLab, at the Institute of Electrical Engineering, Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts. The iHomeLab is the Swiss research center for Building intelligence, researching how humans will experience and interact with the buildings and environments they live in. One main research focus is Active Assisted Living (AAL) – supporting older people in their everyday lives through innovative solutions.



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