Maynooth University will lead a €21m European research project consisting of 36 partners across 14 countries – the largest ever grant for healthcare research led by an Irish institution.
The project – called Smart and Healthy Ageing through People Engaging in Supportive Systems (SHAPES) – will be spread across four years and aims to find ways of helping Europe’s ageing population live actively and independently at home in their communities with the support of assisted living technology.
Maynooth’s Assisted Living and Learning (ALL) Institute will lead the research with Irish partners including University College Cork, Maynooth spin-out Access Earth, the University of Ulster, and the Northern Health and Social Services Trust in Northern Ireland.
In Europe and elsewhere, better access to healthcare is leading to an increase in the average age of populations.
This results in a population at greater risk of cognitive impairment, frailty and multiple chronic health conditions. These can have considerable negative consequences for independence and quality of life of older people, and for the sustainability of health and care systems.
Keeping older people worry-free
SHAPES’ organisers have said they want to find ways of achieving the large-scale deployment of integrated technology to achieve independence and a quality of life for older people. Ireland is already gaining a reputation in this space, with Trinity College Dublin’s Stevie robot assistant gaining worldwide attention as the cover feature of the latest issue of Time magazine.
Co-leading the SHAPES project is Mac MacLachlan, professor of psychology and inclusion at Maynooth’s Department of Psychology. “As of now, we have a lot of different technologies available to older people and people with disabilities,” he said.
“Someone might have a hearing aid, a wheelchair, home sensors and perhaps a ‘smart’ pillbox – but they don’t necessarily all work together. Working with our European colleagues, we want to bring assistive technologies together with connected health.”
Adding to this, fellow co-lead Dr Michael Cooke said focus of the project is on usability “so that older people can focus on what they can achieve with the technology, rather than worrying about how it is supposed to work”.
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