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P-Touch: Touch Pilot

VIEWW (Virtual worlds for well-being)

Population ageing is a current trend everywhere in the world. Finding solutions that allow elderly people to stay socially connected is one of the keys to keeping care affordable and address the overall European challenge of preventing loneliness and isolation amongst elderly people.

With the generation of baby-boomers retiring in the next decade there is a huge opportunity for keeping them active and living independently as long as possible. Further, this demographic has a huge economic potential. Our population is gradually aging and the traditional health care system cannot cope. In 2007 there were 2.4 million people over 65 years of age and this number will rise quickly. The 80+ populations in EU will be double in 2050. The 60+ percentages of total population will rise from 20 % in 1995 to 25 % in 2020. Especially the oldest part of the population holds a risk of becoming isolated and lonely, as they grow old and their work related networks erode. Independent and happy people are active, aware of their own capacities and connecting and exchanging with others. At the same time, the modern elderly are less prepared to be “taken care of” but want to stay in their own homes and stay in control. However, they face the inevitable fate of becoming less physically able and less connected over time, which brings the risk of falling ill and severe loneliness. Growing old in many cases makes individuals loose control of their everyday life and daily activities, especially when they move to care homes. This can have severe consequences such as depression and an increased risk of dementia. Living inactively and socially isolated therefore has a direct impact on the rising costs associated with health care in society. The paradigm shift occurring in the care industry (ICT as an enabler for elderly people – not only helping people but also encouraging self-reliance) offers substantial opportunities for improving the health care system. To help the elderly to stay in control, to stay connected and to increase their wellbeing, (tangible) interfaces could be of help.

This WP explores ways to assist elderly with ICT-solutions to stay in touch with their peers and the caring community. The fundamental insights developed in the other WP’s serve as a basis for the development of an ICT-solution for ‘Touch’. This concerns, In particular insights into how objects are manipulated and affective information from this can be gathered, and insights into how tangibles can communicate social emotions. Goal is to develop a solution, which increases the quantity or/and quality of interactions and thereby increase the sense of wellbeing of the elderly and prevent them from becoming socially isolated. Studies show that not so much the number but especially the quality of the contacts is crucial. The connectedness involves both intentional and directed communication. We research and model which signals contribute to the feeling of “social connectedness” and develop tangible interfaces that contribute to convey it, and it that way contribute to wellbeing. Based on the outcomes of research in other WP’s a demo will be developed, which stimulates social interaction, for example through serious gaming.

Serious gaming can both combat cognitive decline with the elderly and enhance the quality of contact with others, as gaming offers a playful interaction. The information about the gamer acquired during play can be used in the broader application: having grandchildren and elderly play together remotely can strengthen cognitive abilities on both sides and create a strong sense of connectedness. The demo will be developed in co-creation workshops with the users and tested in settings such as the Living Lab Health Lab.

WP Leader: