It was announced this week that Ulster University is to lead on two major international research projects with a focus on improving the lives of older people in remote and rural areas through improved access to technology and social connectedness.
Ulster University has been awarded two grants by The Northern Periphery and Arctic (NPA) 2014-2020 Programme worth €3.7m in total. Led by Ulster University, both projects will be delivered by a team of international partners and will run for three years.
The first project - Platforms for Ageing Community Engagement – Exchange and Enterprise (PLACE-EE) – will seek to develop low cost, transnational solutions to improve the health and wellbeing of older isolated people in remote rural areas through innovative approaches to social inclusion.
This will include helping older citizens to understand and exploit digital technology for their health and social wellbeing and creating a range of digital solutions to the challenges identified by older people.
The second project - Smart sENsor Devices fOr rehabilitation and Connected health (SENDoc) - will assess the technical, clinical and social acceptability of early stage and market-ready wearable technologies and their impact on patients, on health and care delivery, and on rural communities.
While SENdoc is attempting to bring new technology to older people, PLACE-EE is attempting to bring older people to the technology.
Professor Gerry Leavey, Director of the Bamford Centre for Mental Health and Wellbeing, will lead PLACE-EE. Speaking of the project, he said, "With social exclusion and loneliness increasingly prevalent in rural and remote regions of Europe, there are damaging consequences for physical and mental health. This project will develop and implement locally derived, sustainable solutions to address the health and social needs of aging and isolated rural populations."
He added, "In doing so, it will identify and connect local, cultural knowledge and other resources with innovative ICT approaches that enable social inclusion, and timely, efficient advice, support and care. We want to foster intergenerational skills exchange between older and younger citizens and empower older people through creative and cultural activities."