Enabling independent living for elderly people

RegioStars 2013 FinalistThe Living Lab on Wellbeing Services and Technology was a two-year project to test welfare services and technologies in real-life contexts, including old people’s homes. Focusing on three regions in Western Finland, it called on a partnership of public and private stakeholders to develop a new and innovative model to support independent living.

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By 2050, one-third of Europe’s population will be aged 65 or more, putting great pressure on public welfare services. Three-quarters of the elderly suffer from one or more kinds of chronic disease, dementia being among the most common. The project was set up to support elderly people with a memory disorder who live at home.

A ‘living lab’ is a forum for research and innovation in which businesses, public authorities and citizens work together to create and test new services, business ideas, and technologies in real-life-contexts. It works by integrating people into the development process, to better recognise the every day context and needs of users, whilst also developing business opportunities and cooperation between public authorities.

Testing to develop new user-driven innovations

The goal with this Living Lab project was to test, survey and study users’ experience of the latest welfare technology installed in real homes. This would enable suppliers to get valuable feedback, so they can develop or re-develop their products, resulting in new user-driven innovations.

The project involved three regions in Finland: Satakunta, Tampere, and South-Ostrobothnia. The partners were the Pori Regional Development Agency Ltd (POSEK), the South-Ostrobothnia Health Technology Development Centre (EPTEK), and the Tampere University of Applied Sciences (TAMK).

The three main test groups were elderly people, relatives and professional carers of the elderly, who were given the opportunity to use the latest technological innovations free of charge. The suppliers trained the testers and provided technical support during the testing process.

Better solutions in different regions

In the Satakunta region, the project was carried out in collaboration with the City of Pori and surrounding municipalities, as well as national and international ICT suppliers. They created a functional PPP (public-private-people, i.e. public healthcare staff, suppliers and citizens) partnership, known as the Living Lab Cooperation Model. The Living Lab Testing Process created in the project was used to test welfare technology that allows elderly people to live longer at home. Among the products and services tested were a mobile emergency response system, a cooker safety solution, and a nurse alarm system. The region also developed ALMA, the Model for Assessing the Economic and Qualitative Benefits of welfare technology prior to decision-making.

In the Tampere region, an innovative digital TV platform was trialled for six months. Run jointly by municipal elderly care services and a technology firm, it provided interactive video and audio connections for senior services such as ‘virtual day activities’, counselling and guidance. These helped to increase social interaction and reduce loneliness.

In the South-Ostrobothnia region, the project led to the establishment of multidimensional groups (KAT), made up of public and private stakeholders responsible for nursing and care services. They discussed the challenges faced by elderly people and aimed to come up with solutions, technological or otherwise. These groups dealt with more than 110 customer cases, around half of which involved the installation of wellbeing technology which would allow elderly people to continue living at home. Some of the experience generated by KAT was also fed back to local firms and academics.

Each region involved in the project succeeded in creating a new functional and innovative Living Lab structure to produce better solutions for elderly people. This model is considered valuable for all the partners, especially in terms of public healthcare, and will be expanded in future. It could easily be transferred to other regions, as well as national and international contexts.

This new Living Lab model offers a systemic change for Public-Private-People cooperation in creating more cost-efficient services and user-friendly technologies for elderly people.’
Ulla-Maija Leppäkoski, Living Lab Project Manager

Draft date