In recent decades, better economic and health conditions in Europe have led to increased life expectancy. This has created new challenges, such as greater numbers of older people who would like to remain in their homes but are suffering from dementia and similar diseases. At the same time, lower birth rates and changing family structures mean that more public and private services are needed to provide care – and technology can potentially help.
The EU-funded IN LIFE (‘INdependent LIving support Functions for the Elderly’) project developed open-access, personalised ICT services to help elderly people with cognitive impairments stay independent in their daily lives for longer. The aim of these services is to help them carry out activities like meeting friends and relatives, going to the doctor, and moving around.
The IN LIFE project created pilot sites in six countries to test and develop personalised services for older people with cognitive impairments, living in their own homes or in sheltered accommodation, and their carers, to help them eat, do physical activities, commute, and benefit from mental stimulation and social interaction. These include a memory training tool, a programme to connect users and carers by videolink, an app to assess older drivers’ ability to be safe on roads, a wearable wristband that can detect if someone has fallen, and a route planner for people using public transport.
The project also created its own platform to provide access to these tools and also a service that can monitor remotely the vital signs of people in their homes and send alerts if something is wrong. The project found that these ICT-based solutions can help elderly people with cognitive impairments remain healthy and active and live independently for longer, as long as they are easy to understand and appropriate training is provided.
IN LIFE in brief
- Total Budget: EUR 3 787 068.04 (EU contribution: EUR 3 383 841.25)
- Duration: 02/2015-01/2018
- Countries involved: Spain (coordinator), Austria, Greece, Ireland, Netherlands, Slovenia, Sweden, United Kingdom
Key figures in the European Union
- In 2013, an estimated 1.55% of the EU population suffered from dementia.
- Research has found that 62% of people with dementia who live alone feel lonely.
- More than 1800 users participated in the IN LIFE project.
In 2018, the European Commission adopted a new strategy enabling the digital transformation of health and care in the Digital Single Market, with the goal of harnessing the power of data to empower citizens and build a healthier society. It identifies three priorities: 1) enabling citizens to access their health data across the EU, 2) allowing researchers and other professionals to pool resources in the development of personalised medicine, which uses patients’ genetic and other personal data to diagnose and treat diseases, and 3) developing digital tools to help people look after their health.
To fund this, the Commission’s proposed new Digital Europe Programme also includes EUR 1.3 billion of funding for high capacity digital networks and innovative digital services in the EU, amongst them the digitisation of healthcare.