04 April 2018 - 16:55
A second life for seniors
Technological strategies to slow down the effects of aging
In just over three decades, Europe will have gray hair and it is not just the result of millennia of history. According to the report by the McKinsey Global Institute, in 2050 more than a third of the European population will be over 60. A little reassuring outlook, especially if coupled with the reduction in birth rates, but a perspective which has nonetheless set in motion the most advanced technologies to ensure a second life in old age.
Sensors, cloud storage, smart glasses, home automation are now being tested at My-AHA, short for My Active and Healthy Ageing, a EU-funded project involving 12 European and 4 non-EU research centers. “We are working on an ICT platform to slow the effects of aging by anticipating the weaknesses, physical and not, faced by the elderly” explains Alessandro Vercelli, project coordinator and director of the Neuroscience Institute Cavalieri Ottolenghi and of the interdepartmental center NIT of the University of Turin. A sort of elixir for eternal youth? Not exactly.
“The platform – says the researcher – is able to detect and quantify precisely the onset of frailty via so-called wearables, which is to say sensors that can be worn, and easily available data derived from the daily life of the elderly and relating to aspects such as vital statistics, pace and posture, sleep quality, mood, all of which is transmitted through a smartphone app.” In the future the project, a refined version of the virtual assistant that monitors every movement, should allow the elderly to better manage their health and extend the duration of their independent lives, while also inducing significant savings in health care expenditure. The European Union in the ICT and aging report has estimated that the use of information and telecommunication technologies can reduce of 12.5 million units the days of hospitalization and of more than 40 million units the admissions to long-term care institutions.
Among the devices under experimentation there are, for example, glasses able to detect the body axis and capture the movement of the eyes, pedometers, pulse oximeters, heart-rate monitors and sensors for the quality of sleep. “The platform monitors and analyzes the so-called cognitive impairment, physical, psychological and social isolation, and suggests the subject an action to improve prevention” concludes Alessandro Vercelli. “By tackling elderly fragility we can prevent decay and the loss of independence, two characteristics of pathological aging.” In the future the system will be able to suggest, in real time, a number of actions designed to motivate the elderly to participate in physical and cognitive exercises via challenging games, the use of social networks and the access to nutritional programs for specific purposes.
Fur further information read the press release about the partnership between Generali and the French start-up Ellcie Healthy to develop smart eyeglasses.