A showcase of the latest innovative solutions improving the health, wellbeing and independence of older adults facing social isolation and loneliness in Northern Ireland was held at the Europa Hotel in Belfast on 17 June 2022 as part of Belfast’s pioneering healthy ageing testbed project.

From technology that helps people stay connected with family, friends, and carers, to wearable devices that monitor health conditions, ten businesses showcased and shared insights on the products and services they trialled in real-world settings through a healthy ageing testbed in the Markets area of Belfast.

The Smart Belfast team worked with a Northern Ireland consortium of partners and Connected Places Catapult to support the trialling of these innovative solutions as part of Connected Places Catapult’s £2.5 million Homes for Healthy Ageing programme which launched in 2021 in response to the UK Government’s Grand Challenge to ensure people can live longer healthier lives in their own homes.

Belfast Lord Mayor Councillor Tina Black explained:

“Chronic loneliness affects one in 20 people here. And we have a rapidly ageing population, so there’s a strong motivation across our region to improve the care of older adults and help them to live life to the full.

“Through our Smart Belfast programme, Belfast City Council is committed to working with industry and our universities to unlock the benefits of digital technologies for our residents. The Homes for Healthy Ageing programme is a great practical example of this.  We’re working with universities and innovation tech companies to trial new ways of reducing loneliness and enhancing social connectedness in our ageing population.”

Professor Joan Condell, Ulster University and Lead Partner of the Northern Ireland consortium, added:

“With the over-65 demographic set to rise to one quarter of the UK population by 2050, the Homes for Healthy Ageing programme has a vital role to play in informing and accelerating innovation that supports a healthier future for everyone.

“The strength and depth of the local consortium will be of great benefit to the active community of businesses addressing the needs of healthy ageing through their products and services. As the first of its kind in Northern Ireland, the consortium sees the Markets testbed in Belfast’s Smart District as a great opportunity to position our region as a centre for innovation and research, addressing key societal challenges.”

Along with Ulster University and Belfast City Council, the consortium includes Age NI, Connected Health Innovation Centre, Markets Development Association, Public Health Agency NI, Queen’s University Belfast, and the Health Innovation Research Alliance.

Trials of innovative technologies

The ten businesses that trialled their products and services in real-world settings through the healthy ageing testbed in the Markets area of Belfast are:

  • Ethel care – Helps health and care organisations manage large cohorts of vulnerable people in their own home for greater independence by supplying remote care and support through their digital platform.
  • Kraydel – Have developed ‘Kraydel Konnect’ which is TV-based service offering social connectivity and IoT-based monitoring for health, wellbeing, and independence.
  • Wanatok – Wanatok is a tech for good app with the simple aim of bringing people together in person to talk in real-time, in their current location. The platform aims to have a positive impact on older adults’ lives by helping them meet people, thereby reducing feelings of loneliness and social isolation.
  • Civic Dollars – Civic Dollars a community currency app that encourages users to be more active by incentivising activity. The platform works by issuing a Civic Dollar for every 30 minutes a user spends in a park designated as an earn zone. The users can use their Civic Dollars for rewards to improve their lifestyle or donate them to a local community organisation.
  • Thriving AI – Helps carers to support older adults by enabling integrated care communication, coordination & monitoring supported by Machine Learning (ML) & AI delivered through a digital application.
  • Treasured Times – Harness multiple technologies in one, easy to use digital application to reduce loneliness in elderly people by keeping families connected with their loved ones.
  • Walk with path – Using wearables, Walk with Path can offer both patients and clinicians with direct feedback that helps to prescribe personalised care and support to reduce the risk of trips and falls.
  • Living in Fitness – Living in Fitness is an award-winning health and fitness service helping older adults maintain their independence and quality of life through exercise. They provide offline and online live classes and on demand content for the over 60s.
  • Companiions – The Companiions platform provides a simple, trusted way for people to arrange in-person, on-demand support, assistance and company for themselves or their loved ones from a pool of local, trusted, and vetted companions.
  • Storii – Storii seeks to reduce social isolation and preserve life stories with simple technology. The platform helps people to build life stories and connect with loved ones in a practical way that is effective across generations.

More information

Find out more about the healthy ageing testbed in Belfast at https://smartbelfast.city/story/homes-for-healthy-ageing/