A Northern Ireland consortium is leading on innovative approaches to tackling isolation and loneliness in older people as part of the £2.5 million Connected Places Catapult ‘Homes for Healthy Ageing’ Programme.

The consortium – made up of Age NI, Belfast City Council, Connected Health Innovation Centre (CHIC), Markets Development Association (MDA), Public Health Agency NI, Queen’s University Belfast, The Health Innovation Research Alliance (HIRANI) and Ulster University – is one of two UK partners selected for the programme.

A healthy ageing testbed was set up in the Markets area of Belfast in autumn 2021. The testbed provides community-centred and real-world scenarios for local innovators to trial and develop the most promising solutions to address national challenges in healthy ageing.

Ten companies have been trialling and demonstrating a range of innovative products and services within the testbed and these were presented at a Healthy Ageing Innovation Showcase event at the Europa Hotel on 17 June 2022.

The Northern Ireland consortium’s £50,000 funding has supported a dedicated task force responsible for ensuring the effective rollout of the local testbed. As well as gaining access to the tools, user insights and know-how needed, the taskforce has been able to draw on the Catapult’s network of key changemakers who have helped guide their healthy ageing strategies and aims to drive real change for communities.

Belfast Lord Mayor, Councillor Kate Nicholl commented:

“Belfast City Council is delighted to be working with Connected Places Catapult, our local universities and other partners on Homes for Healthy Ageing. With the over-65 demographic set to rise to one quarter of the UK population by 2050, this programme will work directly with people to explore their needs and to consider how the latest ideas and technologies can help. It’s a welcome opportunity to tap into world-leading research from business and universities and test these ideas in a real-life setting.

“The project is part of Belfast’s Smart district, a place where partners from industry, academia, government and communities work together to develop innovative solutions to major urban challenges associated with health, mobility and decarbonisation.”

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

For more information, visit the Connected Places Catapult website at https://cp.catapult.org.uk/opportunity/homes-for-healthy-ageing-programme/