Category: Partnerships

COLABORAR distributes tablets to seniors from nine institutions in order to combat social isolation

To combat the social isolation imposed by COVID-19, and in order to promote the proximity of family members and caregivers, the COLABORAR user network is distributing tablets to the elderly in some partner institutions. In total, 33 pieces of equipment should be assigned to nine institutions. The first to receive the tablets was the Monte Pedral Association.

The equipment aims, above all, to contribute to the well-being of this population group, stimulating contact and proximity to family members and also allowing for more playful moments through the use of some features such as games and activities. This COLABORAR network’s initiative comes under the ELAPSE Project, financed by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, which consists of implementing a longitudinal study to assess the impact of technology in combating the social isolation of the elderly.

Senior citizens as partners

In a research center where technology for senior citizens is designed and developed, to include them in the research process is essential to produce innovative technology for well-being and quality of life of the elderly.

Fraunhofer Portugal AICOS‘ Living Lab brings together researchers and senior citizens, promoting their interaction through partnerships with organizations in the community. Day-care centers, municipalities, senior residences, among other, adhered to this initiative. The Living Lab includes the voices of the elderly and facilitates the integration of their preferences into the technology that aims to match their needs. Hence, we aim for future technologythat acts as a companion and a tool that is truly easy to use. Researchers and senior citizens are building technology that in the future will enable older adults to keep their autonomy and participation both in family and in society.

More than 1000 senior citizens already joined the Living Lab COLABORAR. If you would like to join the group, please sign up here.

COLABORAR – Panel of clinical specialists

Fraunhofer Portugal AICOS (located in Porto, in the UPTEC Building) develops research activities focused on digital technology applied to health, active aging and well-being. Examples of projects that are part of our portfolio:

  • Decentralized dermatology screening — mobile technology for healthcare professionals, validated as a monitoring or referral solution for skin lesions;
  • Decentralized Ophthalmology Screening — a smartphone-based portable optical device that automatically captures retinal images with intelligent guidance during acquisition and computer-assisted diagnostics integrated into the device;
  • Automatic, low-cost mobile microscopy — a low-cost, automatic alternative to conventional microscopes, adapted to effectively support microscopy-based diagnostics in areas with limited access to health services;
  • Advanced inertial sensor data processing for human activity recognition and motion characterization — applied to senior exergames, smartphone or tablet-based home physiotherapy programs, and inertial sensors, among others.

Fraunhofer Portugal AICOS, in developing applied research, is directly involved in digital transformation. Because we are aligned with international recommendations that involve all stakeholders in the design of technology-based solutions and services, COLABORAR is promoting the participation of clinicians. Therefore, we are addressing an invitation to health professionals with a possible interest in influencing health innovation to join a panel of clinical specialists.
This panel will be in a privileged position to convey to researchers health needs, priorities and preferences. Through this initiative, healthcare professionals will learn about the research topics we are working on and will be able to spark future topics for our team to explore.
We recommend that interested parties send email to colaborar@fraunhofer.pt.

COLABORAR organized field work for international PhD student

An international PhD student at the Department of Marketing and Supply Chain Management at Maastricht University, in the Netherlands, and Marie Curie Fellow at the Service Design for Innovation Network (SDIN), published her work developed during her stay at Fraunhofer AICOS at the 4th International Conference on Design4Health held in Melbourne, Australia, in December 2017.

In this conference, insights of the area of research that results from the intersection between design and health were presented. The research of the hD student Martina Caic’s focuses on customer experiences in value networks, with a main interest in robotic and ambient assisted living technologies. Martina has been at Fraunhofer AICOS as a visiting researcher and she made several observations of the sessions of physical exercise at a Portuguese day-care centre for older adults that is part of the user network COLABORAR over a period of three months. COLABORAR organized the field work for the student.
The article is entitled “Exergames for healthy ageing: Inclusion through design” and explores the technology appropriateness of the Fraunhofer AICOSs platform of physical exercise games for seniors designated Exergames. Martina’s work demonstrates the key factors for improving the chance of user uptake and acceptance of technology in this particular case study. The evolution of participants’ willingness to engage with the platform is documented as well. Martina also hilights the importance of engaging the elderly in their own care, since the exergame platform is intended to promote physical activity to older adults through entertaining video games. The full research paper is part of the proceedings of the conference and can be accessed here.

Information session about falls

FallSensing project researchers were at a living centre to talk about falls at senior age.

The seniors of the living center participated in the testing of this project, making an important contribution. In this session, near the end of the project, we talked about fall risk factors and how the technology can help the elderly to stay active through physical exercises for balance training and muscle strength. We answered questions that seniors posed about falls and everyone talked about their experiences of falls  previously experienced. In general, the elderly have suffered at least one fall or at least know someone who has fallen. They are therefore sensitized to this problem and have been curious to learn more about ways to avoid falls. We took a tablet and showed the FallSensing application to let them know how technology can help. We have explained that, on the one hand, FallSensing‘s sensors help assess the risk of falls and that the application developed along with sensors can be an appealing way for people to take physical exercise specifically for falls prevention. In addition, we distributed leaflets with fall prevention information that were developed by FallSensing researchers. We also introduced the digital fall book of the Portuguese National Health Service (“Serviço Nacional de Saúde”).

The session was very successful in that it was very interactive and everyone learned a little more about avoiding falls. Researchers, on the other hand, found that this issue continues to worry older people, as well as their caregivers who are receptive to new ways to prevent falls.

A COLABORAR’s partner institution at Fraunhofer to present its activities

Márcia Neto, the technical-director of Associação Senhor do Bonfim, was at Fraunhofer Portugal AICOS to make a presentation about its institution: care settings, activities, socio-demographic charachterization of older adults and main challenges.

Associação Senhor do Bonfim has been a COLABORAR partner institution for many years; their older adults often participate in our research activities of user-centred design and this proximity between them and researchers is very valuable. There are many projects that counted with their insights.

More innovative projects are on the horizon and Associação Senhor do Bonfim has yet expressed its availability to be part of our future research.

FallSensing: fall risk assessment and exercises for fall prevention

We have more news about FallSensing. This project that aims to develop tools for fall risk assessment, falls monitoring and prevention had many advances through the past months.

Researchers and designers together created new games and couldn’t wait to test them! With the help of the volunteers in the user network COLABORAR, for sure. Therefore, we went to a living centre in Porto and organized some research activities. We started with the recruitment of participants, and then we applied tests and questionnaires to assess the fall risk of each user. Then, we scheduled tests with users at the centre. Both fall risk assessment and exercises for prevention were accompanied by a physiterapist. Researchers took notes of some details related to usability issues while seniors were playing the games. Researchers were also paying attention to questions related to comfort of body sensors that older adults were using to capture movements during the game, enabling the evaluation of their performance.

The feedback from users was great, as they said they enjoyed playing in group with their friends. The laughts also indicate that they had a good time playing the FallSensing games. The team could not be as happy with the success of FallSensing!

New FallSensing game tested with older adults

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On July 11th Fraunhofer AICOS hosted a group of older adults from a day-care center from Abiúl, near Pombal, in the center region of Portugal. Researchers from the FallSensing project were holding some tests for the new physical exercise game and COLABORAR invited Fundação Dr. José Lourenço Júnior to try out the game.

The activities at Fraunhofer included a visit to our facilities. They saw our work areas, with many computers.  Then they went to the Software Lab, the laboratory in which we usually perform tests with users. The view from the office delighted our guests, since we have open spaces with large windows and we can see some universities and research centers, as well as one of the biggest Portuguese hospitals.

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The new FallSensing game is an easy, fun, physical game for fall prevention and is suited to be played by groups of three. The exercises required to play the game are based on a certified fall prevention program. The seniors from the day-care center were divided into groups to play the game. We can tell, by the laughs, that our guests enjoyed the game very much. This is a fun activity for the elderly! Furthermore, researchers tested the platform that aims to implement fall prevention programs in individuals aged 50 or older. The well known Fraunhofer‘s cognitive games for tablets named “Cogniplay” were available for seniors, over tea, juice and some biscuits.

We are happy to be able to receive at Fraunhofer AICOS real end users giving important inputs to the study. And we are glad to provide older adults from Abiúl a different and happy day.

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Project DeMind: beginning of the pilot with older adults

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We are glad that the pilot for the project DeMind has just  begun! The pilot is taking place in Lisbon, at Santa Casa da Misericórdia de Lisboa (SCML), a partner of COLABORAR.

This pilot aims to promote technology-based activities for seniors attending 6 day-care centres from SCML and is called “Tec-Conhecimento”. CogniPlay, the Fraunhofer AICOS‘ application for tablets of cognitive games, is available for the participants on this project. ISCTE – Instituto Universitário de Lisboa is also a project’s partner. The consortium comprised by these 3 institutions aims to study the integration of activities supported by technology, particularly tablets, on the daily habits of older adults at day-care centers and seniors’ acceptance. At the same time, usability aspects of the interfaces are also being studied.

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The project began with a presentation of CogniPlay to the technical staff of the centers. This project lasts until July and we are looking forward for its results.

Note: Thank you SCML for the images.

COLABORAR workshop: gathering with institutions in the network

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The partner institutions of COLABORAR from Porto gathered at Fraunhofer AICOS to discuss a range of issues related to older adults and the partnership we have.

Held at our Software Lab, the meeting was meant to be an opportunity to show our facilities and gather with the staff and directors of the different institutions: day-care/living centres, services of home care and municipalities. We were joined by different professionals who work with older adults: social educators, social workers, sociocultural animators, sociologists and a nurse.

Despite spending much time at the centres, we had never had the chance of bringing professionals together at Fraunhofer. We also never had the chance before of listening to their perceptions on our work with seniors, as well on the positive and negative aspects of the partnership.

Some statistical data extracted from the COLABORAR questionnaires were presented. We also presented some of Fraunhofer’s projects already finished. We told our guests that they can always come to us to explain the needs they identify in the field, because they know seniors, their conditions and even the main problems they face. This meeting was also an opportunity for professionals to get to know each other and exchange contacts.

And finally, on the agenda were photos of the event and a video!

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