University research points to digital approach to support home care

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Researchers at Northumbria University are testing and developing a range of smart digital technologies to help some of the most vulnerable people in society live more independently.

Tools including virtual assistants, sensors, apps and off-the-shelf smart devices, such as Amazon Alexa and Google Home, are being tested as part of a ‘living lab’ and bringing together researchers from across faculties at the university.

The lab at Gateshead Innovation Village is the base for a 12-month research project examining how various digital technologies can assist vulnerable people in different ways.

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These include home automation, prompts and reminders about their everyday activities, developing and maintaining their skills, and even monitoring their day-to-day behaviour.

The project will look to assist older people, those with mental health needs, and people with learning disabilities and autism spectrum disorder.

The project and its findings have been well-received by Home Group, one of the UK’s largest providers of housing, health and social care, and local councils are showing interest in Northumbria’s innovative approach to support in the home.

Glenda Cook, professor of nursing at Northumbria University, who leads the project from a health care perspective, said: “Incredible social impact can be achieved through use of digital technologies that are becoming widely available to everyone and can support independence and improve quality of life.

“We hosted numerous workshops, bringing together health and social care organisations, city councils, people with learning disabilities, older people and family members who act as carers. We wanted the project to be very research-focussed, working closely with our partners to ensure maximum impact for the customer.”

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Sarah Clarke

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