Carina Dantas, director of the Innovation Department at Cáritas Diocesana de Coimbra, Portugal, has been invited to participate as a keynote speaker at the AAL Forum 2017, as well as help run and speak at a further two workshop sessions.
With a plethora of experience in the field of active ageing, health and social care, Carina is sure to bring some interesting discussion points and knowledge to the AAL Forum. Carina’s CV includes being Vice President of the EU Covenant on Demographic Change, project manager of GrowMeUp (Horizon 2020 project), main coordinator of the group “Age-friendly building, cities and environments” of the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing, and with years of experience working as technical director in social areas and implementing innovative social initiatives for the elderly and long-term patients.
Whilst the AAL Forum is not Carina’s first conference on active ageing, this will be her first time attending the AAL Forum and she is very much looking forward to seeing how the whole process works. She will be involved with the workshops: “Bridges between Europe – Integrating Health and Social Care towards Innovation” and “Voices of users – is AAL already in our lives?”. Both are stimulating topics which will examine how AAL solutions are getting to the market, and how they may suit the needs of stakeholders who contribute to the implementation of social care and health services.
We had a chat with Carina and got to discussing some of the other active ageing projects she has been working on, and what she is most looking forward to about the AAL Forum in October. Don’t miss out on meeting Carina at the AAL Forum.
Have you been involved in any interesting concepts or products to do with ageing that are in the process of, or have been successfully implemented into society?
I am currently working on a Horizon 2020 project called GrowMeUp, coordinated by the University of Coimbra, which is developing a robot that assists elderly people at home. We are currently working towards the projects final trials with eight prototypes being tested by elderly people. They are interacting with the robots to really understand how, and if, they can assist them in a positive way, whether this is speaking to them, proposing activities or by providing security services. With this data, we hope to create a business plan and exploitation strategy ready for unveiling in 2018.
What is the service the robots offer?
They will have three main areas of services: one is to do with security, the second is to do with keeping active, and the other is to do with daily living at home. The idea is to have something that can help with small daily tasks.
So far, have the results from these prototypes been positive?
Yes definitely, a lot of the research has brought us some positive data but there are still some areas of the prototype that need to be developed further. We have discovered that there a lot of small issues related to the state of elderly people that are very different from person to person that cannot be picked up from traditional lab experiments. Each person is unique which restricts how they interact with the robots and makes it very difficult to adjust the machine to cope with these disparities, problems and potentials. It has been very interesting, but there are still a lot of challenges that need to be solved.
Can you explain some of the projects you have been involved with that are successfully on the market?
In Portugal, digital literacy above 60 is not very high and most older adults do not have software or computers in their home. With Cáritas Coimbra, the non-profit organisation I work for, in the past years we have been able to implement digital technologies amongst day care and residential users. It started very small and now most of Cáritas’ elderly clients are using tablets, for example for cognitive games.
We also have a programme that connects cognitive rehabilitation with physical rehabilitation for ageing people living at our residences by providing them with a resort-type activity programme that enables them to take part in all kinds of specially designed activities. This is a much more dynamic service that can be individually personalised, compared to the previous one which limited users to one room, one activity.
Did you face many challenges implementing these solutions?
Implementing any kind of change is difficult, and this is not just the case for ageing people. When people are settled in a scheme there will always be retaliation. There is the need for a thought-out process. We received criticism when we had to change rooms to implement the new solutions, but, by involving them as a group with making decisions and choosing what they think should change, they became a lot more receptive, and continue to be so with new products.
With GrowMeUp it was actually a very nice story. At the start only 20 volunteers out of 1500 ageing persons in our services were interested in participating with the prototypes. After three months of starting the project we were constantly approached by people saying, ‘I want to participate with the robots, why am I not allowed a robot?’. We ended up with a different problem, acceptance from the ageing community but not enough robots. The difficulties we have faced have been to do with housing conditions or very low pensions that do not enable technological appliances to be integrated in everyone’s daily lives.
Being your first time attending the AAL Forum, what do you consider is important about the AAL Programme?
The AAL execution appears much more tangible than a lot of other European frameworks on integrating users and third sector organisations like Cáritas with traditional stakeholders, researchers and companies, enabling them to create a good ecosystem that actually works. And AAL have been able to make this happen. More than other frameworks or initiatives, AAL have been able to generate a network with all kinds of actors and stakeholders who can speak, if not the same language, a common language. However, what does need to be addressed and what I will be discussing at the AAL Forum, is how we need more actors (users and authorities) to get involved in discussing the effective needs of older persons and how to integrate them in the social and health provision services, investing also on improving housing or financial issues, essential to enable the broad implementation of AAL solutions.
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