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ExtraCare brings latest technologies to retirement villages

13 September 2018

The University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) is to work with ExtraCare to help incorporate innovative technologies into its properties for the benefit of residents.

The technology will include intelligent sensing systems that could determine when someone falls in the home, as well as interactive systems such as smart assistants and assistive robots to provide reminders for medication, support rehabilitation activities, or take voice commands to turn appliances on or close the blinds for those with mobility impairments.

The two-year Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) with ExtraCare, which runs over 15 retirement villages in the UK, will see it work with the University's Assisted Living Studio, based in Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL). The Assisted Living Studio is a facility to develop, test and implement assistive robots and intelligent sensor systems.

As part of the KTP, UWE Bristol will recruit a graduate or 'associate' who will join ExtraCare. The associate will help introduce technologies into its villages and test how they work.

ExtraCare's Executive Director of Marketing and Innovation Henriette Lyttle, said, “Our vision is to enable better lives for older people and to create sustainable communities that provide homes older people want and lifestyles they can enjoy. This KTP is an opportunity to pioneer the integration of technologies into our retirement villages in order to increase quality of life and prolong independent living.”

The charity is to set up two state of the art 'living lab' apartments in its new retirement facility in Stoke Gifford next to UWE Bristol's Frenchay campus as part of this KTP. These will enable it to trial the technology and gather data on how users interact with the systems.

One of the apartments will demonstrate to potential customers and staff how technology can assist residents with day-to-day activities, while the other will have a live-in resident. Data obtained from the resident's interaction with the machines will provide valuable information to help determine what technology works, and in what context it should be used. This data will in turn inform UWE Bristol researchers on how best to optimise the technology.

The charity will work with Dr Praminda Caleb-Solly, who is academic supervisor on the project, Associate Professor in Independent Living Systems at UWE Bristol, and runs the Assisted Living Studio.

Dr Caleb-Solly said, “We are privileged to be working with ExtraCare and to have the opportunity of testing, trialling and co-designing with end users and carers. This project will enable us to make a positive impact on supporting people as they age.”

By undertaking the KTP in partnership with the University, the charity hopes to acquire new knowledge and expertise to help make technology applications available and affordable in its retirement villages for the benefit of residents. In this way, more older people will live more comfortably and independently for longer thanks to technology that enhances their day-to-day living.
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