Elderly people (still) have the desire to travel to satisfy their personal needs. They like to go outside, to participate in an active social life, to visit familiar locations or to explore new places; for functional or for more leisure activities. Mobility has positive individual outcomes (health benefits, reduced isolation, increased well-being and improved quality of life through new experiences and memory-building); but also for the wider community and economy (e.g. more consumption, reduce healthcare costs).
But with ageing, travel seems to become more complex. As life continuously gets busier, traffic gets more complicated, dangerous or confusing. In addition, the shift to the digital era leaves many individuals confused and helpless with regard to modern society and its functionalities. These barriers cause travel restrictions in the life of individuals, which dramatically increase as they grow older. Physical and cognitive ability may decline with increasing age, and elderly people may experience several problems that hinder them from travelling independently. A recent study by GfK, based on data from 22.000 consumers in 17 countries pointed out that increased restriction of mobility was one of the top five worries people had in relation to ageing. So there is a huge potential to offer better assistance, reassurance, and simple solutions to optimise the transport opportunities for aging individuals.
A difficult issue when addressing this problem of age-related travel restrictions is the heterogeneity of the population. While the group is merely defined by age, it includes a wide range of different characteristics, comprising highly non similar elderly profiles, like physically fit and active seniors as well as frail and immobile seniors suffering from physical or mental limitations . From a technical perspective this heterogeneity offers challenges:
-It is not desirable to develop a “one size fits all” solution as this does not take into account personal preferences and physical and cognitive capacities;
-Solutions should not be stigmatizing, as this would likely cause user rejection;
-Solutions should be able to grow and evolve with the user, to counterbalance the loss of independence through the ageing process.
In the SOULMATE project, we address the diverse travel wishes and needs of older adults (aged 65+) in order to engage in (and to ensure) an active, healthy and independent living in a secure way through active mobility and physical activity. In this way the need for homecare will be lowered and the move to institutionalized care will be delayed. To this end, the SOULMATE solution will offer a personalised, customizable smartphone based mobility solution that will evolve with the end-user’s needs across the different life stages and can be used for different elderly profiles. SOULMATE will maximize the capacities of the user, without stigmatizing any restrictions they may face.
The proposed integrated solution will aggregate different types of mobility support during the trips, and consists of three complementary modules:
-Training of the route (Activ84Health): The indoor cycling solution from Activ84Health enables to practice the routes in a safe, motivating and fun virtual training environment;
-Security during the trips (Viamigo): Passive smartphone based monitoring by a coach from a distance by Viamigo;
-Routing during the trips (Ways4All): Active navigation on a smartphone for elderly, by generating turn-by-turn instructions.
In the SOULMATE project, the three service solution partners (i.e. Activ84Health, ABEONA Consult and FH Joanneum) are accompanied by a research partner with expertise in mobility and activity patterns (TU/e), a business partner with expertise in co-creation approaches (RRD), and two business partners with technical expertise in the development of services for elderly (c.c.com Moser GmbH and FRAISS), completed with three end user organizations that will intensively test and evaluate the integrated solution from a user (primary, secondary and tertiary), technical and business perspective (SlimmerLeven, Happy Aging and GEFAS STEIERMARK).
Each of the individual modules brought together in SOULMATE is supported by already available prototypes. SOULMATE will integrate these three service solutions, improve their functionalities towards the transport needs of the end-user, and combine them in an integrated mobility offer to fit the diverse and varying mobility needs of elderly people in different life stages. For each individual, the desired or needed functionalities can be chosen in a modular way, based on the specific abilities of that individual and his/her travel needs and wishes.The applied open technology allows the integration of other related products as well as with common international platforms for the health domain. From a business perspective, a sustainable and scalable AAL package is offered, based on a commercial partnership between the service solution partners.