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Technology Care Programme Success

Aberystwyth University

3 October 2023

Aberystwyth University
Powys County Council and partners Aberystwyth University have been selected as one of 10 teams taking part in an exciting new £2m innovative technology care programme.

Managed by the Health Foundation, the Tech for Better Care programme is supporting 10 teams from across the UK to develop, test and pilot promising new ideas and approaches to care over approximately 18 months.

The successful teams will be asked to develop approaches to care that focus on the caring and enabling relationships needed between those who deliver care and those who receive care, to help reduce the pressure on the UK care system.

Working with the departments of Psychology and Computer Science at Aberystwyth University, and which feature the Centre for Excellence in Rural Health and the Centre for Ageing and Dementia Research, the Powys project will explore how technology can support the Council's Home Support Service to foster care circles in Powys and provide enhanced relational and proactive support.

It will involve identifying or creating Internet of Things sensors that provide meaningful data to inform and support a person's care, and development of an application to store and process the data.

The project will also draw on a new state of the art home currently being built at Aberystwyth University.

Smart Home Lab, a fully functioning and connected bungalow with its own companion cat called 'Pixel', is being developed to improve the quality of life for older people or those with health conditions.

There, researchers will be able to test assisted living technology, carry out remote check-ups by GPs and other healthcare professionals, and explore how robots and augmented reality can assist people within the home.

Cllr Sian Cox, Cabinet Member for a Caring Powys said: 'We want people to be independent, in control, living fulfilled lives, part of their community, where they belong. Home Support already has this at the heart of everything they do; no blanket approaches, care tailored to the unique person at the centre.

"Now we will develop that approach further, creating 'Care Circles' of formal carers and informal carers - family, friends, neighbours.  An ever-increasing range of technological innovations enhances what Care Circles can do. Sometimes, technology is a member of the Circle itself (see 'robot cats')! 

"I'm an advocate of community-based, bespoke systems of care and I'm really excited by this initiative. We're all living longer, not always in good health, and our working population is getting smaller. This means immense pressure on social care, and on dedicated family carers. Care Circles are part of the solution."

Professor Charles Musselwhite, Director of Research in Aberystwyth University's Department of Psychology and co-director for the Centre for Ageing and Dementia Research, said; "We really need to understand the best ways in which we can provide support to older people to live at home as long as they wish to do so, but this can be challenging in rural areas.

"Technology is inevitably going to be part of that solution, but we need to understand what technology is needed, how it might be used and integrated, and importantly what is acceptable, ethically and morally, to people in need, their families and to professionals working with them.

"Working with Powys County Council and using Aberystwyth's innovative 'smart home' this project helps us understand the important technological and social needs to support people living independently."