Pharaon – Pilots for Active and Healthy Ageing

Last October I started my new job as senior researcher at Roessingh Research & Development. RRD is a research and development SME in the area of rehabilitation technology and telemedicine and involved in various national and European projects. As I plan to write about the research activities I am involved in, I will first introduce the projects in a series of blog posts. The first post is about Pharaon project, which is funded under the Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No 857188).

Pharaon – Pilots for Healthy and Active Ageing

The main motivation of the Pharaon project is our ageing society and the need for tools that improve the quality of life, independence and overall health of older adults. Although several services and solutions might already exist today, they often have a limited scope and the market is also quite fragmented.

What Pharaon aims to do is to integrate existing digital services, devices, and tools into open platforms that can be readily deployed while maintaining the dignity of older adults and enhancing their independence, safety, and capabilities. The project makes us of a range of digital tools including connected devices (e.g., the Internet of Things, IoT), artificial intelligence, robotics, cloud and edge computing, smart wearables, big data, and intelligent analytics that will be integrated to provide personalised and optimised health care delivery. The integrated Pharaon platform will be validated in large-scale pilots in six different pilot sites: Murcia and Andalusia (Spain), Portugal, The Netherlands, Slovenia and Italy. The consortium consists of 41 partners from 12 different countries. Truely an international group and lots of new people to meet and collarobate with.

In the pilots, we will conduct action research and also develop guidelines for future projects that implement complex, socio-technical services for healthy ageing. Action research has various definitions,  for instance, in the SAGE Handbook of action research it is defined as 1

action research is a participatory process concerned with developing practical knowing in the pursuit of worthwhile human purposes. It seeks to bring together action and reflection, theory and practice, in participation with others, in the pursuit of practial solutions to issues of pressing concern to people, and more generally the flourishing of individual persons and their communities.

In a series of blog posts on action research, Åsa Cajander describes it as:

a kind of research where the researcher works closely together with practitioners trying to understand and improve a situation or organisation in some specific way. The researcher is not “a fly on the wall” who observes things, but takes part in the change process to a large or small extent. Action research projects can indeed vary quite a lot and the term is more an umbrella concept for a whole family of approaches.

The research conducted in our pilot involves close collaboration with older citizens, for example, in workshops and co-design sessions. This is gonna be so interesting and I am really looking forward to all the new things I will learn from them!

The Dutch Pilot

The Netherlands is one of the six pilot sites in which we collaborate with several Dutch partners, for example, the National Foundation for the Elderly (NFE), AdSysCo, and Maastricht Instruments. The coordinator of the work package responsible for the general pilot deployment is Lex van Velsen, eHealth cluster manager at RRD. The Dutch pilot is lead by Femke Nijboer, assistant professor at the University of Twente. In January, Kira Oberschmidt started her PhD position at RRD (supervised by Lex and me), who will work closely together with Sefora Tunç in the project. Sefora is currently finishing her master thesis and will continue in Pharaon as a PhD student.  I have several roles within the project: Deputy for Lex as general pilot coordinator, and within the Dutch pilot I took the roles as technical manager and ethics board.

Among the existing technologies and services that are already available in the Netherlands is the PlusBus, organised by the NFE using the RegiCare system from AdSysCo. The PlusBus is a mobility service that brings older people together and takes them on trips. The bus runs in about 90 municipalities in the Netherlands and is run by  volunteers. Every bus has its own schedule for elderly people in the area: from fun trips to a visit to a supermarket, family or garden center. In 2019, 100 buses were used by 28,000 people and supported by 2,500 volunteers to ensure that the busses run. Check out this lovely clip:

Kickoff Meeting in PISA

From 21. – 22. January, the kickoff meeting of the Pharaon project took place in Pisa (Italy). I had never been to Italy, so of course I looked very much forward to great coffee and even greater pizza. The gathering of more than fourty project partners took place in the Piaggio Museum in Pontedera, which was an interesting venue. The days were very packed with all kinds of presentations and discussions, but Lex, Femke and I managed to have a quick visit to the Leaning Tower of Pisa, shortly before we went back to the airport. When in Pisa, you have to visit the tower and take one of those cheesy pictures 😄. We had quite interesting days and I am looking very much forward to this project.

Let’s connect

Footnotes

  1. Reason, Peter & Bradbury, Hilary (2012). The SAGE handbook of action research: Participative inquiry and practice. 2nd edition, Los Angeles, Calif: SAGE.
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