Services based on ICT technologies are already part of everyday life in Europe, however, most continue to be most used by younger people in society. Recent research has shown that a large segment of the growing number of older people in Europe can be encouraged to use online services, and that a new set of online services can radically improve their quality of life by supporting independent living.
The rapid increase in capability of ICT systems, the convergence of medical and consumer electronic technologies, the fall in cost of broadband access and of IT components offer new possibilities to “age in place”, enabling provision of personal, adaptive home health and care services to homes, services to meet varied communication needs and achieve social participation, and other services deliver the right assistance at the right time to help older people and their families to manage daily tasks better.
For the European housing industry, enabling tenants to continue living independently in their own homes is a business issue. Housing providers have acted to encourage use of online services for independent living by improving access infrastructures, encouraging charities or other third parties to provide care or support, establishing ICT links to medical professionals, and improving their own online service offer - maintenance, information on resource consumption, for general query handling or security.
Empirica has since its foundation in 1988 built up a wealth of experience Europe-wide in developing and testing innovative ideas for independent living services. We have designed and helped set up pilot services with the European IT industry, with housing organisations, social care providers, hospitals and medical care providers all over Europe. The first service worldwide to link older people at home with professional care personnel using telecommunications links supporting natural audio and video real-time interaction was set up in Frankfurt. Since then, empirica has led projects involving many Member States to improve home-care services provision, to introduce new ways for social housing organisations to communicate with tenants, to introduce measures to ensure trust and confidence of users in online services as well as to pilot and test a range of new online assistance services for older citizens, including a location-independent mobile alarm and tele-assistance service.
Partners include European IT industry organisations - Alcatel, Attendo Systems, Bosch, Philips Medical, Tunstall Group, MTEC, Deutsche Telekom, BT, Portugal Telecom, Telefonica, NTL Group, France Telecom etc. - , social housing providers - Stadt und Land, Nassauische Heimstätte, Volkswohnung, Delphis, TEC, Moulins Habitat, Le Toit Angevin, London & Quadrant Housing Trust Limited, Northern Ireland Housing Executive - and their associations - Cecodas, VDW, Union sociale pour l'habitat, GdW etc. - as well as social and medical care providers - Johanniter Unfall Hilfe, evangelisches Johanneswerk, Frankfurter Verband für Alten- und Behindertenhilfe, St. Markus hospital, Kuratorium für Heimdialyse etc.