According to NSO statistics (NSO 2020), 18 per cent of Malta’s population is aged 65 years and over. In recent years, the concept of healthy ageing has focused on providing elderly persons with the means and support to ensure a healthy lifestyle and increase the time that an elderly person can enjoy independent living at home with the support of assistive technologies. 

The concept of supporting a healthy and independent lifestyle is the focus of the network of assistive technology for an independent and functional life, the Natiflife project. 

The Natiflife project is funded through the INTERREG Italia-Malta Programme and is led by the University of Catania. The other project partners are: Paragon Europe (Malta), the University of Malta, Commune di Catania, VITECO, Salupo, CTA HELIOS, with the latter four organisations hailing from Sicily.

Zaidi et al. (2013) stated that: “’Active ageing’ refers to the situation where people continue to participate in the formal labour market, as well as engage in other unpaid productive activities (such as care provision to family members and volunteering), and live healthy, independent and secure lives as they age”.

One way of providing a healthy and secure life is through assistive technologies that provide sustainable and innovative interventions which can be adapted to different health needs of senior members of society older adults, such as tracking their own heartbeat, level of physical activity, as well as reminders for the intake of medicine through the use of smart watches or apps.

One of the main activities of Paragon Europe, as partner in this project was the creation of the Natiflife app. Developed by Paragon Europe, the application has the ability to monitor the well-being of an elderly person or a person with disabilities. Furthermore, this app can used to assist the elderly and persons with disabilities the basic functions of home life such as switching lights on and off, monitoring the use of kitchen appliances and the switching on and off of devices and appliances around the home. More importantly the app can be used by the carers of the elderly or disabled person to ensure their well-being. 

The Natiflife app is a native Android and iOS app where the main goal of the app is to support and improve patient’s as well as caregiver experience. It has three key points including:

  • Easy to use: only very basic knowledge of smartphones is needed to operate the app
  • Benefits to caregivers: real time information, complete patient control, notifications, alarms, actions and management and all in real time
  • Benefits to patients: active ageing and well-being will be supported with technological solutions to make people feel comfortable on their own

The Natiflife app dashboards The Natiflife app dashboards 

The app is hierarchically divided into two different sections, which are the caregiver and the user app. The caregiver, which in fact has a role of app manager, can define profiles, define relationships between caregiver and users, receive notifications about actions which were performed by the user, and monitor users’ stats and data inputs. On the other hand, the user app can send requests to the caregiver and commands to the system via the app.

The Project Natiflife, had four main objectives – which were fulfilled. 

The first objective was the setting up of a flexible platform of assistive domotics which include standard and innovative solutions which have been integrated into a platform of assistive technology, compliant with traditional and innovative IOT solutions, which is aimed at improving the quality of life of the elderly and vulnerable at home. These include the remote monitoring of a person’s mobility within the home which will enable carers to ensure that those under their care are well and tended to. 

The second objective was setting up of two R&D centres, one at the University of Catania and the other at the Faculty of Communication and Information Technology, at the University of Malta. These labs have created new technologies such as a robotic walker and innovative vision systems which have been integrated into the app.

The third objective was creation of two living labs in Catania and Malta. The living labs will allow for user-centred design and the testing of innovative assistive systems by end-users’ involvement as well as implementing dissemination and training activities. The pilot demo site in Malta is situated at Paragon Europe’s head office in Mosta and it houses the main technologies developed by the Natiflife Project.

This pilot demo site in Mosta, which is managed by Paragon Europe will remain active at least for the next five years, will also serve as a training site for these technologies. Organisations who are dealing with elderly persons and or persons with disabilities as well IT software development companies, are welcome to contact the undersigned for more information or to set an appointment to visit the pilot demo site and the assistive technologies at the site. In the present situation, we are accepting visits by appointments only or an appointment via zoom to show case the pilot demo site.

The fourth objective was the setting up of a network of companies and research centres to continue working on further developments of the concept of healthy ageing. 

For more information about the Natiflife Project, the Natiflife Network or the technologies housed at the pilot demo site in Malta, e-mail projects@paragonglobal.eu

 

 

 

References

NSO (2020) World Population Day, July 11, 2020 NSO News Release July 10, 2020 available here.

Zaidi, A., Gasior, K., Hofmarcher, M.M., Lelkes, O., Marin, B., Rodrigues, R., et al. (2013) Active Ageing Index 2012. Concept, Methodology, and Final Results, Research Memorandum, Methodology Report, European Centre Vienna

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