The AAL Programme
The AAL Programme is a common funding activity of partner states of the AAL Association, with the financial support of the European Commission, based on article 185 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
The aim of the AAL Programme is to provide innovative Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) based solutions including products, systems or services to enhance older adults’ quality of life and to strengthen the industrial base in Europe. The main goal is to improve the autonomy, participation in social life, skills, and employability of older adults2. Solutions funded under the AAL Programme address identified wishes and needs of the end-users, are transnational, collaborative and cost-shared between private and public funding. AAL projects aim at introducing their solution to the market within a maximum of 2-3 years after finalisation of the project.
The first phase of the AAL Programme already funded 150 thematic projects in 6 calls since 20083. The AAL Programme continues with “challenge led” calls. This enables a more open approach to the development of ICT-based solutions in response to the individual and societal challenges as drivers of innovation and economic growth. The AAL Programme calls are complementary to the Horizon 2020 calls related to Active and Healthy Ageing under Societal Challenge 1 (SC1)4.
People with dementia are confronted with a syndrome that increasingly affects their memory, thinking, behaviour and ability to perform everyday activities. The average duration of dementia is between 2 and 10 years and ranges from mild cognitive impairments (MCI) to severe dementia. Dementia is overwhelming not only for the people who have it, but also for their caregivers and families and impacts them physically, psychologically and economically.
Dementia is strongly linked with age. Worldwide the number of people living with dementia is currently estimated at 47.5 million. This number will triple by 20505. In Europe different forms ofdementiaareaffectingmorethan8.7millionpeople(1.55%ofthepopulation)6 andthisfigure is expected to double every 20 years as the population ages. It currently costs approximately €130 billion per annum to care for people with dementia across Europe7. Existing treatments for neurodegenerative diseases are very limited and only treat the symptoms, rather than addressing the cause. In addition, no new drug treatment for Alzheimer’s disease has been approved in the past five years. This means that care and support to increasing numbers of people who have MCI/dementia, their carers and communities will be needed in the coming years.
Living with dementia
Research shows that most people with dementia live at home (70%)8, with many (30%) of these people living alone9. Only 40% is diagnosed. The reason for moving to a nursing home is mostly the overburdening or absence of a carer. In average the informal carer is 65 years old, 70% of them is female.
The 5 most important challenges as experienced by people with dementia are: lack of confidence (69%), fear of getting confused (68%), and of getting lost (60%), mobility problems (59%) and physical health problems (59%). The graphic below provides an impression of the activities people with dementia have to give up.
The five most pressing problems for informal carers are: coping with behavioural and mood changes, overburdening, resistance to admission in a nursing home, feeling that something is not right but not knowing where to go for help, bad communication with professional caregivers.
Potential of ICT
ICT/smart technologies offer enormous potential to support not only people with dementia to live well, but also their families, informal carers and professional carers. Furthermore it can facilitate engagement of the community in creating dementia friendly environments, as well as those that interact with people with dementia. ICT can also play an important role in prevention, detection, intervention and (self-)management:
For people in early stages of dementia ICT/smart technologies can help them live with early (signs of) dementia by stimulating enjoyable and meaningful activities, compensating for loss of abilities, supporting memory and cognition and reducing isolation and depression.
For people with dementia in the middle stage of dementia ICT/smart technologies can help improve their safety inside/outside of the home, orientation/navigation outside the house, provide extended support for more severe memory loss, fall prevention/alarms, sustaining day and night rhythms.
For people with severe dementia ICT/smart technologies can support stimulation and active engagement, communication with others and help those with motoric and other physical limitations.
For informal carers - often older adults themselves - ICT/smart technologies can help them to reduce the stress and care burden and to build resilience, for example with: information about the condition, safety of and remote communication with the person with dementia, sharing care and responsibilities, psychological/emotional support by peers and/or professionals, access to support networks and education and training.
For professional carers ICT/smart technologies can: increase the effectiveness and efficiency of care; enhance communication and coordination of care between professionals and informal carers; improve working conditions, education and training, etc.
For facilitating a dementia friendly environment ICT/smart technologies can help to inform, train and lead people in the community who provide services to or get in contact with people with dementia.
It is crucial that AAL solutions are user friendly, accessible, affordable and widely available on the market.
Besides the potential savings and benefits for the public sector, ICT solutions supporting people with dementia also offer opportunities for the private sector and for economic growth in Europe.
The focus of the 2016 Call Challenge of the AAL Programme is to fund ICT based innovative, transnational and multi-disciplinary collaborative projects with a clear route to market that support people with dementia and their carers to live in dignity and provide satisfaction through all stages of dementia, with support of the community.
A key priority underlying this challenge will be to bring together technologies and services to create ICT based solutions with a clear route to market addressing the aspirations and challenges that will enable the wellbeing of people with dementia and their communities (family, caregivers, neighbourhood, service providers, care system, etc.). The proposals should include a user-centred approach as well as pilots with a considerable number of end-users involved in order to demonstrate the benefits and added-value necessary to make a significant impact on the market.