Newcastle University and charities set to address social exclusion in old age

A PIONEERING project to help the elderly keep their independence in their last years of life is being piloted in the North East.

A posed picture to illustrate old age and caring

A PIONEERING project to help the elderly keep their independence in their last years of life is being piloted in the North East.

Newcastle University is to work with specialist charities including Marie Curie Cancer Care on the SiDE project, which is the UK’s largest research programme of its kind.

The study will explore how new digital technologies can be used to address social exclusion of the elderly and to support end-of-life experiences.

The project comes after evidence from Government research revealed that 60% of people die in hospital even though 70% would prefer to die in their own home.

SiDe, which stands for Social Inclusion in the Digital Economy, is based at Newcastle University and also involves researchers from Dundee University.

SiDE director Paul Watson, who is a professor of computer science at Newcastle, said: “Developing technologies to assist the elderly is a key part of our work.

“It is very important that in doing so we work closely with care organisations and their clients in order to understand the real needs of individuals.”

The project was set up by Home Group, one of the UK’s largest providers of housing for older people, after finding that many of its clients were unaware or unable to access the support they required to manage a positive end-of-life experience in their own home.

Home Group’s chief executive Mark Henderson said: “We passionately believe that offering our clients respect and dignity in the last years of their lives is an incredibly important part of our service.

“Housing associations may not usually be associated with this subject but we’re well-placed to help as we have considerable experience of supporting vulnerable people.”

Newcastle Science City has awarded funding to the scheme as part of its Community Engagement Commissioning Framework, a programme aimed at bringing together the third sector with scientific organisations to make a positive impact on communities.

The funding will be used to help create bespoke computer solutions to help the elderly continue to play an active role in society, despite often being housebound and restricted from accessing their local support and community network.

Nick Powell, community engagement officer at Newcastle Science City, said: “By creating collaboration between researchers in the area of ageing and health with a housing association delivering services on the ground, we have found an exciting and innovative way to explore how we can best use the city’s scientific strengths to benefit those who stand to gain the most from the expertise.”

The pilot will initially run in the North East for six to nine months and target around 60 people. It also has links with Public Health North East.


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