A research project led by NUI Galway, which established that companion robots can have a positive impact on older people living with dementia, has been featured in a European Commission study among the most important research projects in Europe over the last decade.
The EC study analysed the impact on society of EU-funded research and innovation in technology for active and healthy ageing.
The MARIO project is among 25 projects credited, and the only one in Ireland, with having had the most influence in Europe over the last 11 years.
The project is also being featured across Europe this week on the EuroNews TV channel’s Futuris science programme.
Welcoming the listing among the top 25 projects, Professor Dympna Casey from the School of Nursing and Midwifery at NUI Galway, and MARIO project coordinator, explained: “Loneliness is a key public health concern across many age groups and especially for older people with dementia.
“We know that social health and social connectedness are important to the quality of life of people with dementia. Human companionship is the best way of promoting social health but the reality is that our health care services do not have the resources to provide this service.
“So we devised MARIO to be there for people living with dementia.”
According to a European Commission review of MARIO: “Providing adequate care to the elderly is essential to ensure that Europe’s senior citizens are able to spend their later years living a healthy, happy and independent life.
“But without support, many face loneliness, a lack of mobility and exercise, and forgetfulness on a daily basis. However, with the use of modern technology and particularly the development of robotic solutions, Europe’s elderly population can feel young again and lead a much safer and richer life.”
The European Commission study considered the key achievements from ICT for Health research projects funded under FP7, the Competitiveness and Innovation Programme (CIP) and Horizon 2020.
In doing so it provides a useful consolidated insight across the ‘technology for active and healthy ageing’ portfolio.
Ageing poses one of the biggest economic and social challenges for this century. It is estimated that by 2025, more than 20% of Europeans will be 65 or over, and by 2060, one in three Europeans will be aged 65 or over.
Furthermore, the ratio of working people to the ‘inactive’ others will shift from 4 to 1 today to 2 to 1 by 2060.