October 26, 2022

Ten institutions that represent the entire Catalan civil society promote the first Living Lab focused on aging

The first BALL project, presented today at the Pere Virgili Health Park, is a humanized robot that will help patients who cannot feed themselves, offering them a solution adapted to their needs.

Image of the internal space The House of Thinking, Parc Sanitari Pere Virgili, 2022

Grow old with the highest quality of life and the best health and social care.This is the main objective of the Barcelona Aging coLLaboratory (BALL), the first Living Lab focused on providing innovative solutions for older people that is launched in Catalonia and has been promoted by a broad representation of civil society groups.

Today the presentation to the media took place, at the Parc Sanitari Pere Virgili, of the BALL physical headquarters and its first project: a humanized robot that will help those people who cannot feed themselves.This robot is being co-created with end users, who are decisive in knowing what they need and, thus, being able to offer them a solution that adapts to their demands.

In addition to providing patients with a personalized tool and greater autonomy, the robot will automate one of the most complex tasks in the healthcare logistics of hospitals and residential centers, and thus reduce the overload of healthcare personnel, optimizing time and the quality of service.

The BALL, an innovation platform around aging

The aging of the Catalan population continues to grow at an accelerated rate and it is estimated that in the year 2050 one in three people will be over 65 years old.Likewise, according to data from the Institute of Statistics of Catalonia, if the current care model does not change, the dependency index of older people will also increase, from 28.9% in 2021, to 44.3% in 2040.

Given the need to develop innovative solutions that move towards active and healthy aging, and that consider advanced age an opportunity to achieve a more inclusive society and, at the same time, boost the economy, the Barcelona Aging coLLaboratory (BALL) was born.

The Living Lab has been promoted by ten renowned entities that represent the main areas of Catalan society: health (Parc Sanitari Pere Virgili and Vall d’Hebron Research Institute), robotics (Institute of Robotics and Industrial Informatics, CSIC-UPC) , university (Ramon Llull University, with the Blanquerna Faculty of Health Sciences and the Borja Institute of Bioethics, and Universitat Oberta de Catalunya), social (iSocial Foundation), private company (Grupo Efebé, Qida and UniversalDoctor) and associations of people seniors (Fatec – Federation of Associations of Seniors of Catalonia).

This project operates under the innovation model known as the quadruple helix, where different entities and members of a community (citizens, companies, knowledge centers and Administration) come together to build together solutions that are capable of promoting the socioeconomic growth of the territory. .

“The BALL is a space or co-creation methodology that involves older people, from the beginning, in the design, development, implementation and evaluation of products and services aimed at promoting their autonomy, integrating them into the community and reducing dependencies and chronicities” explains Dr. Marco Inzitari, director of Integrated Care and Research at the Parc Sanitari Pere Virgili, head of the Aging, Fragility and Transitions research group in Barcelona at the Vall d’Hebron Research Institute (VHIR) and professor at the UOC.

The Dr. Inzitari, who is one of the ideologues and promoters of the project, assures that “at a time when life expectancy is increasing, but not quality, the final objective of the Living Lab is to put people at the center and to take control of their health and their lives.”

A robot that improves the relational autonomy of older people during meals

The first robot prototype that has been presented today has been adapted at the software and hardware level to be able to assist people with difficulties feeding themselves.Designed by researchers from the Institute of Robotics and Industrial Computing – within the framework of the Open Laboratory of Assistance Robotics (LabORA) – and professionals from the Parc Sanitari Pere i Virgili, it has had, in its creation, the involvement of all the institutions that are part of the Living Lab. Likewise, during the month of February, participatory sessions were held with professionals and elderly people cared for at the Parc Sanitari Pere Virgili where they presented the needs to which they believed the robot should respond to make it more human.Their contributions were used to create that prototype.

Soon, patients from the Parc Sanitari with different difficulties that prevent them from eating autonomously will participate in the first pilot test of this humanized robot prototype that is carried out in a real environment, the hospital, which is where the robot will initially be applied.

In this test phase, a group of professionals will conduct interviews with the elderly people cared for to check their level of satisfaction, in addition to closely observing non-verbal reactions during the test.Your answers will be taken into account for the final development of the project.Now, the robot is very simple but, in the future, among other functions, it will be able to recognize the facial gestures of the elderly person and interact verbally with them.

According to its creators, the robot should contribute to improving the relational autonomy of patients during meals, providing a greater possibility of choice (in the rhythm, types and quantity of food), a better image of oneself (increasing self-confidence during time to eat) and a greater margin in the dialogic sphere (favoring forms of negotiation about how and what is eaten).Another advantage that the use of the robot will have is that care professionals will be able to obtain much more data related to the current nutritional status of the elderly person, which will allow health and social care to be more personalized, adapting it to the needs and characteristics of each person.

It should also be taken into account that the administration of meals generates a high-pressure environment due to the dependency burden of the elderly, and even more so at such a delicate time as a result of the increase in the number of hospitalized people with a higher degree of dependency and due to the shortage of professionals in the centers.”Our goal with the robot is to be able to provide more careful and personalized treatment to patients, and reduce the stress of healthcare personnel,” says the director of Integrated Care and Research at the Parc Sanitari Pere Virgili.Furthermore, it must be taken into account that the objective of the project is for the robot to be a support and not a substitute for the care staff, so the robot will never be left alone with the elderly person.

Josep Carné, president of the Federation of Associations of the Elderly of Catalonia, a non-profit entity, made up of volunteers and which brings together the associations of older people in our country, explains that “although the idea of ​​a robot that feeds Older people were initially put off by it, we cannot turn our backs on technological advances and even more so, if they are intended to be of help.Likewise, Carné considers that the fact that users play a key role in defining the characteristics that the robot must have is very positive.

The physical headquarters of the BALL: the House of Thinking

The physical headquarters of the Living Lab is located in the same area as the Parc Sanitari Pere Virgili and is where various participatory dynamics will be carried out.Thus, through brainstorming meetings with all actors related to aging (patients, professionals, research institutions, public administration, private companies, etc.), challenges related to this area will be detected.Sessions will also be held in order to find innovative solutions to these challenges and participatory dynamics to develop them with the end user.

The promoters of the first Living Lab focused on aging, which will be officially inaugurated on November 17, make it available to public administrations, entities and associations, companies and citizens to collect suggestions and proposals for stimulating and groundbreaking collaboration in the field of aging.