Alzheimer Nederland is supporting a new consortium that focuses on developing technology that improves the quality of life of people with dementia. The major research project is led by Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e) and is based on ‘warm technology’. These are appropriate, warm and smart care solutions. Alzheimer Nederland is supporting this 6-year research project with almost 500,000 euros. With a subsidy from government financier NWO, the total amount comes to more than 3 million euros.
In the project, artificial intelligence is used to create solutions that match what people with dementia want or need. “Artificial intelligence is very suitable for this, says Prof. Dr. Wijnand IJsselsteijn, project leader and professor at the Faculty of Industrial Engineering and Innovation Sciences. “This technique is capable of learning how to better support people. Think of solutions or instruments that help people with memory complaints to remember daily things, or of a navigation aid that will point out meaningful locations such as one’s own home and the supermarket based on someone’s behavior and habits”.
Bridge between care and technology
An important goal of the project is to bring people from healthcare and the world of technology together. “We want to bridge the gap between healthcare professionals who know everything about dementia and our researchers who understand the technical possibilities. The intention is that they create and develop solutions together that really work.”
The technical solutions must meet the vision of ‘warm technology’, an idea conceived by the technical university. “Warm technology is all about giving people with dementia their own voice. Instead of thinking about what is good for them, as is often the case with technological innovations. We discuss with them what they want, what their needs and challenges are.”
An additional advantage of hot technology based on artificial intelligence is greater efficiency in healthcare, because it is struggling with a large staff shortage. “Staff have their hands free for genuine warm care,” says Dr. Rens Brankaert, assistant professor at the Industrial Design faculty, who is a lecturer at Fontys Paramedic University of Applied Sciences. Brankaert won the Young Outstanding Researcher Award from Alzheimer Nederland last year for his dementia research and plays an important role in this project.
Technology can fulfill needs
Marco Blom, scientific research manager at Alzheimer Nederland. “I am convinced that technology will make an indispensable contribution to self-reliance and to being able to live at home longer. But only if the technology is developed on the basis of concrete needs and people with dementia are involved in the development steps.” For this reason, Alzheimer Nederland contributes to this research, which officially bears the name QoLEAD. ‘Quality of Life by use of Enabling AI in Dementia’.
The funding is part of a broader strategy by Alzheimer Nederland to enable this type of large-scale research. Blom: “By having researchers work together, research becomes more efficient. We reinforce this by actively contributing ourselves. For example, by giving people with dementia and their loved ones a role in devising and conducting research, by disseminating research results and by helping with implementation. In this way we ensure that people can benefit more quickly from the results of research.”
Alzheimer Nederland also participates in other consortia, such as: NCDC, which combined different population studies, PRECODE, which looked at the number and care of people with dementia at a young age, and ABOARD on early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. In 2022, Alzheimer Nederland is once again preparing various collaborations in consortia.