COVID-19 shows that care for older people is in crisis – SHAPES can contribute to fix it

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Over the past months many countries across Europe have witnessed the breakdown of care for older people. Care homes have been at the centre of the turmoil and account for a big share of COVID-19-related deaths. This shows the inability of services to deal with a pandemic and reminds the violations of dignity that people in need of care have suffered for so long. Addressing challenges in care for older people should not only be about putting patches to a broken system. As we have highlighted in our COVID-19-related work, addressing challenges require bringing forward innovative responses ensuring that people age with dignity. This should mean older people can receive care where and when they want and in the way they wish.

Enabling healthier ageing and care at home

The vast majority of older people express the willingness to age at home. However, many are pushed to institutional care where they often live separated from their friends and relatives, unable to participate in social life and isolated from their communities.

Provided they are combined with face-to-face contacts with health and social care professionals enjoying good working conditions, new technologies and innovation can help to ensure the right of older persons to receive quality care at home and to enjoy safety, participation, autonomy and independence.

This is the key goal of SHAPES (Smart and Health Ageing through People Engaging in Supportive Systems), an Innovation Action funded by European Union’s Horizon 2020 programme involving a total of 14 European countries. SHAPES will deliver a platform of interconnected digital services and products that will empower older people, families and caregivers to meet their everyday needs in the community. These solutions are intended for older people facing a temporary or permanent reduction of functionality and capabilities, whether physical or psychological, but also to help those who are healthy to prevent care and support needs. They can also enable older people to remain connected and socialise, which has been a real challenge for many in the COVID-19 context.

Through the platform, SHAPES will foster the European industry and policymakers to successfully face the challenges of an ageing population, including the impacts of the current and future pandemics. The project involves a range of activities that go from the creation of the digital platform itself, to the development and improvement of 15 technological and social solutions aimed at supporting older people. These solutions will be tested by more than 2,000 older adults across the countries involved in SHAPES.

SHAPES involves hundreds of professionals from different areas of knowledge and practice, including health and social care, government, academia, civil society and industry. All committed to making technologies usable and relevant for older people in everyday life, so that isolation, bad care and lack of support soon become a thing of the past.

Our role in the project

AGE contributes to these efforts as leader of the dissemination and communication work. As such, we have drafted a plan for SHAPES’ dissemination activities, which will be deployed across the project. From our position as a network of older people at the crossroads between policymaking, service provision and research at EU level, we are trying to help SHAPES have the best possible impact on all those dimensions, including in view of addressing the challenges for older people revealed by COVID-19.

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