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ehcoBUTLER, a European project for slowing down cognitive decline in the elderly (2015-2017)

An aging Europe, associated with the report that cognitive decline affects over 20% of those aged 70+, brings new challenges in how to improve the independence and quality of life of elderly people, promote their good health and to integrate assistance without overloading social and public health systems, the elderly, or their relatives.

In Europe people aged 50+ already represent 37% of the population, i.e. 190 million citizens, and Eurostat foresees an increase of two million-persons aged 60+ per annum. Approximately 10-15% of elders are believed to have mild cognitive impairment (MCI), commonly characterized by memory problems, well beyond those associated with normal aging. Because of this, preventing the effects of mental decline is now an international priority. And so, the use of programs to ameliorate memory and other cognitive functions are widely accepted, but it is necessary that they are accepted by elderly people and there is confirmation of their usability and efficacy when applied. Following these considerations, the European Union, through HORIZON 2020, promotes development of tools for avoiding the cognitive and functional impairments in aging.

Thus, our research team and other research groups in Europe, promoted a European project for obtaining funding from H2020 called ehcoBUTLER. This project addresses the aforementioned challenge through development of an innovative ICT technological platform with both leisure and care apps dedicated to stimulate social, cognitive, and even physical functions, in order to improve daily functionality through a self-empowering approach with an expected positive impact on reducing decline patterns of elderly individuals suffering from MCI.

ehcoBUTLER is a three-year project co-funded by the European Commission (Horizon 2020 – research and innovation framework programme) that is being carried out by a multinational consortium composed of 13 members – Everis, CIBER, Telefonica, Fundación INTRAS and Idea SL (Spain); National Foundation for the Elderly (the Netherlands); YourDATA and Aima Napoli Onlus Association (Italy); Mobili (Slovenia); E-Seniors Association (France); VIDAVO (Greece); one Candidate Country (ASISTEL, Serbia) and one Associated country (Clalit Health Services, Israel). During the project frame, the ehcoBUTLER platform will be tested for 20 months in five EU28 Member States (The Netherlands, Spain, Greece, France, Italy), one Candidate Country (Serbia) and one Associated Country (Israel), with more than 1,000 users involved.

The overall objective of the project is to achieve an improvement in the health and social care of older people with cognitive impairments and prevention of progressive cognitive decline.

In fact, elder people suffering from cognitive decline often are not able to report consistently on their emotional and physical well-being or keep track of their medication, treatment, or appointments with care and cure professionals and caring family, friends and neighbors. The ICT-platform aims to fill that gap.

The ehcoBUTLER platform will be developed as a modular application based on two groups of modules: the Leisure Modules (Friends, The Book of Life, Videoconference, My Memories…) and the Care Modules (Nutritional Recommendations, Cognitive Therapies…). These modules are accompanied by horizontal modules such as the Agenda, which will support the therapeutic modules; the Market, which will allow users to download new applications made by third-parties to be incorporated to the ehcoBUTLER platform; the Research Module, which will allow specialists to design and implement several predictive models to detect patterns on users’ evolution; and the Management and Follow-Up module which will control the status of users and manage their information.
Taking into account the high expected impact on users’ life, specific attention will be paid to two modules: the Cognitive Stimulation Module (based on the GRADIOR software, a solution developed by INTRAS Foundation over the last 15 years of neuropsychogeriatric research) and the Vital Signs Sensing Module (from Mobili).
Pilots of the ehcoBUTLER technology will involve citizens who are experiencing a slight decline in cognitive function but are still in relatively good health and able to perform activities of daily living independently (they live at home and they can use ICT-tools). The overall testing phase will comprise 20 months, and it will involve more than 1,000 users applying the tool to four different environments: Public Care Services, Elder Care Centers Services, Home Care Services and Telecare & TeleHealth Services.

ehcoBUTLER represents a feasible alternative to provide quality social and health care to people with MCI. Through its modular concept, the elderly can access different services tailored to their cognitive or general health profile. Offering cognitive training/stimulation services at home through enjoyable exercises is of great interest since it can contribute to decreasing costs associated with usual preventive and treatment approaches and increase accessibility and universality of care.

The expected impact of the project is ambitious reflecting the high commitment of the ehcoBUTLER partners in developing and testing an innovative solution (IT and methodological approach) to make an important impact on Health and Care systems. In summary, it is expected the development of a health and social care ICT solution and service model will be capable of increasing Quality of Life of older people, delaying the advancement of cognitive diseases, promoting their well-being and improving their emotional state, reducing healthcare system costs, improving care process efficiency, and offering high scalability potential across Europe.

Project Webpage:  http://www.ehcobutler.eu/
Project description in Cordis: http://cordis.europa.eu/project/rcn/194077_en.htmlb

Manuel Franco, Head of Psychiatric Department of Zamora Hospital, Professor Associate at Salamanca University, Director of the RDi Area in INTRAS Foundation and Advisor on RDi and Living Lab Activity, Vice President of the Spanish Psychogeriatrics Association and former board member of the European Association of Geriatric Psychiatry (EAGP), Spain

Excerpted article as reprint from IPA’s newsletter, the IPA Bulletin, Volume 32, Number 3

Acknowledgements

Acadia Pharmaceuticals Otsuka Pharmaceuticals Cambridge University Press Avanir Pharmaceuticals
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