To address the growing wave of ageing citizens in Europe and around the world Intel, in conjunction with the Industrial Development Agency (IDA) Ireland, has announced a multi-million-dollar research initiative aimed at developing innovative technologies that will help people “age in place” from wherever they choose to live.

The TRIL (Technology Research for Independent Living) Centre brings together world-class industry and academic experts who are inventing and testing new technologies with older people and their families, to support them in continuing to live independently.

Intel and IDA Ireland are investing about $30-million in the TRIL Centre over a period of three years to collaborate with a number of leading Irish universities, including University College Dublin, The University of Dublin, Trinity College and National University of Ireland, Galway, to create one of the largest research efforts of this type in the world.

In the face of a looming healthcare crisis of a rapidly ageing European population, the TRIL Centre aims to address the urgent need for innovative healthcare technologies.

It is estimated that by 2050, one third of Europe’s population will be over the age of 65. Figures show that between 2004 and 2050 the older population age 65 years and over will rise sharply, from 75-million to 133-million. The ageing population along with growth in chronic conditions presents profound economic, budgetary and social consequences.

The TRIL Centre will focus on three key areas: improving social health and community engagement for older people; detecting and preventing falls in the home; and helping those with memory loss to maintain their independence.

These research areas are important as a decline in physical and mental performance, associated with becoming older, is often coupled with a decline in self-confidence and in social interactions. Age-related physical decline includes an increased risk in falls and fall-related injuries, which are a major cause of concern for older people and caregivers and indeed a major public health concern worldwide. Falls and fall-related injuries account for over 80% of all injury-related admissions to the hospital for people over 65 years.

Anne-Sophie Parent, Director of AGE, the European Older People’s Platform and President of the Platform of European Social NGOs, says: “The vast majority of older people want to ‘age in place’ – live in their own homes – and technology that allows them to do this will help them live more independent lives, making them feel safer and more secure.

"Projects such as the TRIL Centre are vital and valuable initiatives for preparing for the future.”

She adds: “Technologies that offer early detection and early warnings can prevent unnecessary hospitalization or injuries, avoid caregiver burnout and provide peace of mind to the older person, clinician, family and other caregivers. From a healthcare system point of view, these types of technologies lead to better allocation of resources, which ultimately lead to better care."

Eric Dishman, GM of Intel’s Health Research and Innovation Group, says: "We have to invent a new way to care for our planet’s ageing population. Current healthcare systems are not equipped to face the epidemic of age-related illnesses and injuries that are coming. Information and communication technologies offer us a means to prevent disease and injury, to detect problems earlier before they become catastrophes, to help older people better manage their own health conditions at home, and to personalize care to their unique needs and preferences. All of us will benefit from these kinds of technologies, first as caregivers for our own ageing parents and, if we’re lucky, for ourselves some day.

“The TRIL Centre is about building and accelerating research collaborations to test these independent living technologies with older people in Ireland and throughout Europe. This is one of our planet’s most pressing social and economic issues; it deserves and demands our attention, our investment, and all of the technology innovation that we can imagine,” adds Dishman.

The implications of the TRIL Centre may extend beyond older people, with the potential of its research offering hope to individuals affected by disabilities, which inhibit their ability to live with dignity and prosperity in their own preferred environments.

The TRIL Centre is part of a wider global approach by Intel to build on its current US ageing research and expand its understanding of the social and cultural differences of the ageing demographics of Europe – ensuring the development of the most appropriate technologies suitable for a wider multi-cultural audience. Intel recently formed the Health Research and Innovation Europe (HRIe) team, their first health research innovation resource outside the US, based at Intel’s European manufacturing headquarters in Ireland.