Flinders joins national healthy ageing research hub

A new $3 million ARC Industrial Transformation Research Hub will focus on technology, improved health information systems and medical devices to enhance the mental, physical and social wellbeing of older people.

The Australian Research Council (ARC) Research Hub for Digital Enhanced Living, announced in this week’s latest round of ARC funding, will be led by Professor John Grundy at Victoria’s Deakin University.

Flinders University digital health and aged care experts Professor Anthony Maeder, Professor Trish Williams, Professor David Powers, Professor Sue Gordon and Associate Professor Niranjan Bidargaddi will join the national project as chief investigators.

The new Industrial Transformation Research Hub announced yesterday (5 June 2016) involves almost $3 million (or $2,962,655) in Australian Government funding over five years.

The research hub aims to address the growing challenges of older people living in their own home or residential care.

The multi-disciplinary research team will develop and invent new personalised medical technologies and repurpose devices, analytics and integrated platforms to come up with better health solutions and cost savings to enhance mental, physical and social wellbeing.

The national research team comprises experts in aged care services, software engineers, data analytics researchers, electrical engineers, health informatics researchers, human computer interface researchers, nutrition and exercise scientists, mental health and nursing researchers.

The solution to a “digital enhanced living” concept in a person’s home or care facility requires this wide mix of expertise.

In our rapidly ageing society, a critical need exists for effective, affordable, scalable and safe in-home and in-residential care solutions leveraging a range of current and emerging sensor, interaction and integration technologies – a “smart home” focused on assisted living.

A digitally enhanced living environment will leverage smart technologies to maintain and increase autonomy of people, allowing them to live longer in their own homes or with less personalised residential care. Costs for community care will be reduced by leveraging affordable technologies and reducing mundane human carer task demands.

By 2050, it is estimated that the proportion of people over the age of 80 will have risen from 3.9% to 9.1% of the population of OECD countries. A large proportion of these people will need help to manage chronic illnesses such as dementia, heart disease, diabetes, limited physical movement and many others, as well as support with their daily living tasks.

Hospitals and current health systems typically focus on acute episodes of illness and are not well equipped to provide adequately for daily living care support. Similarly, there is a growing need to better support physically and mentally challenged individuals who are living within the community with disability or chronic disease, both in terms of rehabilitation and long-term enhanced living.

In addition to the ARC funds, the hub will benefit from just over $2 million from its partner organisations as well as considerable in-kind contributions.

Along with Deakin University, Flinders will work with other researchers at University of Sydney and the University of NSW and as well as 18 other partner organisations including corporate and sector specialists from:

Unisono, Uniting AgeWell Victoria, ACH Group, GoAct, C-Born Software Systems, Suped, Icetana, 9thDay, Interactive First, Black Dog Institute, University of Copenhagen, Dublin City University, Friedrich Alexander University of Erlangen in Nuremberg, University of Auckland, Auckland University of Technology, Technical University of Denmark and two Adelaide-based health-care technology companies Made in Katana (MIK-Health) and Clevertar – both companies linked to Flinders University and New Venture Institute at Flinders.

Professor Maeder and Professor Williams, who lead the Digital Health Systems Research Centre at Flinders at Tonsley, will collaborate with Professor Gordon, the Chair of Restorative Care in Ageing at the Clinical Teaching and Education Centre and Professor Powers, artificial expert and cognitive science and director of the Centre for Knowledge and Interaction Technology at the School of Computer Science, Engineering and Mathematics at Tonsley.

The Flinders Digital Health Research Centre at Tonsley is supported by the Premier’s Research and Industry Fund and Cisco Systems Australia under the Cisco Digital Health Initiative. The Medical Device Research Institute is also located at Flinders at Tonsley.

The other Flinders researcher joining the new research hub is School of Medicine Associate Professor in Personal Health Informatics Niranjan Bidargaddi, who is appointed jointly with Country Health SA (SA Health) and heads the Digital Psychiatry and Personal Health Informatics research team located both at Tonsley and the Mind and Brain Theme at SAHMRI.

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