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Launch of the ACORN Pilot Project findings

Fingal County Council along with two other local authorities and Age Friendly Ireland piloted the ACORN tablet with members of Older People’s Councils. Minister Ring officially launched the findings from the ACORN Pilot Project last week.

In the last ten years there has been a revolution in social networks and human interaction; smart devices have fundamentally changed how people interact. They have become the primary mechanism for many in maintaining and establishing real-world connections plus they are a source of news, entertainment and commercial engagement.

Now more than ever, citizens not connected to modern life are at greater risk of social exclusion and, consequently, associated health and wellbeing issues.

The ACORN project pilot is aimed to trial a digital solution for use by older people, to provide a simplified, customised age-friendly platform on a tablet computer that can positively impact on, and contribute to improved outcomes for older people, particularly those in rural areas or small towns, isolated or otherwise vulnerable older people.

After much consultation with older users, Cliffrun Media developed the ACORN tablet as a piece of technology that is significantly different to other options on the market. The ACORN platform introduces participants to many of the important services and applications that promote social inclusion. It is purpose-built to improve the quality of life for the user and to solve the challenge of online adoption. It uses intuitive age friendly design, providing content that is immediately relevant to the user in a closed secure network.

As part of the pilot, Maynooth University carried out an evaluation of the project and its impact on participants.

Findings of the evaluation show that:

• There was an increase in the extent of people being fully confident in completing a range of tasks online.

• Usage of new technologies that are multifunctional is more frequent among respondents than usage of specialist devices. This suggests that there is great merit in organising key functions in devices that are multifunctional and integrated.

• Training activities and facilities – workshops, written information and online tutorials, provided as part of the trials were received very positively.

The report indicates that the experience of the ACORN tablet so far has led to a positive and confident view of technology and its use in the future, including being able to customise the ACORN to meet personal needs, to plan with, and keep in touch with friends.

The feedback from the participants was very positive and facilitated people to keep in touch with family and friends. Many participants found it very rewarding to be able to do things by themselves which they couldn’t do before.

Attending the launch, Chief Officer of Age Friendly Ireland, Catherine McGuigan said: “The advent of technology has presented huge opportunities for people to connect and communicate more effectively and support a range of services particularly around health and social care. Technology however can present challenges for people who are not IT literate. Age Friendly Ireland are delighted that today we are launching the findings of the Digital ICT ACORN trial where members of the ageing population have facilitated the co-design of a truly age friendly tablet and managed service. The findings highlight significant positive impact on people’s ability to access information, participate socially and improve their health and wellbeing”

This pilot afforded older participants an opportunity to influence product design in a meaningful way. Today’s launch of the evaluation findings will help to inform how the ACORN product develops and will provide valuable evidence to support Age Friendly Ireland in the wider process of developing age friendly and sustainable communities.

Age Friendly Ireland

Ageing societies present one of the greatest challenges facing governments around the world today. The number of people aged 65 and over is now higher than at any time before in history. Our life expectancy has increased from 78.8 years in 2005 to 81.4 years in 2015. This remarkable demographic shift is welcomed. The ageing of our population in Ireland offers great opportunities for our intergenerational social capital with our society benefiting from the experiences and knowledge of older persons. For 10 years Age Friendly Ireland has recognised the challenges and opportunities that exist in the context of our ageing population and is committed, under its now local government hosting, to ensuring that Ireland is responsive to the needs of people of all ages and abilities as they grow older.

Ireland’s Age Friendly Cities and Counties Programme is coordinated by Age Friendly Ireland, an appointed shared service of local government hosted by Meath County Council, it brings together, supports and provides technical guidance to the 31 local authority led, multi-agency Age Friendly City and County Programmes.

Building a sustainable Ireland for our ageing population requires a cross government and multi sectoral response. Four Government Departments, at Assistant Secretary level, currently are members on Age Friendly Ireland’s National Advisory Group (Housing Planning & Local Government, Rural & Community Development, Transport Tourism & Sport, Health) as well as 3 Local Authority Chief Executives, National Director in HSE, Assistant Commissioner An Garda Siochana and CEO of Chambers Ireland.

All 31 local authorities have signed up to the Age Friendly Programme and have established a strategic Age Friendly Alliance (chaired by the Chief Executive of the local authority or an Independent Chair) and a diverse Older People’s Council representing a broad range of older people. There is a dedicated Age Friendly Programme Manager in each local authority supporting local strategy implementation. It is a key implementer of the actions in the National Positive Ageing Strategy. All of this work relies on a partnership approach with the voice of the older person being central to all developments.

Age Friendly Ireland is Ireland’s affiliate of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Age Friendly Cities and Communities Programme, an international effort launched in 2006 to help cities and communities prepare for rapid population ageing and the parallel trend of urbanisation. Currently more than 700 cities in 39 countries are signed up to the World Health Organization’s global network of age-friendly cities and communities to promote healthy, active ageing and improve the quality of life for people over 60.

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