National Robotarium Assisted Living Lab image

The National Robotarium, delivered by Heriot-Watt University and the University of Edinburgh, has partnered with Leuchie House to trial technologies that could help people with assisted living needs and those who care for them gain greater independence.

One million people in Scotland live with a neurological condition, and 10 percent are disabled as a result, according to the National Robotarium. For many, both professional and unpaid carers provide essential support at home to carry out daily tasks and enable access to leisure activities that support wellbeing. However, emerging technologies have been shown to help return independence.

The partnership, announced on the United Nations’ International Day of Persons with Disabilities, will see researchers from the National Robotarium’s Assisted Living Lab work in collaboration with guests at Leuchie House to develop advanced technologies that address specific needs.

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Robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies will be developed at the National Robotarium to help people with a wide range of assistive needs. For example, to provide support after a stroke, and to monitor for deterioration in conditions such as dementia. By combining sensor technology and robotics, data can be collected over longer periods of time, helping to monitor patients and alert carers to when a care package may need to be reviewed.

The National Robotarium is part of the Data-Driven Innovation initiative and is supported by £21 million from the UK Government and £1.4 million from the Scottish Government through the £1.3 billion Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal – a 15-year investment programme jointly funded by both governments and regional partners.

Professor Lynne Baillie, Head of the Assisted Living Lab at the National Robotarium, said: “Our partnership with Leuchie House will allow us to work collaboratively with their guests and carers to develop assisted living technology that truly works for users. We will engage directly with individuals to learn more about their unique needs and hear their ideas about how robotic and sensing technologies could provide support.

“Guests will then be invited to our Assisted Living Lab at the National Robotarium to participate in trials of technologies designed to meet these needs in a realistic home setting.”

Leuchie House is a national charity dedicated to supporting people living with the long-term effects of a range of neurological conditions such as MS, Parkinson’s, motor neurone disease and stroke, through individualised short respite breaks, as well as an essential break for their carers.

Mark Bevan, CEO at Leuchie House, added: “Leuchie House is traditionally known for our class leading residential short breaks and, building from this strength, we have been introducing guests and those who care for them to the benefits of enabling technology, which can restore independence and self-management. Our rooms for example are equipped with voice activated environmental controls, to show our guests the art of the possible.

“Our Technology team works with guests to install similar technologies at home, giving them and those who care for them more independence and complementing residential short breaks. This exciting partnership between the National Respite Centre and the National Robotarium is a further example of how we can build on the past and re-imagine respite for the future. It is a key part of our creation of a new National Centre for Enabling Technology.”

National Robotarium Assisted Living Lab image

The Centre for Enabling Technology was recently opened onsite at Leuchie House to trial and test technology that can support the needs of people with assisted living requirements. The centre will offer assessments and trials of mainstream and emerging technologies for guests; provide training for individuals, their families and carers; and deliver ongoing support at home.

Examples of tasks that technology can help users complete include opening doors, switching lights on and off, opening and closing curtains, watching TV, listening to the radio and making phone calls.

In addition to extending the technological support available for individuals, the project with the National Robotarium aims to assist carers and reduce the ongoing pressure on the social care sector.

There are 1.1 million unpaid carers in Scotland, and one in five carers report not having had a break in over five years, the National Robotarium highlights. Through assisted living technology, not only can individuals with disabilities gain greater independence, but carers can benefit from greater support.

UK Government Minister for Scotland Iain Stewart commented: “The innovative use of robots in social care has the potential to improve people’s lives and help them to live independently. I welcome the National Robotarium’s partnership with Leuchie House and look forward to seeing its progress.

“The UK Government is investing £21 million in the National Robotarium as part of £1.7 billion for projects to level-up communities in every part of Scotland.”

Professor Lynne Baillie, Head of the Assisted Living Lab at the National Robotarium, previously wrote an insightful guest article for AT Today about how robotics can help slow cognitive decline and support independent living for longer.

In this article, she noted that the National Robotarium’s goal is to bring together the many disparate organisations involved in health care and assistive living, from the NHS and healthcare professionals, rehabilitation experts such as physiotherapists and occupational therapists, to housing associations, charities, industry and users.

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