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Brighton chosen as site for new testbed to improve ageing healthcare 

University of Brighton will play a key role in developing improved home-based care for the growing number of older people in the city and beyond.

The university will build on its long-term innovation partnership with Brighton and Hove City Council as part of the national Homes for Healthy Ageing Testbed project, overseen by the Connected Places Catapult (CDP)the UK government’s innovation agency for cities, transport and place leadership.

The Brighton Healthy Ageing Testbed will build upon previous pioneering work in the area carried out by the University of Brighton, which has provided input in diverse areas of expertise including nursing, allied health, digital design, and architecture.

To help build a healthier ageing future for more people, the University will explore ways to improve the provision of care for older people not just at home, but looking at wider amenities, connections, and environment beyond the home. This will also help connect people and communities, while reducing demands on stretched public services.

One example of the University’s work is the Digital Inclusion partnership developed to improve access for older people to GP services such as appointments and online prescriptions. Other research has helped support carers with new digital technologies to manage care demands.

The University of Brighton’s input to the CDP Testbed project will be led by Dr Theo Fotis, an expert on creating, implementing and evaluating digital health solutions, and also Academic Lead of the Brighton & Hove Digital Health Living Lab. Susannah Davidson and Jennifer Wells, Knowledge Exchange Managers for the university’s Schools of Sport & Health Sciences and Architecture, Technology and Engineering, will also be members of the project oversight group.

Dr Theo Fotis, Reader in the University of Brighton’s School of Sport and Health Sciences, said: “The University of Brighton is very well equipped to address this challenge. The creation of our Brighton Test Bed will build on previous innovative approaches to overcome loneliness and isolation, reduce health inequalities and build resilience in carers and those they care for.

“Colleagues form the Research Centre for Secure Intelligent and Usable Systems will contribute in evaluating new products in terms of design and usability, and the university will also provide physical spaces to conduct workshops.

Jennifer Wells, Business Fellow for the Connected Places Catapult, said: “The announcement of Brighton as a site for the Connected Places Catapult initiative is recognition for the strength of the University of Brighton’s strong community links and outstanding record in tech innovation – set against the backdrop of Brighton & Hove’s deeply-embedded creative community spirit.”

Older people (aged 65+) are the fastest growing population group in the UK. In ten years time, the number of people aged over 75 in Brighton and Hove is expected to increase by over 5000, with some 400 people in the city aged 90 years or older. The number of people aged 65+ predicted to have a dementia diagnosis in the city is also expected to increase by over a third.

The new Brighton Healthy Ageing Testbed will also explore ways to specifically help carers – both formal and informal – in the vital support they provide many older people. Based on UK figures, around 1000 carers in Brighton & Hove may sustain a physical injury through their caring role, with an even higher number needing treatment for stress related illness. Recent research found many carers felt out of control of their daily life, lonely and detached from society and wanting support for their own issues.

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