The aim of many older people is to remain in their own environment enjoying the highest possible quality of life for as long as possible. This is also an aim which is echoed in many official bodies and organisations such as the WHO, OECD and EU. However the ageing process is typically associated with an increase in, and worsening of, chronic conditions, both physical and mental including diabetes, high blood pressure and depression. This multi-morbidity among older people is often accompanied by social isolation and associated with real or perceived need for help and assistance. The need for external support-in terms of personal care or social needs- in order to be able to remain living at home rises as a consequence.

Innovative information and communication technologies (ICT) to support older people have been developed in the framework of Ambient Assisted Living (AAL), and tested on a small-scale within research projects, however only a few technologies have been successful. Why have relatively few of these technologies been successful? Could one reason be that they were not researched and developed with the specific needs and requirements of this particular population group in mind?

The aim of RegionAAL is to take as its starting point existing ICT components, which are acceptable to this target group and have been proven for use, to develop them further and integrate them into a coherent structure, which is then to be implemented in a study setting involving a scientific evaluation of effectiveness. RegionAAL seeks to integrate already available technologies which have been developed for a general population and to implement them in such a way that a potentially higher quality of life and the potential for remaining longer in one’s own home are made possible. A further particular regard in the choice of technology is that the technology can be used beyond the timescale of the project; an important point for those participating in the study.

Homes in the urban area will be equipped with supportive technology (for instance in the areas of communication, monitoring, structuring of daily activities), that have been identified through needs and evidence analyses. During a one year scientific evaluation phase, acceptance and effectiveness (including the impact on objective and subjective health status and well-being) will be assessed.

Supportive technologies are only one aspect. Care and support through established social structures (friends and family) and formal care structures is the most essential factor. It is not the aim of RegionAAL to reduce personal contacts by replacing them with technology. On the contrary, the aim of RegionAAL is to develop and implement technologies which not only support personal contacts but enable them to be strengthened by allowing time and resources to be diverted to other aspects of care and interaction. AAL-technologies can potentially contribute to a reduction of the burden among informal care givers, among whom women are disproportionately represented, and thus here too contribute to a longer stay in familiar surroundings.