In the last ten years I’ve explored how new and emerging technologies can support people with chronic health conditions. My research focuses on ageing and older adults, and I’m interested in promoting self-care and self-management to equip people with a better understanding
of their condition.
One year ago I started at the University of Bristol in a new Lecturer post within Digital Health Engineering, generously funded by The Anchor Society. Bristol is an incredible place to work because of the focus on digital health, and it is amazing to be a part of this health community, supporting older people to live healthy and happy lives.
Technology has enormous potential to support people in functional ways, with the speed of innovation, ease of use and capacity for automation and personalisation. I recently published on a trial for participants with Parkinson’s who wore a cuing device on their wrist to remind them to swallow more often. Regular swallowing prevented saliva management issues, which can be a common symptom of Parkinson’s, and many people said they consequently felt more comfortable eating and drinking in public, which inspired them to meet friends again and combat feelings of social isolation. This piece of technology had enormous impact in a very discreet and meaningful way.
‘Technology is the fastest moving opportunity for innovation we have. My work at Bristol has enabled me to design and develop technologies that make an incredible difference to people’s lives’
Much of my work at Bristol is done using SPHERE technology (Sensor Platform for Healthcare in a Residential Environment) to help monitor symptoms of Parkinson’s. Developed by the University of Bristol, SPHERE is a platform of supporting technologies which include a wearable wrist device, silhouette cameras and ambience sensors that are used in the home to help paint a picture of someone’s daily movements, behaviours and sleep and eating patterns. We are currently collecting data from over 50 homes across Bristol that have SPHERE technologies installed, allowing us to chart changes in an individual’s daily life which might indicate health deterioration.
The more we understand, the better equipped we are to put things in place to help people with chronic conditions, like Parkinson’s. The longitudinal studies we are running give us an expansive knowledge we wouldn’t otherwise have and allow us to collect data without needing much effort from the participant, providing us with valuable insight into the effectiveness of someone’s healthcare plan and any interventions or medications they might be taking.
This post has really enabled me to develop vital research, engage with innovative projects like SPHERE and, with invaluable support from alumni and friends, participate in a community of people invested in improving the quality of life for older adults.
The University is proud to partner with many local trusts in Bristol, including the Anchor Society. The Anchor Society was established in 1769 to support older adults in the Bristol area, and works with organisations, charities and individuals on projects that encourage wellbeing and alleviate loneliness
for older people in the region.