· 10 September 2019

The international centre on ageing (cenie) and innovation


Our innovative projects are explained through researchers

As in most developed nations, the population of Spain and Portugal is ageing. The percentage of people over 65, in the case of Spain, increased from 13.8% in 1991 to 19.1% in 2019 and is expected to exceed 31% of the population by 2050. If a person was born in the same year as the World Wide Web (1989), if she is a woman she could expect to reach 80.5 years of age and if she is a man, 73.4 years. Someone born today, 30 years later, can add five additional years, if female, to that prediction, and seven in the case of being male.

This improvement in life expectancy is due to better medical care, improved sanitation and multiple medical advances in the treatment of disease. But in addition to living longer, we must do so more healthily. The burden of disease has shifted from addressing infectious diseases to controlling long-term conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer. These diseases are a growing effort for the National Health System, accounting for more than 50 percent of medical appointments, and 70 percent of hospital days are due to long-term conditions. Social care services are also at a saturation point

For all these reasons, the General Foundation of the University of Salamanca, through the International Centre on Ageing (CENIE) and in collaboration with the COTEC Foundation for Innovation, promoted the call "Intergenerational Alliance: Innovation, Ageing and Longevity", with the aim of promoting innovative projects and the search for answers aimed at favouring a better quality of life in the demographic transformation that is taking place in our society; above all, optimising the possibilities opened up by technological progress, and also seeking to incorporate the talent of young researchers into this area of knowledge.

Because it is essential to promote the creation of new care products and services that harness the power of technology to meet the needs of an ageing society. Digital technology offers an unparalleled opportunity to re-imagine how we can support and empower an ageing population to lead a full and healthy life.

Big Data (large datasets that can be analyzed to identify patterns and trends) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) herald a new era of personalized medicine, where treatments are personalized for individual patients, revolutionizing the way we approach people's health. By gathering biological, clinical, and lifestyle information, we can identify a personalized image of each patient and the appropriate therapies for each goal, and thereby achieve the best results in preventing or treating a patient's disease.

IA is making progress in the early detection of diseases that in the future could significantly reduce the burden of chronic disease and allow people to live healthier lives longer.

 As computing power increases and algorithms become more sophisticated, predictive prevention has the potential to transform public health and prevent people from developing conditions. Better use of data combined with digital tools and an understanding of broader determinants of health will give us the ability to better identify risks and help people before they become patients.

The Internet of Things (IoT) which is made up of devices, from simple sensors in a home to smart phones and handheld devices, all connected to each other via the Internet, is already enabling households to become "smarter" through innovations such as intelligent heating and voice-activated smart centres, but there is great potential for connected technologies to support an ageing population.

Connected 'cognitive homes', handheld devices and smartphones are also enabling older people to manage their long-term capabilities more effectively and enable health and care services to be delivered remotely.

As the baby boom generation ages, it will demand better designed and more sophisticated technology, and will increasingly refuse to settle for unattractive products and services. Little by little they want more 'cool technology' and, perhaps most importantly of all, they want providers to focus on them as customers, not as patients, end users or care customers. In the future, we will see that the most intelligent and connected cognitive homes will be the norm and will be able to meet our needs throughout our lives, even when we need additional assistance.

Another major challenge is the reduction of social isolation. Four out of ten people over 65 say they feel lonely. According to a report by La Caixa, 39.8% of people over 65 suffer "emotional loneliness" in Spain. Some say that loneliness can have as big an impact on someone's health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Scientific evidence suggests that supporting older people to participate fully in social life will help them stay active and healthy longer, as well as helping people recover when they get sick. 

In our Researchers' Blog we are going to publish the advances of the selected innovative proposals, the authors themselves will do so, trying to approach society as a whole, from their knowledge, reflections, work and research results.

Under the framework of: Programa Operativo Cooperación Transfronteriza España-Portugal
Sponsors: Fundación General de la Universidad de Salamanca Fundación del Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas Direção Geral da Saúde - Portugal Universidad del Algarve - Portugal