The last week has seen the crisis affecting social care in the UK reach centre stage, with the government hastily agreeing measures for local government to raise money to pay for more social care.

Picture1This crisis is common across Europe, the demographic time bomb is starting to detonate combined with austerity driven cuts in local councils. In our rural community, Alston Moor, 40 miles South of Hadrian’s Wall in the North of England, the local hospital is threatened with closure, which will undermine the viability of the local care home.  Residents are angry and are making a strong case for the hospital  to stay open. Part of this process is engaging with managing their own health more through the PhysioDom programme.

PhysioDom   delivers dietary and fitness coaching to residents over 65 in their own homes through their TV.  Using scales and pedometers, they monitor their exercise levels and compete with friends and family to walk further and improve their general fitness.  Results are fed in through a TV remote control and viewed via a special PhysioDom TV box.  The data is also shared with the project team and local GP.  Older residents in their 80s who are underweight get support to put weight on and ensure they have the strength to fight off the ravages of a Northern winter! Picture2

Two elements are becoming clear from the project – firstly 60% of people over 65 are not smartphone users so using TV (with 95% of households owning one) is very familiar and successful.  Secondly the exercise coaching personalised nature of the support has lead to some massive achievements – one participant has lost 27kg, while a man in his 80s has walked 800km in the last 6 months.

But how does this support social care?  Citizens over 65 that stay healthy can expect to be more independent longer, able to complete more tasks without the need for social care.  Healthier over 65s will have less cause to visit their doctors and hospitals and will follow the good ageing trajectory on the diagram.

Cybermoor  is a co-op delivering the UK trial for the project, with similar trials taking place in Netherlands and Spain.  The project is funded by the EU’s 7th Framework Programme and builds on the PhysioDom project developed in France by Habitat Sante. Co-ops like Cybermoor can implement innovative technology that support over 65s in their own homes.  This can support the healthy ageing trajectory.

We are calling for those who fund health and social care across Europe to put 1% of their budget into co-operatives, social enterprises and charities.  These organisations are agile and innovative to deliver great health and social care outcomes for elderly residents across Europe – give them the resources to do it!

pic3Daniel Heery is the CEO of Cybermoor, a UK social enterprise delivering digital inclusion in rural areas.