31 January 2007

The TRIL Centre: ethnographic research on ageing to develop healthcare technologies for the elderly

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The TRIL Centre
Intel and the Irish government are building the TRIL Centre, the largest research initiative in the world dedicated to developing health-care technologies specifically for the elderly.

The TRIL Centre is a collection of research projects addressing the physical, cognitive and social consequences of ageing, all informed by ethnographic research and supported by a shared pool of knowledge and engineering resources.

The researchers will aim to develop technologies that can allow the elderly to continue to live independently and at home. They’ll focus on technologies that can improve social health and community engagement for older people, detect and prevent falls in the home, and help people with memory loss to remain independent.

Combined, Intel and the Industrial Development Agency Ireland, a government organization that seeks investments from overseas companies, are contributing $30 million over three years to the initiative, which will include collaboration with three Irish universities and 50 to 100 new researchers at Intel in Dublin.

Read full story (InfoWorld)
Read press release

More on TRIL’s use of ethnography:

By direct investigation and observation, ethnographic research of older people in their day to day lives and their interactions with carers and the healthcare system will equip the TRIL Centre teams with a real-world understanding of what old people need, what they find acceptable and how their quality of life can be improved.

By observing people ‘in their natural habitat’, the use of ethnography in technology research helps to identify what they find easy, what they find difficult, what would assist them day to day and how their needs can be supported by judicious interventions and devices. Ethnography uses anthropological and observational techniques to answer questions such as ‘what do people really want’, and ‘would a particular product find mass acceptance’. But it also reflects a philosophical foundation, particularly in respect of the TRIL Centre research programme, that research must have real-world impact, must change people’s lives and must have value and application beyond the laboratory.

The work of the ethnographic team based at NUI Galway will inform the design, implementation and usability of new technologies developed for older people. Ethnographic information provides guidance and feedback to the engineers and scientists who design and produce the new technologies and to the older people who use the new technologies. The Irish Centre of Social Gerontology (ICSG) will unite the various engineering and design strands of the TRIL Centre through enhanced multidisciplinary information systems that link design to application, with a personalised focus on the experiences of older people in their own space and place.

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