Beersheba becomes home to world’s first innovation lab for healthy aging

A novel state-of-the-art lab will re-create the living conditions of the elderly to improve their mental and physical health.

Elderly couple (illustrative) (photo credit: REUTERS)
Elderly couple (illustrative)
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The world’s first innovation lab for healthy aging has been established in Beersheba. The lab, which will simulate the living environment of senior citizens in the future, will take on the increasingly complex challenges of today’s aging population.
According to World Bank data, the proportion of the world’s population over the age of 65 increased from 5% in 1960 to 8.5% in 2015.
The lab is a collaboration between the Center for Digital Innovation, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, the National Insurance Institute, the Beersheba Municipality, the Joint Distribution Committee and the Amal & Beyond Group. CDI is located in the Advanced Technologies Park adjacent to the university, whose president, Prof. Rivka Carmi, serves as chairwoman of the nonprofit lab’s board.
In 10 years, Beersheba will become the center of senior citizen-focused research and innovation,” CDI founder & CEO Ziv Ofek said at the launch of the lab last week. “When I think about this lab, I think about my parents and the real challenges they face. Instead of looking for merely technological solutions, we went back to analyze the problem. We developed a 360-degree approach that looks at all aspects of a senior’s life. When we founded CDI, we chose the fields of health care, social welfare, education and smart cities to specialize in. In this lab, we are combining all of them.”
Ofek and his team realized that senior citizens’ diverse needs, ambitions and activities cannot be considered separately. Rather, they are all linked, and only an innovative approach that takes all of these elements into consideration has a chance of making a real and significant change in the lives of senior citizens, Ofek continued.
“This is not another innovation lab just offering technological solutions,” he said. “Connecting teenagers to seniors alleviates their loneliness and depression. That’s not a hi-tech solution, but it has to be part of the approach.”
The facilities provided by the lab encourage a holistic view by examining the entire range of services provided for senior citizens by local and state institutions. Ofek announced at the event that the lab is entering a partnership with Sheba Medical Center to become a testing ground for the Tel Hashomer facility’s approaches and technologies.
Among the main challenges are preventing falls, alleviating loneliness, slowing the deterioration of those whose capabilities are already limited, treating pain, and developing new technologies to assist the aging in basic domestic activities like bathing and using the toilet.
The lab will simulate all aspects of the living environment and routines of the elderly, and includes a fully furnished home with a bedroom, living room and kitchen. In and around the home, new technologies and models will be implemented and put to the test, such as new methods of communicating with family members, improved medical treatment and encouraging the elderly to engage in social activities to reduce loneliness.
Among the start-ups and innovative projects already operating in the lab are Uniper Care Technologies, a TV platform designed to improve the communication process between the elderly and their families; BetterCare, an application that provides caregivers at nursing homes and centers ways to monitor the quality of the care they provide; Vitalerter, a wireless platform for monitoring heart rates and breathing, alerting others about falls, infections, depression, anxieties and the elderly person’s general condition;, a home-based urine testing kit that speedily sends test results to the patient’s doctor using a smartphone; and Story, a digital timeline platform for making elderly people relate their life stories and share them with loved ones.