Developing smart homes to help the elderly

senior citizens  picture: Tamar Mitzpi
senior citizens picture: Tamar Mitzpi

Ziv Ofek has set up a multidisciplinary innovation center in Israel for helping senior citizens.

The multidisciplinary Third Age innovation center being founded by Ziv Ofek within his Center for Digital Innovation (CDI) in Beer Sheva is one of the most unique and advanced in the world in this field. In recent years, smart home centers for assimilating technologies in this area have emerged. Ofek wants to take this idea even further.

Ofek founded dbMotion, a global digital health pioneer that was sold in 2013 for $235 million. Talking about his new center he said, "The goal was to build a large physical space in which there was a home of a senior citizen, for example, that would be a 'smart home,' among other things. We surround the house with five layers: family (first and second generation), medical, education - both the adults themselves for digital and technological literacy and reciprocal relations in both directions between the senior citizen and youth, personal security, and all the elements of quality of life.

"We identified several relevant factors we want to put in the compound - the adults themselves and their family, of course, the welfare system - so the National Insurance Institute will probably be one of our leading partners, researchers, and students - which is why we are in a close partnership with Ben Gurion University of the Negev, led by its president, Prof. Rivka Carmi, and a circle of technology - we invite startups, who will be able to consult and acquire experience with all the other parties, into this space.

Ofek gives an example: "There is no communication between the health and welfare spheres. Sometimes, a diabetic goes to the doctor, who immediately sees that something is wrong. The doctor doesn't know that the patient is taking the medicine one month, and giving it to his wife the next month, because they don't have enough money to buy medicine for both of them."

In a way, that is romantic

"It happens a lot. They don't know what damage they're doing to themselves. Had the doctor known this, he would have realized that there was no use playing with the dosage, getting angry at the patient, or explaining again how important the medicine was. A welfare worker is likely to be aware of the economic situation, but he has no connection with the doctor.

"Our goal is to focus not on the technology or the needs of the insurer, but on what the senior citizen needs, and to check quickly if we are meeting this need in a center that simulates the real world as much as possible. If a given idea doesn't work, we get rid of it quickly, and if it does, we expand it quickly into a pilot in our center, and then in the city and so forth, for example. Beer Sheva Mayor Reuven Danilovich has already endorsed the idea, together with his entire welfare department."

Other important partners in the project, which has been incorporated as a community interest company, include the Israel Joint Distribution Committee and the Amalsiudit Group, which operates 15 senior citizens homes and provides home welfare services. Talks are also taking place with several other commercial companies, the Ministry of Health, and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Social Services, as well as Ben Gurion University. "We cooperate with the robotics laboratory headed by Prof. Yael Edan, who will help to set up a robotics laboratory within the compound," Ofek says.

The investment in the project will amount to millions of dollars. Construction will begin in July, and the center will begin operating in September. "The cost of 'smart home' centers affiliated with other universities around the world is $50-60 million, and I've seen a center in which $100 million was invested."

Ofek notes that the problem facing the world is enormous. "In Japan, for the first time, more adult diapers than baby diapers were sold this year. In 2023, there will be more people over 65 than under 40 in the world. The life expectancy of somebody born today is 91, one in three will live to 100, and one in 10 will live to 110. We're talking about 30 years of pension. What do we do with these years? People can be important and active one day, and living in a void the next. They told me, 'This field is unfashionable,' but I think it's the only one relevant to everyone from all the generations."

How can we handle the large number of senior citizens, when there is a shortage of available personnel? Ofek has original thinking here, too. "The health system is understaffed. The welfare system is understaffed. There's only one system in Israel that has a surplus of personnel - the educational system. We have an enormous pool of talented students, who instead of a 'personal commitment,' can make a 'personal digital commitment' to check the health alerts for senior citizens and help them handle their finances - one child for a thousand senior citizens. The educational system will say, 'That's not us,' the health system will say, 'it's too risky,' but we have to try. Nothing will happen until we break down the walls between these fields."

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - - on April 26, 2016

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2016

senior citizens  picture: Tamar Mitzpi
senior citizens picture: Tamar Mitzpi
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