Research Projects

Creating a system that measures frailty and dietary intake in older people at home

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Older lady cooking in her kitchen at home

This project was funded by the New Dynamics of Ageing programme, a cross-council research programme funded by five research councils (EPSRC, ESRC, BBSRC, AHRC, MRC).

What was needed

The Novel Assessment of Nutrition in Ageing (NANA) project had three major areas of need:

  1. The research methods available at the time did not accurately record the impact of nutrition on physical and mental aspects of frailty because the burden on the subject was too great.
  2. It was not possible to simultaneously research frailty and nutrition over extended periods of time – with NANA this was possible.
  3. We wanted older people and their carers to be able to manage nutrition and health themselves.

Who did it benefit

Many groups benefited from the NANA research including: older and frail people, researchers in ageing, nutritionists and dieticians.

Design and development

Our role was to design and manufacture technological systems for NANA, which includes the design of user interfaces and the dissemination of results (papers, presentations and meetings).

Prototypes
We designed and built three prototypes: a low profile weighing scale (not used in the final prototype), a walking speed sensor (not used in the final prototype) and a grip strength sensor (used in the final prototype).

User Involvement
We worked with several small user groups recruited to the project in the process of determining the design of user interactions. We also worked with teams from the Universities of Sheffield and St Andrews to install and support NANA systems in the homes of older people.

We ultimately developed a touch screen based system that measured physical and mental frailty and dietary intake in older people at home.

What we found

  • Older people like using technology when it is useful and well designed.
  • It is possible to measure nutrition, physical and mental wellbeing simultaneously in the home for extended periods of time.
  • Nutrition can be measured using technology in the home at least as accurately as with existing paper based methods such as food diaries and food frequency questionnaires.