Over-50s will join with 16-20 year-olds to co-develop technologies to benefit coastal communities – from online games for social connectivity, to underwater gadgets exploring marine life.
Led by the University of Plymouth, the ICONIC project (Intergenerational COdesign of Novel technologies In Coastal communities) will launch in the South West in November, thanks to a £1million grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) – part of UK Research and Innovation.
The project will recruit 80 older (aged 50+) people – including people living at home and those in care homes – and 40 younger (aged 16–20) people, who will work with researchers to co-develop novel technologies. Collectively, the teams will identify what will effectively connect people to the community and cultural landscape in the region.
As an EPSRC project, the focus is naturally on the technical side of the work. But the project builds on the University’s portfolio of regional research and community engagement – through its Centre for Health Technology – to address digital inequalities.
Three strands of the project involve existing broadband access, and are designed to engage people with their local area:
- Enhanced virtual reality giving the ability to move around heritage sites and significant natural landscapes such as Tintagel Castle or the Eden Project.
- Social games connecting older people (e.g. between care homes) based on local history, culture and environment.
- Underwater telepresence enabling the user to explore and engage with the local underwater environment.
The fourth strand will give digitally excluded older people with no broadband, telephone access by AI voice interface to online resources such as museums and community groups.
Project lead and Professor of Health Informatics at the University, Ray Jones MBE, said:
“As society becomes ever more digital, those without access are at risk of social exclusion. Older people's connection with community, groups and activities in their neighbourhood and the cultural landscape, are essential for social inclusion and healthy ageing.
“In addition, the project looks to upskill and engage younger people in digital technology and STEM subjects, increasing their earning potential and keeping knowledge within the region. Traditional industries such as farming, mining, fishing, and port activity have all declined. Alternative high-wage digital sector jobs have not emerged resulting in an exodus of younger people with higher qualifications."