6 December 2022
Projects for seniors supported by Norway Grants
The recent years in Poland have been marked by an increasingly ageing society and systematically growing share of the elderly in the population. A report presented by Statistics Poland titled “The situation of older people in Poland in 2020” shows that at the end of 2020 the percentage of the elderly (aged 60 and more) in the Polish population amounted to 25.6%. Statistics Poland also projects that the elderly will constitute about 40% of Poland’s total population in 2050. Considering specific needs of the elderly, Polish entrepreneurs are devising solutions aimed to facilitate their daily life. Many projects targeting seniors have received funding from Norwegian Financial Mechanism 2014-2021 under the grant programme implemented by Polish Agency for Enterprise Development (PARP).
A PARP report titled “The ageing of society – a challenge for the labour market, activation of employees aged over 50” emphasises that as the human lifespan gets longer, civilisation progresses, and the quality of life improves across the world, with the percentage of people in post-productive age growing systematically. This trend is visible particularly in highly developed countries. Almost one in five people (19.4%) in the European Union is aged 65 and more; this figure is close to 100 million people. The ageing society has become a challenge for both Europe and the world.
Japan’s society is the oldest. In September 2022 the Japanese Ministry of Internal Affairs stated that the percentage of the population aged 65 and above was as high as 29.1%. Estimates are that by 2040 the elderly will make up 35.3% of Japan’s population. Statista’s 2021 figures show that the country with the second highest percentage of people aged 65+is Monaco, with 26%. The third place among the oldest societies of the world is taken by Italy, where the elderly make up 24% of the population. The authors of the above-mentioned PARP report point out that for many years Poland has been among the top thirty demographically oldest countries in the world. The ageing of our population was observed as far back as in the early 1970s. Statistics Poland estimates that the Polish population will be aging further. Apart from the forecasted population decline of 4.3 million by 2050, we can expect a stable increase in the number of people of senior age. Similar conclusions were drawn in “The 2021 Ageing Report Economic & Budgetary Projections for the EU Member States (2019–2070)” - a European Commission report which forecasts the Polish population to be down by almost 20% before 2070. Furthermore, the dependency ratio of older people (showing the number of people in pensionary age compared to the number of those in working age) is to increase.
Polish entrepreneurs devising innovative solutions for seniors
In light of the ageing society, senior policy becomes one of particular significance. The elderly have specific needs and limitations. One of the main challenges is to ensure that they have access to medical, prevention, treatment and recovery services. Fortunately, many Polish entrepreneurs are devising modern solutions which raise the comfort of living for the elderly and help their carers.
“The elderly are the main target group of projects which have been co-funded from Norway Grants under the Welfare Technologies grant scheme and the Small Grants Scheme for female enterprises which are parts of our Business Development and Innovation Programme ”said Izabela Wójtowicz, Director of the Department of Innovation Implementation in Enterprises at PARP, and added that “these schemes’ beneficiaries are implementing or have already implemented as many as 41 projects concerning welfare technologies, with total co-funding at almost 14.8 million euro.
One of the beneficiaries of the Welfare Technologies scheme is Sourcetech Bohdan Drzymała, a company that was granted almost 2 million euro of funding to launch a modern residential care home equipped with telehealth, telemetry and IT systems. Sourcetech, which operates in domains such as data analysis and support systems, has identified a market and social need in the area of senior care, which regards indirect care services using ICT tools and activation of local milieus to develop social self-assistance methods. The project aims to develop and market a telehealth service based on a vital signs monitoring technology (already developed by Sourcetech). The project solution concerns the technology itself, i.e., a wristband with the new functionality, and a service based on that technology. The wristband will additionally feature a pulse oximeter ensuring that results are highly repeatable and reliable even when the patient is moving. This is important especially for the fall prediction system, where the data recorded immediately before the incident are the most important. To implement that service, the company will develop a telehealth platform and launch a modern residential care home equipped with telemetry and IT systems. That means renovation of a building and purchase of comprehensive equipment for the home that will host 106 patients.
Statistical figures show that the number of people unable to live independently and needing community support in Poland is around 2 million, and is continually on the rise. Addressing the needs related to the growing number of seniors in need of care and assistance, Maren Development sp. z o.o. has created a project which involves development and implementation of a telehealth platform integrating an original care system over seniors at a residential care home. The company intends to start providing their comprehensive senior care services, including for people with disabilities, in a 24-hour residential care home. The senior care system named 5Care will involve medical, therapeutical and rehabilitation consultations, and a selection of specialist care tools. The project aims to ensure that seniors can function conveniently, and avail themselves of continuing therapy and care provided by multidisciplinary teams of carers, therapists and physicians. Assistance will be given in every area of the older people’s lives, so that they remain independent as long as possible. The telehealth platform will integrate the care system and allow comprehensive care management at residential care homes with an adequate, tailor-made package of care tools. The project promotor is also planning to adapt and furnish a building intended for the residential care home – Familia Vita in Krośnice. The home will have specially designed Senior Smart Rooms which – standard solutions for seniors notwithstanding – will support their independence through a functional system of such facilitations as lighting regulation, on/off switches for the radio, TV set and nightlamp, as well room temperature regulation using voice or a smart/keychain remote control. Furthermore, entrance doors will be automatically opened using a transmitter-controller, and there will be direct access to a PC set adapted to seniors’ use. Additionally, every room will feature an All-In-One computer with a touchscreen and voice synthesiser. Using it, the elderly or medical personnel will be able to verify the vital signs monitored, day plans, medicine dosage, physicians’ recommendations, notices, or dietary guidelines. 34 people will be employed as a result of the project implementation. The company will receive over 735,000 euro of co-funding under the Welfare Technologies scheme.
340,000 euro under the same scheme was awarded to Tomasz Winiecki Rehabilitacja Krojanty NZOZ for their project of “Developing and Implementing an Innovative and Comprehensive Rehabilitation Service for Geriatric Patients”. The Krojanty Teaching Hospital (established in 1998) focuses on treating patients with affections of the locomotor system – mostly older people suffering from a slipped disc, severe back pain, arthralgia and migraine. The project aims to develop and implement a comprehensive group therapy service which would be oriented towards improving the health of geriatric patients (aged 60 and above) who require interdisciplinary rehabilitation. The hospital will purchase innovative devices to serve as the basis for the multi-station group therapy and be useful for a range of other procedures performed at the hospital. Additionally, a new comprehensive geriatric patient rehabilitation programme will be developed, where individual progress will be assessed based on objective diagnostics of biomechanical parameters. For example, the use of platforms and treadmills will allow the assessment of posture-related parameters and of balance: stability, load distribution, muscle tone, motion scope and other factors. The programme will combine legacy with new methods and cutting-edge technologies, so as to create a holistic rehabilitation environment, a unique one in Poland and one that stands out from those in Europe.
Projects facilitating the lives of the elderly were also granted funding under the mall Grants Scheme for female enterprises financed from Norway Grants. The call for proposals aimed at supporting projects implemented by companies owned by women or where women have a deciding voice in management.
Beneficiaries of this programme include Kinga Grzech-Leśniak Specjalistyczne Centrum Stomatologiczne PERIOCARE; the company received almost 200,000 euro for the project titled “Use of Laser Light for Treatment and Regeneration of Patients in Gerostomatology and Geriatrics”. Caries notwithstanding, diseases of the periodontium are the most frequent cause of tooth loss. Many patients suffer from bleeding gums, exposed tooth roots, or loosened teeth, but not everyone is aware these are symptoms of an inflamed periodontium. Periodontology deals precisely with the prevention and treatment of diseases of the periodontium which comprises structures responsible for maintaining the teeth in the bones. The project involved development of procedures for an innovative bone regeneration therapy in the elderly. It is based on digital non-intrusive design techniques and on the use of laser light for treating and regenerating patients in gerostomatology. That includes treating the oral mucosa in patients following chemotherapy and radiotherapy, treating and reducing of pain, and speeding up the wound healing process. A Norwegian project partner helped PERIOCARE develop and implement procedures for services in which red and infrared laser light is used for treatment, regeneration, and support of the immunological system in older patients. The partner, Drammen Laserklinikk from Lier in Norway, has considerable experience in treating patients under this procedure, and provided mentoring services to the owner of PERIOCARE. Apart from that, the project involved purchasing an advisory service to develop the new treatment procedures in stomatology and general medicine (support in treatment regarding asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, wounds healing in diabetes, migraines and lower moods) and purchasing modern medical devices, such as a digital CT scanner, an intraoral scanner, a 3D printer and a laser bed.
Statistics Poland figures show that the number of older people and people with disabilities using the Internet is on the rise. For this social group, travel is a key element of rehabilitation, as it has its part in preventing social exclusion and improving the quality of life. However, the main barrier in going on tourist trips for those with limited mobility is the lack of easily available information as to whether certain tourist sites are accessible or adjusted to their needs. Only a few percent of those people in Poland have availed themselves of tourist agency services, as the existing booking tools do not account for their needs given that there are no adequate search criteria. This is why Agnieszka Świtkiewicz-Blandzi, the owner of Rekta Consulting, decided to develop an online booking platform for accommodation establishments and tourist facilities adjusted to the needs of seniors and other people with limited mobility. The platform will feature the following search criteria: specific indication of disability or mobility limitation (whether the person is on crutches, stick, walking frame, wheelchair, has impaired vision, problems with the inner ear, chronic joint disease, broken leg, etc.). Accommodation notwithstanding, other facilities (food, entertainment, service, transport, communication) and their accessibility will also be shown with a detailed description (distance in metres, number of visitors allowed, surface in square metres, slope angle, time needed to reach the destination). For the purpose of building the booking platform, Rekta Consulting ordered the compilation of a broad database of accommodation establishments with adequate amenities (18,400 venues to be verified), to which further locations may be added by their owners. The users (recipients) of the booking platform will be able to actively influence the products offered by the platform. The application named Prosta Polska will follow the trend of increased regional tourism, a trend which is getting stronger particularly with the elderly and those with chronic diseases due to the coronavirus pandemic. The contribution of the Norwegian partner, Forte Digital AS, involves advisory services in technology, software selection, compatibility, product delivery and testing, as well as technological mentorship services.
The Business Development and Innovation programme which covers, among other schemes, the Welfare Technologies scheme and Small Grants Scheme for female enterprises is implemented by PARP within the Norwegian Financial Mechanism 2014-2021.