UTDesignLabElderly people think about how technology can keep them independent for longer

Elderly people think about how technology can keep them independent for longer

In the last couple of months, the first meetings have been held with elderly people who themselves will come up with small practical solutions that can make their lives easier. And soon they will be able to make these themselves in one of the public libraries in the Twente region. After the pilots started by ActiZ, ANBO and the University of Twente, this should become possible throughout the country.

How can the growing group of senior citizens live independently for as long as possible? What do they need for this? ActiZ, ANBO and the University of Twente want to help people with this. ActiZ, the branch association of care organisations, has therefore taken the initiative, together with the older people's association ANBO and the University of Twente, to make practical solutions possible for the elderly themselves.

From DesignLab to 'maker space’

In the DesignLab of the University of Twente, ideas are converted into practical aids. But soon the elderly will also be able to visit fourteen libraries in Twente. ‘BasicLabs’ will be set up there. These are 'maker spaces' (places) where not everyday equipment is located, such as 3D printers.

The elderly who participated in the discussion mainly want to be able to manage themselves. And sometimes they need a little help to do that.

Project leader Kris Pals talks about the first meeting: 'What struck me most was the mutual recognition of things they encounter in daily life. These often have to do with exerting one's strength', says Kris. That is not always possible anymore. From opening a package in the kitchen to constantly holding up the hairdryer in the bathroom.

Tips and tricks for everyone

During the meetings, the participants discovered that there are already many handy devices and technical gadgets available. Students at the University of Twente have been helping out to find these solutions online. The only question is how we can ensure the participants would be able to find these themselves, too.

Until now, the elderly have mainly talked to each other about what they encounter in their daily lives. The next step is to think of a handy solution. If it does not exist yet, they can make it themselves. Students from the University of Twente can help with the design, production or further development.

From region to nation-wide implementation

The pilot is now running in Twente with a small group of elderly people, but the ambition is to eventually - and if corona allows it - have groups of elderly people come together throughout the country to work on 'making places' themselves. In addition, all available handy solutions for common problems are collected in a document.


The number of people over 90 and people with dementia will double in the next 20 years. And with it, people's demand for care for the elderly. In order to be able to provide care in 2040 in the form that we are doing now to the growing number of people over 75, the number of jobs in elderly care will have to double to 700,000. That is not realistic. The labour market cannot cope. Nor can informal carers cope with the extra pressure. Whereas in 2018 there were almost five potential informal carers for every person aged 75 and over, in 2040 there will only be three, according to the CPB.

K. Pals (Kris)
Project leader