After 4 busy and challenging years the SHAPES project will complete its project work at the end of October 2023. The project has moved through initial phases of persona development, understanding ethnographically the lived experience of older people aging across Europe, and developing “use cases” – or just how people need to access and use health and social systems and services to address their needs, provide meaningful opportunities and realize all their rights. While our work is relevant across all human rights, it is especially so in relation to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The naming of this important convention with the word “persons” rather than “people” is significant. The latter refers to a collective group, whilst the former refers to a series of individuals, recognizing that individuals, even when their challenges may be similar, differ with regard to what they want and need in order to achieve a life with quality. Recognizing this individuality within a system is at the heart of SHAPES.
We have also developed an ecosystem approach to understanding how the technologies developed, enhanced, and accessed through the SHAPES platform must interact with the environment in which people live, but also the other services and supports – both formal and informal – available to them. While we don’t believe in “technological solutionism” we are satisfied that we have developed a Platform that can meaningfully contribute to addressing problems and enhancing opportunities.
We have used, enhanced, or developed around 50 “digital solutions” which are digital ways of helping people solve problems; from communication to physiological measurements, to home-based exercises guided virtually by therapists. Added to this we have 8 organizations who have been funded through our 3rd Open Call to provide technologies that will enhance the SHAPES Marketplace – the place that individuals, practitioners, manager, or policy makers can access to see what technologies are available and how they may be able to interact with each other or other existing service offerings.
SHAPES has piloted its innovations in 15 pilot sites spread across Ireland, Germany, Sweden, Czech Republic, Italy, Greece, Cyprus, Spain, Portugal, and the UK; and with replications across more than one country this has resulted in 43 distinct research activities, embracing 25 different use cases.
Our work has been guided by strong ethical principles and guidelines and has been disseminated though Dialogue Workshops, Foresight Exercises and Think Tanks; as well as a plethora of research and professional meetings across Europe and beyond. Most recently we presented some of the SHAPES results in the European Parliament building to MEPs and will be following this up with a Carefull Europe – Call for Action to be circulated among and signed by MEPs. This is one example of how SHAPES seeks to influence policy and political will as well as systems, organisations, and individuals. In fact, we have now exceeded our planned 190 dissemination activates – we have a lot to share!
And a lot of people have shared a lot with SHAPES enabling it to be successful: 841 older persons and caregivers participated in the SHAPES pilots, with the majority of key performance indicators (measure of success) being achieved across our pilots. On average over 100 people joined our Dialogue Workshops - and occasionally over 200 - where we sought to share and get feedback on our progress, from stakeholders outside the consortium. For one of our workshops (Dialogue Workshop 3) post-workshop plays of the meeting reached over 500 in English and over 400 in Spanish.
The work of SHAPES will be shared again next month in the WHO European Regional Summit on Healthy Ageing and our dissemination activities and activism will extend well into 2024 and beyond. SHAPES digital innovations will inspire and be adopted by service users, service providers and other European research projects. Our model of governance, our approach to ethics, security and protection, and our SHAPES Marketplace are all available to others to learn from and adapt. The server for the SHAPES platform will continue to serve this function, generously hosted by the Heraklion Mediterranean University, Crete, who are also hosting the final project planning meeting for the Consortium.
The final public meeting of the SHAPES consortium will be hosted in London by the Agile Ageing Alliance, featuring our SHAPES Game Changers. Selected from over 70 applications these 8 projects will share how their technologies help to solve human problems and add value to the SHAPES vision of smart and healthy aging in the community, sharing supports, interests, values, and friendships.
The SHAPES consortium has comprised over 300 people, across 36 partner organisations and 14 countries, along with a further 15 Open Call associated organisations across Europe. While we may not have achieved all that we had hoped to achieve, much more has been achieved than we had expected during the first months of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. The consortium has shared the responsibility for being flexible, determined and committed during very difficult times and we are now seeing very tangible rewards as a result. A huge thank you to all our consortium partners, the public who engaged in our outreach activities, and pilots, and the practitioners, managers, policy makers, industry, civil society, and United Nations agencies who collectively will continue to share the opportunities to SHAPE aging in Europe.
Anastasia Campbell – SHAPES Project Manager
Michael Cooke – SHAPES Co-Lead
Mac MacLachlan - SHAPES Principal Investigator & Co-Lead
SHAPES Project Coordinators, Assisting Living & Learning (ALL) Institute, Maynooth University, Ireland.