University of Padova

Technologies for active aging, independent living and well-being

The laboratory focuses on psychophysical well-being of people. One of the main research interest of our laboratory concerns the active aging topic, a concept that defines a growing population between 65 and 74 years more and more called to maintain an active role in our society. This demographic change requires rethinking about the role of elderly people within multiple scenarios, for example, the workspace. The essential assumption of active aging is the maintenance of cognitive functioning in several domains, such as memory, attention and executive functions, which decline in normal aging. To promote active aging, the laboratory concepts, designs, and develops interventions aimed at preventing cognitive decline, by means of the cognitive training methodology (e.g. computer-based tasks and tablet applications). Furthermore, the laboratory exploits state-of-the-art methods, such as transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) and transcranial electrical stimulation (tES), in order to optimize the beneficial effects of cognitive training by inducing, with non-invasive methods, brain plasticity. 

A second area of interest of the laboratory is the promotion of independent living in different environmental contexts. Besides older adults, people with disabilities are a vulnerable part of the population as well. Cognitive and motor disabilities may reduce the autonomy and quality of living of these fragile people, for example increasing the risk of mood disorders and social isolation that, in turn, may contribute to developing cardiovascular diseases. These disabilities can force these individuals being hospitalized, a condition that negatively impacts on their quality of life and contributes to increasing medical costs related to health care.
To tackle these social problems, the laboratory proposes innovative solutions. Firstly, in order to increase the autonomy and reduce the hospitalization of fragile people, the laboratory identifies suitable domotics appliances (home automation) in several contexts, such as nursing house and social-housing/co-housing. Secondly, once the best domotics technologies are installed, the laboratory evaluates the satisfaction of the end-users, in terms of system accessibility, usability, users’ experience, acceptance, security, and safety.

The laboratory is constantly researching the most innovative interventions able to improve well-being, especially in elderly people. For example, the laboratory has been involved in prominent projects in which elderly people have been encouraged to using modern systems (e.g. computer, tablet, smart TV). The goals of these projects could range from a simple familiarization of elderly people with current technology up to solve and tackle several age-related problems, such as the social isolation or the difficulties associated with the execution of everyday activities. Other interventions involve the use of virtual reality. An interesting approach regards the combination of virtual reality to the above-mentioned transcranial stimulation techniques that can produce synergic beneficial effects. Last but not least, the laboratory is equipped with numerous systems widely used in the investigation of cognitive functioning and psychophysiology, among which tools for recording neural and physiological indices (e.g. electroencephalographs, eye trackers, electrodermal activity/heart rate amplifiers and wearable devices).

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