Press conference in Helsinki, Finland, 1 March 2001
Forget pills and potions, "sound vitamins" may soon be the latest thing to put the pep back into old age.
An innovative international project that may transform the quality of life for older people is to be co-ordinated from the University of Leicester (UK) Department of Psychology. Funded by the EU, it will use IT speech and music channels to provide older people with the stimulation they need to keep healthy, alert and in touch with the outside world.
Old age is stereotypically seen as a period of decline, as people can find it difficult to move about and easy to become isolated. An ageing global population means that resources to tackle the situation become more limited as the need grows to find ways to help elderly people to continue their normal everyday lives. Success in solving this problem would benefit the whole of society as well as save on the large sums of money presently spent on elderly care.
Public sector researchers have long argued that the right physical and psychological stimulation can slow down mental and physical decline in older people, and a Finnish company, Audio Riders, has recently developed a system that can achieve this cheaply.
The system uses global digital networks to provide elderly people with six sound channels. The combination of quizzes, stories, spiritual discussions, music, news and keep-fit exercises are designed to improve physical mobility, mental agility and connectedness with friends, relatives and the outside world.
The Audio Riders' system is cost-effective, interactive, and by using information technology it can reach a greater number of people than existing conventional methods. It can be used individually, with carers or in groups.
Dr Adrian North, a member of the University of Leicester's Music and Psychology Research Group and renowned around the world for his research into music and human behaviour, explained how the research project will be conducted. "Of course, to market this system effectively we have to answer two initial questions. First, just how much can it help elderly people? We will be testing the effectiveness of the Audio Riders' system in a Finnish and UK field trial. Second, how can the system be adapted to different cultural groups, each with their own interests and preferences?
"To answer this, we will be using Finnish, Swedish, English and Hindi versions of the system with native speakers of these languages. Together this information will allow marketing of the Audio Riders' system first in Europe, then North America and ultimately on a global basis. The results of our work will be presented primarily at conferences, in written reports, and through a website dedicated to the project: www.audioriders.fi/english/index.htm
A consortium of four partners will carry out the research. The field trial will be carried out by researchers from the Department of Psychology at the University of Leicester (United Kingdom), who have a long record of research on how sounds can influence emotions and behaviour.
Audio Riders is an IT company based in Helsinki, that specialises in the provision of music and speech via digital networks. It will provide linguistically and culturally customised versions of the system.
The field trial will take place in care homes run by Miinan Hoitolat in Finland and Anchor Trust in the United Kingdom. These are both major providers of elderly care in their respective countries. They are run on a not-for-profit basis and give priority to enabling older people to live independent and active lives.
Sound Vitamins is a European project launched in the framework of the eContent programme. Its website is
Note to editors: Further details are available from Dr Adrian North, Department of Psychology, University of Leicester, UK, telephone +44 116 252 2175; facsimile +44 116 252 2067; email firstname.lastname@example.org
Thursday 1 March, 10 am, at Wilhelmiina Care Home, Taavetti Laitisen katu 4, 00300 Helsinki, Finland. The programme is as follows:
Mertsi Lindfors, CEO of Miinan Hoitolat, Wilhelmiina/Miinan Hoitolat care homes in Finland
Adrian North: the University of Leicester and Audio Riders perspective
Consortium members Valerie Good of Anchor Homes in the UK and Kirsi Wigren of Folkhalsan, a Swedish speaking care home in Finland
Demonstration of SilverBird audio simulation system: Piia Palviainen of Wilhelmiina/Hoitolat & Helena Grönstrand of Audio Riders Oy
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