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13 April 2022

King's Engineering leading EPSRC & NIHR funded “Design for Healthy Ageing” research project

The ‘DELONELINESS’ project aims to tackle the societal challenge of loneliness in older people.

Covid lockdown loneliness linked to more depressive symptoms in older adults
Isolation can lead to loneliness

A team led by Dr Wei Liu, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Engineering, has been granted £1.5 million by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) to carry out pioneering research in transforming care and health at home, targeting at loneliness in ageing population.

Older people are particularly vulnerable to loneliness, defined as a "discrepancy between one's desired and achieved levels of social relations." The subjective feeling of loneliness has been associated with a range of negative outcomes including increased prevalence of physical and mental illness, all-cause mortality, and risk of self-harm. Whilst issues of loneliness may be overlooked by health and social service professionals, the COVID-19 pandemic could have accelerated these issues due to lockdown.

The ‘DELONELINESS’ project aims to design a smart monitoring and communication system with multifunctional electronics built into textiles used as wearables and home furniture to measure loneliness levels in older people. Refining methods of identifying loneliness in those who are isolated will allow timely and effective intervention. 

DELONELINESS is an interdisciplinary project bringing in experts from Social Gerontology, Psychology, Design, Smart Composite Material, and Artificial Intelligence to shape a world class consortium of universities, industries, NGOs and policy makers, including colleagues from King’s – Professor Anthea Tinker CBE, Director of the King’s Institute of Social Gerontology and Professor Sebastien Ourselin FREng, Head of School of Biomedical Engineering and Imaging Sciences; academic collaborators - Professor Yu Shi, Director of Smart Composite Group from University of Chester, and Dr Faith Matcham in the School of Psychology from University of Sussex; and non-academic partners including KYMIRA Ltd, Thrive Wearables, Housing LIN Ltd, policy experts and the general public. 

The Principal Investigator (PI) of this research project, Dr Wei Liu, said:

"We are very pleased to work together to tackle such an important global societal issue through design and technology innovation. Putting people at heart, our interdisciplinary team will strive to develop effective solutions and support healthy living for ageing population."

In this story

Wei Liu

Professor of Design Engineering and Innovation

Sebastien Ourselin

Professor of Healthcare Engineering