Grey but Mobile

Enhanced Care Service through Improved Mobility for Elderly People (Grey But Mobile) was about improving care-related mobility services for the elderly supporting independent living and social connectivity. Importantly, the quantitative and qualitative effects of these proposed services have contributed to the improved health of the elderly as well as to the economic efficiency of care.

Today, elderly live in their homes longer, predominantly because of improved home care. For reasons of efficiency and costs, this is considered a good development, but it has a downside too. Elderly often live alone and solitude is regarded to be a main cause of health problems. Keeping elderly socially connected and involved, requires them to remain mobile. However, current mobility solutions do not cater specifically for this group.

Mobile-care projects are currently being initiated in the context of the organization of services. A major constraint is the availability of dedicated vehicle-designs and interfaces between services and the means of mobility. A new class of vehicles is envisaged that will specifically relate to the needs of this age group: mobile solutions that will match the environmental, physical, mental and societal needs of the elderly.

What questions were answered?
Teams from 3 universities and Industry partners were working together to answer the questions:

What role does mobility play in the social integration of the elderly and what are their physical mobility needs?
What artefacts are currently available for the mobility of the elderly, which functions do they fulfil, and what is their quality?
How does the service structure for the elderly currently function and what are the constraints?
What PSS solutions can be developed to address the findings?
How can technology be utilized to improve elderly mobility?
What will the effect of these solutions (PSS)  be on the elderly, themselves?

What have the teams achieved?
We have generate a body of knowledge to be used by the creative industry to develop a new range of mobility solutions. Designs, models prototypes were built and tested in natural environments to demonstrate feasibility of these emerging concepts. Additionally, disseminated information to national and international parties involved in this new field of sustainable mobility,

Timeframe and communication:
Grey But Mobile started in 2011 and finished in 2015. Throughout the project, we have published doctoral theses, articles in journals and conference proceedings. We have translated findings into value propositions for care-providers’ clients. Knowledge gained will be integrated into university and professional educational programmes. Progress will be published via this website and explored in workshops.

Who was involved?
Scientific partners: Twente University, Eindhoven University of Technology and the Design Academy Eindhoven;
Industry partners: Roessing Research,Tellens groep, Trivium Meulenbelt Zorg, Zuidzorg, De Loft, Indes, Arriva, Connexxion, Divaco, Waaijenberg.

Project leaders
dr. Lu Yuan, Eindhoven University of Technology
Ir. Marc Beusenberg, Twente University


  • Ambulatory mobility and physical activity monitoring of elderly; a pilot study S.T. Boerema, M.M.R. Vollenbroek-Hutten, H.J. Hermen a method to objectively monitor mobility and physical activity of elderly using ambulatory wireless technology during daily living, and studied the monitored physical activity compared to a sedentary population of healthy office workers Download
  • Experience sampling and physical activity measurements to improve workday satisfaction. In Proceedings of the 4th International Conference on Ambulatory Monitoring of Physical Activity and Movement Boerema, S. T., Evers, M., Vollenbroek-Hutten, M. H. M., & Hermens, H. J This paper developed an experience sampling method smartphone app and integrated this with a monitoring app of physical activity patterns using the Promove3D activity sensor Download
  • Monitoring and Improving Mobility of the Elderly. Text is still confidential--

    Describes thesis of Simone Boerema

    Presented at the 8th International Conference on Pervasive Computing Technologies for Healthcare, Oldenburg, Germany.

Activity Monitoring System

RRD has applied the expertise of Simone Boerema in the field of measuring physical activity with wearable sensors, to further exploring objective and enriched with subjective measures of physical activity for a deeper understanding of mobility and its applicability as a tool for designers, both in the requirements and evaluation phase (pre-post studies). In this, RRD started with explorative studies on physical activity, mobility and validated questionnaires on physical activity, both independent and in joint research with TU/e and UT. These studies led to various contributions to conferences, resulting in interesting discussions with peers, leading to two developments in the work of RRD. On the one hand the shift from ‘sufficient physical activity’ to ‘reducing sedentary behaviour’ being the new smoking, and with this shift came the need to understand its definitions, implications for wearable sensor systems, and implications for personal feedback strategies. One the other hand, there was a need for richer information of the daily living experiences, which was not possible to collect with questionnaires based on recall. This is further described in the paragraph on the development of innovative monitoring methods.
RRD proceeded with new sensor calibration and validation studies to discriminate sitting from other behaviours. And bringing in the expert knowledge of RRD researcher Thijs Tönis, for his extensive data analysis skills. And complementary to that RRD is writing a literature study on measures of patterns of sedentary behaviour, to quantify the accumulation of sitting periods throughout the day, use these measures to discriminate populations based on their behaviour pattern in daily living, and to be used as a measure for personal feedback.
Developing innovative monitoring methods
RRD has created several iterations of the physical activity monitoring system, consisting of a wearable sensor and a smartphone with dedicated App and an online database. First this was enriched by adding an ESM (experience sampling methods) tool to the App. Experience sampling – asking about someone’s feelings or activities at the right moment during daily living – started with a ‘simple mobility device’ questionnaire on the smartphone on which elderly users indicated their means of transport (in cooperation with UT in the Friesland testbed). And RRD recently evolved this ESM tool to a research & design tool for capturing work activities of older employees to design an ICT Platform for ergonomic and motivating age-friendly workplaces. Currently the ESM tool captures self-reported workday satisfaction, and for each reported work task, the type of task and the effort, energy, fun and feeling for the task. And correlations between these measures can serve as strategic user insights for design for older office workers. Both the insights as well as the ESM tool can be adapted to sedentary elderly at home.
Also, RRD has explored with GbM partners the added value of objective monitoring of behaviour by providing sensor tools to studies with UT and TU/e. And although the ‘measuring’ approach was very new to design research, the project partners were enthousiastic about its potential added value. However, the data analysis tools for ESM and sedentary behaviour were at that moment not yet sufficiently developed to be easily used and adopted by the designers, being time consuming and requiring extensive data analysis skills.

Activity Monitoring System 
Keeping elderly socially connected and involved, requires them to remain mobile. However, there is little knowledge on the physical activity patterns of elderly. We explored physical activity patterns of elderly by providing them the Activity Monitoring System consisting of a wearable activity sensor and a smartphone. The gathered activity patterns were analyzed on both intensity and duration parameters and compared to other sedentary populations such as office workers. The characterizations extracted from the sensor data allows for detection of physical behaviour changes over time. And provides the measures for objective evaluation of effects of innovative mobility solutions on physical behaviour, as opposed to (validated) questionnaires which are sensitive to response bias.