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New Address for the COBALT Website

COBALT has a new web address.

Please update your bookmarks to

Look out for the upcoming release of our new COBALT interactive media – containing the COBALT Tools for Engagement

The death of Brian Malone

Dear all,

I am very sad to tell you the news that our friend, Brian Malone died on August 2nd, 2014 after a short illness. 

Brian wrote a very popular blog for the COBALT Project outlining his experiences of leaning how to use new technologies. Despite having a diagnosis of dementia, Brian lived a full life and was eager to learn new things and to talk about his experiences. 

Brian was an inspiration to us all and will be sorely missed. 

COBALT at Swindon 18th July 2013

Prof Arlene Astell led our event at Swindon. Starting with an interactive session on discussed what makes people like or hate technology.
Arlene chaired a Q&A session with a local commissioner and telecare/health supplier.

In pairs delegates investigated assisted living technology.
and gave feedback on where it could be used.
Several people said the procedures council’s used made it hard for people to get the right technology at the right time.
However, sometimes a loud, vibrating alarm just makes everyone laugh.
Nigel Harris and Tim Adlam from Bath Institute of Medical Engineering talked about ways of improving design

Finally we asked delegates to write down one action they would take as a result of the day

Swindon was the last of the events (see below for Cambridge, Edinburgh and Sheffield). We will be publishing our findings later in the year.

COBALT at Cambridge 11th July 2013

Trinity Hall, Cambridge was the setting for our assisted living technology event for the East of England.
Prof Arlene Astell and the COBALT team offered insights about the adoption of technology to over 40 industry, academics, housing, health and social care professionals and older people.

The day started with a visit to the exhibition of the best of inclusive Design from Norway and UK. We were privileged that Oystein Johnsen and Maja Arnestad came over from Norway for the event.

Delegates – such as Martin Sabry from Aideas the inclusive design consultancy (seated) were welcomed to the college by John Clarkson. John is not only Vice-Master of the college but also Director of the Engineering Design Centre which has an international reputation for inclusive design.

Several delegates from industry brought examples of technology for us to try outP1020508

With such a range of delegates the feedback was lively and well-informed.
Compared to previous events where many devices were criticised this event had more devices receiving recognition for trying to apply inclusive design principles.

Delegates were not solely concerned with the problems of older people but could see many devices could help younger people.

Claire Bruin, Service Director, Adult Social Care Cambridgeshire C.C. gave an inspirational chat about the way Cambridgeshire used assisted living technology extensively

In the afternoon Anna Mieczakowski presented the findings of the recent booklet on inclusive design Ageing, Adaption and Accessibility that she and John Clarkson had published.P1020556

COBALT at Edinburgh 20th June

COBALT’s second event was at Edinburgh. We arranged for delegates to try out a range of assistive living devices.
Some, like the blood pressure cuff were very similar to clinical devices.P1020329

Other devices like the GPS tracking shoes were very innovative.

This event had a focus on Dementia and Brian, who has been blogging for us, gave a moving account of living with dementia:

Sadly we again found several devices that didn’t seem to work:

We also discussed the part assistive living technology can play in social care in Scotland. This does not have to be high tech as innovations in the design of devices to that help people walk and stand are just as vital:

Finally delegates were encouraged to write an action plan that they could take back to their home or work.

Click Age Scotland for Doug Anthoney’s report on the conference.

COBALT at Sheffield 23rd May

We had 55 attendees including older adults, health and social care staff, academics, third sector workers such as Age UK, assistive living technology (ALT) industry members and commissioning staff from the NHS and City Councils.
The day started with a Technology Interaction session where we asked attendees to work in pairs and use an item of ALT that ourselves and Docobo, City Wide Care Alarms, Simpla Solutions and Age UK Personal Alarms had supplied.
Attendees fed-back that they particularly saw a use for medication devices such as pill dispensers and the pill popper as well as the Docobo Care Portal to monitor their own health.
The themes that came out of this session were that personalisation is key and that a try before you buy scheme is something people would like to see. Following this there was a Q&A panel with Steven Haigh from the Right First Time Programme and Jayne Stocks, Clinical Lead for Assistive Technology at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust which provoked a lively debate. We then had an activity around service re-design where attendees suggested a community hub, trial service and local ALT champion as changes they would like to see.
On the afternoon session there was a presentation by Claire Bentley, Research Associate on the Barriers to Telecare project at the University of Sheffield’s School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR). Claire discussed some of the findings from the project which has used interviews with people who are not currently telecare users including issues around cost, stigma and awareness of which telecare products are available.

We then had a Q&A with one of our Pioneer Group participants. She was more open to technology because of the group and that we should harness things such as telecare than can help as we get older. Finally we had an action planning activity where attendees detailed what they would do as a result of the day. These included collaborating with people they had met on the day and researching new technologies for themselves and service users.

Before the summary of the day attendees completed feedback forms which were overwhelmingly positive. The main theme for positive feedback was that the day had been a great networking opportunity which had given attendees the potential to work together.

This was fantastic considering the main aim of the day was to bring people together to overcome the barrier to ALT adoption of lack of service integration.
The next step is to replicate the success of this event in Swindon (13th June), Edinburgh (20th June) and Cambridge (11th July). To book your place please email Dr. Maggie Ellis on

Brian’s blog Saturday 29th September

This evening I worked at the computer and attempted to create a new logo for another Dementia Organisation. I had to search the computer and internet for the material that I would need. I deleted my efforts time after time but eventually I was satisfied with the outcome. I will probably change my mind later and start again from scratch. The difference now is that I am more confident to carry out this project.

Brian’s blog Thursday 27th September

Today I decided that my computer needed updates and refreshers. I very gradually worked my way through the different programmes and started remembering some of the things that I had thought were gone forever. I was able to go on to the Internet and actually research some of Dundee’s local history for a project I am currently involved in at Alzheimer Scotland in Dundee. My wife had to encourage me to switch off the computer before I tired myself out.


Brian’s blog Wednesday 26th September

Something happened to me today. After a 1 hour computer session with Maggie I now have a more positive attitude with regards my learning/re-learning skills which I thought I had lost when I received my Diagnosis. For more than 2 years I have been accepting that, a great deal of my abilities have been “wiped out”. I have had a lot of negative thoughts about this Dementia “thing” and truthfully, I sometimes just did not care about the future. Now I see a way forward. The small step I was encouraged to take today, leads me to think that there could just be something, which is going to help me through my journey with Dementia. I can even say there is now a possible Positive side after the Diagnosis.