Independent Living Ireland was established in 2011 to introduce a range of modern technologies that can support the health and social care sector. While developing the business we set out to provide carers, families and individuals with as much information as possible to help them to understand the different technologies we provide and also to see the benefits they could bring to the care environment. Often technology can be considered as a replacement for care staff, or a means to reduce costs for an organisation; this is not an approach that we believe in or seek to promote.

The word technology is often confused due to the dominant nature of modern information technologies which have emerged since the 1980s. Rather, technology should also refer to methods ranging from as simple as language and stone tools to sophisticated genetic engineering. When we view technology from this perspective, it is another support mechanism or a means to provide a 24-hour safety net that even the most vigilant of carers can never actually provide.

But what of the “the fourth industrial revolution” – a topic covering robotics, nanotechnology, 3D printing and biotechnology which was the theme of this year’s Davos conference in January? According to projections by the World Economic Forum (WEF), there will be a total loss of 7.1 million jobs globally, offset by a gain of 2 million new positions. The healthcare industry is not immune from these societal changes with robots touted as the next generation of carers.

 

Nadine from the video above is an early iteration of this vision; a ‘personal’ care assistant for elderly people. Is this a personal approach to care or a convenient deflection of our moral compass which provides care without any of the compassion? When robotic visions for technology in the care industry are mapped out so grimly, it is easy to understand the scepticism that follows technology when caring for the most vulnerable members of society.

Due to our experiences of setting up ILI and listening carefully to our clients we are acutely aware of this scepticism and Amicitia is our new approach to delivering a socially inclusive, shared-value, social enterprise. This non-profit extension of our existing products and services connects us closer to our clients and provides a platform to redistribute the surpluses from the business back to strengthen our local communities. The first phase of this project is underway since February of this year when we moved the business from our old premises in Athlone to a new social centre in Athenry.

The building was previously occupied by Mulholland’s Bookmakers and was in disrepair after remaining unoccupied for many months, but the space of just over 1100sqm offers us lots of room to work with and create a flexible environment to suit the needs of the business and connect closer with the community.

Mullholand's Bookmakers

We manage the company during office hours, 9 – 5 pm Monday to Friday, and will, in time, begin to open up the space to host community events and workshops in the evenings and on weekends. For the first of these, we assisted the successful Galway2020 bid to become the European City of Culture. In September we will also be hosting an event for Culture Night in association with the Athenry Heritage Centre and this coming September the 30th we will be officially opening our doors to the community as part of Age Actions Positive Ageing Week. In the months ahead we look forward to hosting many more events and beginning the process of regenerating business surpluses back into the community to create lasting social impact.

To get to this point we carried out renovations to the space over the weekends including new walls throughout, fresh white paint to brighten up the space and sanding of the new floors as pictured below.

Amicitia

As discussed at the top of this article technology is often misunderstood. Various tools and technologies have allowed us to adapt our new social centre. This new centre will, in turn, enable us to connect with our local communities. It is through these close connections and interactions that we can design a technology-led service which puts the needs of the person at the centre.

Our doors are now open; local community groups are welcome to come and visit the space and we also welcome ideas on workshops or events that we can run over the coming months. Any interested parties, please contact us on (091) 877 007 or via our contact page on the website.